10 life lessons I Learnt While Travelling
So, what 10 things did I learn from travelling? Well let me start by saying there are a lot of people who consider travelling as a defining point in your life; justified by personal anecdotes and cheesy quotes overtop of some landscape image. You know, an “Eat, Prey, Love” type scenario. I’m not one of these people. For this reason, I’m going to try to keep it as real (and without a side of cheese) as possible.
If you haven’t kept up with my other travel posts: I’ve returned home from six months of roaming around Europe in December after I quit my job. I travelled with friends, family and solo throughout my time there and I had intended to live in London post travel. Now, I’m back hiding out at home in New Zealand until I make my next move.
1. You’ll forget all your “what ifs?”
I’ve moved around a lot in the past 5 years within New Zealand and I’ve carried around a string of ‘what ifs’ around with me from place to place. You know, the nagging 3AM thoughts that keep you from sleep.
“Should I have given it another go with him?” “What if I had stayed in my job?” “should I have saved my money instead?”
Travelling made me realise how easy it is to romanticise a situation, especially when your family and friends get involved. All it took was one “your job seems amazing” to start questioning all the reasons why I’d decided to leave in the first place.
Distancing myself from the opinions I’d let influence my own killed any uncertainty. It didn’t take me long to forget about what I’d left behind or realise that the situations were never as good as I had remembered.
Besides, I was having far too much fun living in the moment and by my own rules. And there were many more boys to replace the what if sitting at home!
2. You’ll figure out what really gets you going
When everything is new and you know no one, you figure out quickly what you crave from other people… in personality.
When you’ve been travelling a while you get sick of the usual questions like “where have you been?” “where are you from?” “where are you going next?”
It doesn’t take long to skip the small talk and to go deep. I once went to breakfast and said a polite ‘Hello’ to the American girl across from me after sitting in silence eating for 10 minutes. Next thing you know it was three hours later and we’d talked about everything from what podcasts we’d been listening to, to why a lot of American’s don’t value travelling abroad.
I realised how much I value open-mindedness in a person, how I gravitate towards those with a slightly sarcastic sense of humour and laid back in nature.
3. You’ll learn to love being single
I’ll be the first to admit that 23 years of the single life can feel a little bleak – especially when you can relate to every single girl meme that pops up on your Facebook feed. And, your loved up friends tag you in all of them.
Travelling single at 23, however, felt like winning the lottery. I was there to do what I wanted and experience what I had set out to without compromising with other people. Basically, I didn’t have to care for anyone else and when you’re in a foreign place that’s a bigger burden than what you’d expect.
I had a friend that woke up in the wrong place after a night out and hoped that “nothing happened”. I also had a friend that had to book everything because their partner couldn’t manage.
That’s a whole lot of stress, annoyance and resentment that I avoided. After all, if anything went wrong I only had myself to blame and that was something I could live with.
4. You’ll discover your limits & Values
Of course, while discovering what you want from other people you’ll also discover what you don’t. And I’ve never felt more like a feminist in my life.
The one thing I really took for granted in New Zealand’s society is how men treat women. Yes nothings perfect, but for the most part we have it pretty good because our society tries to treat us equally. More than a few times while I travelled I encountered men that treated me like a sexual object or a “stupid women” without intelligence or feelings.
One guy as a way of ‘flirting’ gave me a compliment with a side of insults, relieved by more compliments in a sort of manipulation game of tug-of-war. Another helped me out only to think it was his right to lecture me on how stupid I was.
All the while I couldn’t help feeling so sorry for the poor women in the world that have been brought up thinking this treatment is okay and normal.
Needless to say, I left them both on bad terms.
5. Travelling is cheaper than you’d expect
Before I left for Europe everyone liked to remind me how expensive it is over there. “The GBP is practically double NZD” was drilled in to me before I’d even set a budget. Yes this is true, but the difference between being a tourist and traveller is what makes all the difference.
Travellers save money on food and accommodation to experience more, tourists spend money on hotel packages to have a holiday.
The thing about Europe is that yes, it’s more expensive than say Asia, and flights over are expensive but it’s cheaper than New Zealand in almost every way possible. I lived on my 1€ packs of nectarines, 25€ flights between countries and 10€ a night accommodation. The thing is, I couldn’t even get to Auckland for less than $90. So basically, coming from New Zealand makes everything else seem cheap.
6. You’re plans will change and that’s okay
This is a big one since I had intended on settling down in London once I’d finished my travelling, and I hate feeling like I “gave up” but I quickly found out it’s worth changing your plans if you’re not happy.
When people ask me why I left London, I find myself saying the same thing every time:
“I had a great social life, lots of friends and heaps to do – I just didn’t like the place.”
Shock horror I know because pretty much everyone I know that’s been there loves it. I just didn’t like London’s ‘vibe’. While I explored a bit of the English country side I felt the entire time like I was trying to love something that just wasn’t me. I even gave London another shot when I returned and lived there for a month.
Then I went to Amsterdam for a weekend and it dawned on me:
England isn’t for me.
Amsterdam has all the similar features such as the sun sets at 4:30pm in the Winter, it’s cold and it’s busy – but I love this city. I love how people bike everywhere, how friendly everyone is and how laid back it feels. I didn’t have to try to love the place, I just did.
So yeah, plans change for a reason and even though London was the original idea I don’t think you should feel pressured into staying just because it was what you thought you’d do.
There’s a reason people try before they buy!
7. You can be whoever you want to be
Not necessarily exclusive to travelling, but definitely a little easier considering you’re in a situation where most people don’t know you.
Travelling gives you the opportunity to scope out what you really enjoy or explore what you have always wanted to without worrying about what your friends and family might think. You want to climb mountains in Norway? Do it. You want to topless sunbathe in France? Do it. You want to take salsa classes in Spain? Why the hell not? (Wish I did this in by the way)
Or you could be like me, pretend you’re a different person for the night and decide you’ll only speak french to a guy in Spain just to see what he’d do.
Anyway, it’s fun to try new things and especially when you’re “free” as they say to experiment without anyone to remind you of your failure.
Or remind you that the Spanish guy did speak french and you don’t..
8. Your travel friends are for life
If together you can survive hours of navigating trains in different languages, walking endless kilometres in the wrong direction and sooo much hanger – you can survive anything.
they’re the people you trust to stop you from hopping on the wrong bus, while you stop them from leaving their drink bottle behind. They’re there when little issues feel huge. The ones that push you in to trying new foods and the ones that make sure you get home after a night out.
I was lucky enough to travel with two of my best friends from university at times while I was in Europe and after everything we’ve been through they feel like they’re part of my family, not just my friends.
I can safely say that every argument was caused by hanger – yes, it’s really a serious thing when travelling – and so many of my favourite memories ever I’ve shared with them.
At the end of the day, if you can survive travelling with friends they’ll probably be your friend for life. It’s definitely not an easy road and things always go wrong but I think all the bumps along the way make for a stronger relationship.
In my experience, travelling together is an experience so rare thing that makes so many of your other friendships fall flat in comparison.
9. people aren’t out to be bad
The news and current events makes it hard to trust that most people are actually kind and generous – and it’s probably the most important thing I learnt while travelling. In fact, all that I ever hear on the news these days seems to be something bad that’s happening in a different country and it’s all anyone ever warns you of when you’re about to go travelling.
I experienced nothing but kindness (and maybe a little strangeness) while I travelled and I can recount several times when people went out of their way to help me.
- The time when a couple paid for our beers because Shelby and I didn’t have the right change, “can’t leave two fellow alcoholics without drinks”.
- When a couple took me home at midnight from Alexanderplatz station in Berlin because I couldn’t remember the name of my stop.
- The time a girl ordered me an uber because I was lost in London without my phone.
- The man who paid for my ferry when I missed my Sail Croatia boat.
- The man that gave Sam and I free mangos.
- The guy at the hostel that didn’t speak any english but insisted on ordering Shelby and I pizza.
- The couples that gave me free Paris and Milan train passes.
10. Just because it lasted a moment doesn’t mean it isn’t worth its weight in gold
If travel has taught me anything, it’s to appreciate the moment for what it is, even if it was fleeting.
The thing is, there’s no guarantee you’re going to meet people who you continue to travel with. No guarantee that you’re going to meet the love of your life. No guarantee you’re not going to find yourself waking up on a beach one day.
Your life when travelling changes so quickly that you have to learn to appreciate a moment for what it is. You have to know that you’ll probably never be in the same situation again.
The excitement of a little three-day fling or the thrill of breaking into a theme park. The confusion of how you managed to end up in another town on a night out – these are all experiences that I’ll treasure forever. The feeling I get when I remember these moments, there’s nothing like it.
Kind of like when they say “I’m here for a good time, not a long time”
– that’s travelling.