Traveling has not only taught me so many lessons about the world, but also about life and myself. Through my everyday interactions with the locals and the people around me, the constant decision making, and the consistent experience of highs and lows, here are the top 5 things I have learned from my years on the road.
It’s Okay Not to Plan Everything
Being a teacher, I am used to constantly planning things out. For the last five years, I’ve known exactly when I will be taking my holidays and I’ve always had a general long and short plan of what I wanted to do. Initially, I thought I was going to plan my travels down to the dot, but soon realized that I wanted the flexibility of extending in a place or changing my route according to how much I love an area or how much I like the people that I meet. Sure enough, during my first big trip, I left with just a one-way ticket to Madrid and rough plans for only the first few weeks (that of which have changed already within the first few days!!). As for my partner Tom, he actually had 8 flights to take him all over the world and within the first month, he cancelled them all as he knew he wanted to travel slower and longer.
Read: To Plan or Not to Plan When Traveling
I have booked plane tickets on a whim and have not regretted it one bit. I mean, what is there to regret about a last minute trip to Amsterdam to catch a festival? Take a chance on yourself, be flexible, and be willing to welcome new experiences, no matter what they are. Yes, planning has its good points, but sometimes, you also have to let things go with the flow and happen. This is something that I’ve learned to accept and embrace, because sometimes, just sometimes, you end up missing out on the best experiences because you over plan things.
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I Am Absolutely Horrible with Directions, but It’s Okay
People who know me very well know that I am completely useless when it comes to directions. Even when driving, I need to drive to that place multiple times before I am comfortable to do it by myself. When traveling on my own, I’ve realized that I need to take charge and be more mindful about my surroundings. Thank god for google maps, iPhones, and technology!!! I would be so lost without my best friend, the little blue dot on my iPhone GPS.
I have gotten better as I constantly remind myself to take my head out of the clouds and to make mental notes of important landmarks as I walk around town. I used to stress out whenever I got lost, but now, I decided to just enjoy it. It is pretty difficult to stress out when everything around you is so beautiful. I’ve even stopped getting maps, as I find them impossible to follow. In Europe, my buddy and I seemed to have a knack for getting lost and finding the most random and amazing things, so we decided to just stick with it. Accept your weaknesses, and learn how to improve them.
Contrary to What Your Mother Told You, Talk to Strangers
“Hi, my name is Anna and I am from the Philippines” was a phrase that I found myself constantly saying throughout my travels. Another popular one would be, “where are you off to next?” or “how long are you traveling for?” These phrases are things that you constantly hear while you’re at a hostel. Talk to a stranger and you will find yourself in the middle of great conversation, as you will most likely have a lot of things in common with everyone else. I have been lucky enough to meet some amazing people from different walks of life, from all over the world who have been nothing but awesome. Talk to a stranger and you will most likely get the best travel tips, get a bunch of new Facebook friends, and hey, maybe even new travel buddies. Traveling is all about getting out of your comfort zone and putting your self out there as you experience the world around you.
Related: Our Top Travel Moments of 2015
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Don’t Stress About the Things You Can’t Change
One thing that Tom has taught me is that there is no point in getting upset over things that you don’t have the power to change. I realized that each of us has the power to change our own mood and outlook, depending on how you react to situations. There is no point in getting upset over missed buses, hostel over bookings, flight delays, or other random things. Learn from situations so that you can organize yourself better, but ultimately, your goal is to have fun. Breathe and accept the situation, make a mental note so it won’t happen again, and move on. There’s no point in sulking, blaming others, or even being upset about it. It will only ruin your day and dampen your spirits. Traveling is all about having fun, doing everything, and going with the flow! This is one of the traits that I love in Tom. His ability to laugh and see the good in everything…and I mean everything! He was once given a wooden door (literally taken off from the wall) as a bed for the night while in Vietnam. Was he upset? Sulking? Moaning? No, not Tom. He laughed it off and proceeded to drink and sing karaoke with the guy who gave him the door, ah I mean bed.
Lastly, I Realized That I Actually Don’t Need a Lot to Survive
Living on an island for the last three years has simplified my life. Living out of a backpack has simplified it by leaps and bounds. I am in constant amazement that everything I own can be packed up in a bag. Life isn’t about accumulating possessions. In this trip alone, Tom and I decided to downsize and just take one backpack, with each of our stuff weighing an impressive 10kg each! Yes, I am already tired of wearing the same clothes over and over again, and doing my laundry on whatever sink/laundry machine I can find, but ultimately, I have everything that I need. I would exchange all the clothes, shoes, bags, and other items we think of as necessities for the chance to run away with a backpack on any given day. The opportunity of adventure, lessons about myself and life, and just the sheer uncertainty of what’s next are all things that in my opinion are priceless.
Read: 5 Ways to Save for Travel
I know the list can go on and on because I think traveling is one of the best ways to learn but don’t just take my word for it. Go explore, live, and discover-adventure is out there.
Looking for more travel inspiration? Read about other awesome people doing awesome stuff!
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20 thoughts on “5 Things I Have Learned from Traveling”
Anna beautifully written experience. Enjoyed every bit of it. I can so relate to what you have shared. Yes, slow and steady is the fun way to explore. Travel is the best teacher. Keep exploring, good luck.
Thank you @vinutajorapur:disqus Glad you can relate x
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Flexibility is the key! You really do not have to plan every minute of your trip, though we do tend to book flights in advance. Maybe when the kids are bigger and we are have more workplace flexibility we’ll do flying on a whim. We have done road trips on a whim, though, especially before we had kids.
I love road trips! One of our dreams is to get a camper van and just travel all over driving!
It is amazing what we learn about ourselves and others when we travel.
Yes! We couldn’t agree more!
This is great. All these lessons are so true. Also, I can’t believe that photo of the hostel/accommodations!! Looks so sketchy.
Hahaha! This was a place in the middle of no where in Vietnam..I don’t think it was even a hostel to be fair!
So true about not needing as much as you think to travel! I’ve gotten better about not overpacking over the years!
Loved your shares. I would definitely agree on the not planning everything one. That has been the biggest difference in my travel over the years. I like having time to add in new things.
It makes all the difference! You are just much more open to things and experiences when you don’t have a set schedule!
I love the way you write your posts, guys! Honest and reflective. ;]
Thank you @xizuq:disqus! We appreciate that!!!
This is a good read. I agree more of being someone like Tom who has an attitude like that, I myself don’t complain too not unless if I’m freaking hungry! lol. Your last advise strike me most, living simply about life. this is worth my time to read. Hurrah! for more articles!
Thank you, @disqus_sfrWZ9G2XH:disqus! We are glad its worth your time!! Haha..I get very “H-angry” too..but otherwise, I’ve learned to roll with the punches!
weve really enjoyed your writing. u guys r on fire! enjoyed this one as we reflect on our own lessons from travel. getting lost is part of the journey, less is more, plans change so often is usually better w/o em, and smiles go along way in speaking with strangers in foreign tongues. enjoy ur trip and be safe 🙂 <3
Thanks guys!! We agree-smiles go a long way! Happy trails to you guys and best of luck on your new move.