I’ve done my fair share of traveling since graduating from university back in May 2012. I’ve backpacked, volunteered, and worked abroad (plus that weird black hole of time I spent living at home in Atlanta in the middle of it all that probably contributed to this list somehow as well).
I’ve learned a lot in the past nearly-two years, but I would like to emphasize that these lessons aren’t specific to travel experiences; I think they can be accessed through any number of life experiences, I just happened to reach them through travel.
And so, I present: Lessons I Learned While Traveling:
How to listen to what I want.
I was super duper lacking in this skill before I moved abroad. I had no idea how to tune into that radio station of my brain that broadcasts what I want in any given moment. I was so bogged down by what I thought I was supposed to want, and by what other people thought I should want, that I couldn’t pick up the signal.
I’m not just talking about the “big” stuff like careers or having kids; I’m talking stuff as trivial as what I want for dinner or if I feel like going shopping today (usually the answer to that one is “no”).
While traveling, I’ve taken out everything – the work, the responsibilities, the school, friends, family – and I’m just left with myself. It was in that place that I became more familiar with knowing my intuition.
That if I feel a certain way about someone – whether it’s momentary or lasting – they generally feel that way about me too
This was HUGE for me. Realizing that my feelings about a person mirrored their feelings about me made the process of connection way less stressful. There’s no need to feel insecure about the person I feel I’ve really connected with because chances are they feel that way as well.
Patience is key, always. Getting mad is usually unproductive.
Living and teaching in Thailand did wonders for my naturally impatient temperament simply because getting mad gets you nowhere in a saving face culture.
How to be more flexible and let go of control
Things aren’t going to go the way I want them to sometimes, and that’s just life, and sometimes we’re better for it. The less attached I become to my expectations/the fewer expectations I develop, the less likely I am to be disappointed. It works in the classroom, it works in the office, it works out on the road. I just have to let it go sometimes and – really! – it will all be okay.
The worth of money. Sucking it up and saving can really pay off.
It was worth it. Sticking out something lucrative but somewhat miserable was worth it. Traveling with the money I saved during that somewhat miserable time was that much more satisfying and enjoyable because I made the commitment and saved for it. That being said, it’s important to know when the costs of being unhappy will genuinely outweigh the benefits of getting travel in the end.
Moderation and balance in everything is ideal
It’s ideal but it’s really hard to attain. Moderation in work versus play, travel versus stationary life…Moderation in exercise, eating, drinking, socializing versus alone time…If I aim for balance then I’m golden. Or, if I know my life is going to be a bit unbalanced for a while, I can find comfort in knowing I will get the balance back at whatever transition awaits me in the future.
Connection is the answer to “why”
I’ll quote myself here: “If you don’t know what you’re looking for, go to India, to Europe, go to Southeast Asia. but I’ll tell you, I think I know what you’re looking for because it’s what we’re all looking for: we’re looking for a freedom, a fullness, a moment, a friend, a companion. We’re looking for connection.”