9 Life Lessons Learned from Traveling

Today, I fly across the country to {hopefully} sunny California for a week of fun, exploration, relaxation, soul searching, and connection (with other amazing women).  

I can’t wait!!!

As I was packing this weekend and running around getting some last minute necessities I was thinking about the various trips I’ve taken over the years and how much I’ve learned from them.  Not only have I seen how the world turns from different  parts of the globe, I've had the opportunity to learn things about myself that I never would have if I hadn’t taken the opportunity to travel.

Since I don’t think this is something most consider when planning a vacation, I wanted to take a few minutes to shine a light on the other benefits of traveling and the life lessons that can be learned.


My Story

Before I dive into those lessons, let me give you a little background on my life.  I didn’t grow up in a family of travelers…we just didn’t have the money.  We did, however, go on an annual family vacation, but it was somewhere within driving distance (usually Florida since I grew up in Georgia)

My dad worked in the travel industry and loved traveling and exploring.  He didn’t get the opportunity to travel to exotic places or hop on a plane for his adventures, but I think he would’ve loved to have been able to fly around to see the world.  While I don’t feel like I take after my dad all that much, I do think I got my love of traveling from him (and my blue eyes!).

My first time flying on a plane was in my last quarter of college right before I graduated.  I was flown to a few different cities for final rounds of job interviews and I loved it!  I knew I wanted to travel, so I accepted a job as a business consultant that required traveling at least 50% of my time.  

Business travel, unfortunately, isn’t as glamorous as it seems, nor does it allow you to see the sites when you’re in a new place, but it did allow me to get really comfortable with being on the go and for that I will always be grateful for that job!

These days, traveling is like breathing to me.  I need to have a trip in the works at all times.  I feel restless when I don’t.  Because I’m still in a 9 to 5 corporate job, I don’t get to travel nearly as much as I’d like, but I am fortunate to have 5 weeks of vacation and believe you me, I take advantage of that and squeeze out every ounce of my vacation time!

I was 27 years old the first time I traveled overseas with one of my closest friends.  We set out for a week in Paris (my life long travel dream) and not only was it magical, it awoke a deep love of Europe within my soul.  

Since then, I’ve been fortunate to visit several other international places - London, Reykjavik, Munich, Salzburg, Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, all over Switzerland, multiple places in Canada, and Costa Rica (twice!).  My list of where I want to go is long and provides more than enough fuel to keep me busy planning for years to come!

Over the course of all of my travels, I’ve learned a number of things that, while appearing to relate just to travel, can easily be applied to life in general.


Life Lessons From Traveling

#1 | You will get lost, but you will find your way back

This is a little cliche, but it’s true.  When you’re in a place you've never been before, you will inevitably get lost.  Unless its the middle of the night and it’s dark and scary place (which applies during the day, too!), don’t stress out over it.  Just go with it!!

See what you can find.  Sometimes the best parts of your trip are the things you find when you’re lost.  Eventually, you’ll find your way back, but you’ll be richer (in experiences) than you were before.  Embrace the unknown!

In life, the same holds true.  We get lost along the way, but that doesn't mean it has to derail our overall mission.  Use it to your advantage, soak up as much as you can from it, and when you find your way back to your path, you'll be a better person for it.

#2 | You’re stronger than you think

Traveling has a way of testing your limits. You lose sleep, you get lost, you don’t understand what’s going on around you, your luggage gets lost, your wallet gets stolen, you get sick in a hotel far from the comforts of your own bed (or in my case, it was somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean with 4+ hours left in the flight…not fun).

No matter how much you plan, traveling will push you to your edge, but you will discover that you are strong enough to handle it.  In fact, you’ll likely discover that you are stronger than you think!  

When you return home, that badass feeling will stay with you and the next time you’re faced with something challenging, you’ll know you can handle it.  Life will always throw curve balls your way to knock you down.  But you will discover that you are stronger than you think, you will pull yourself back up, and you will make it through.

#3 | You never need as much as you think you do

You never need as much as you think you do.  This holds true for what you put in your suitcase, but also for what you have in your house, how you fill your time, and the people you surround yourself with.

We’re a very ‘needy’ society…I need the latest and greatest of everything!  We feel we have to compete with everyone else with the things we put on display to show our wealth or our status.  

But, we don’t need any of that crap.  Just like I don’t need to take 5 pairs of shoes on a 1 week trip, I don’t need half the crap I have in my house. 

All we need is our health, the love of our family and friends, a passion for something that fuels us, and peace within ourselves to love and appreciate everything we are blessed with.  That’s it…that’s all we need.

#4 | Experiences are always worth it

You have a choice when it comes to your money...save it, spend it on things, or spend it on experiences (I'm leaving out the obvious of spending it on necessities because that's unavoidable).  

There is no right or wrong here.  What you ultimately decide to do with your money is your business, but for most people, experiences will outweigh things.

With the exception of a few key items, we forget the things we buy and over time they lose meaning and value.  But, experiences are things we never forget. This is especially true if they're moving or powerful.  

This isn't limited to travel, it's the case with anything.  Spending money on an amazing night out with a group of close friends where you do something new will be way more memorable then just another typical dinner out.

Taking your parents to see a show that has been on their bucket list and spending the time with them will mean more to them than another item wrapped in a box.

The act of traveling is already honoring this idea...it's spending your money on an amazing experience rather than on random things to clutter your house and mind.

If you have a choice between and experience or a thing...go with the experience!!

#5 | It's okay to be clueless

Sometimes you’ll have no clue what’s going on around you & that's perfectly okay.  

Let go of the need to always know what’s going on being in control.  Take a breath, pause, and just observe what’s happening around you.  

If you do that, you might pick up on what’s going on.  If you don’t, you’ll at least allow yourself to experience something new, which is always (ok, usually) a good thing.

#6 | We're all the same

No matter where you go or whom you encounter, we are ultimately all the same - we all want love, acceptance, and happiness. 

Yes, we may look different, dress differently, believe different things, practice a  different religion (or no religion at all!), talk differently, etc, etc.

But at the end of the day, we are all the same.  We’re all just trying to get through each day, find a nugget of happiness, connect with someone, and feel like we’re making a difference in our world.

When you don’t travel, it’s easy to sit back and judge what you don’t know.  But, when you get out and see the world, you see first hand how we’re just different flavors of the exact same thing.

**Note: While traveling will open your eyes to this in a completely new way, I don’t think you have to travel in order to be open minded when it comes to other people and other cultures. Regardless of whether you travel or not, we all have the ability to love each other and not judge each other.

And for a bit more clarification on the 'all' in 'we're all the same', obviously, terrorists, murderers, child molesters, and other such people are clearly not the same as the rest of us!!

#7 | Patience is your friend

No matter what is going on, patience is always your friend.  

Flight delayed…patience is your friend.  

Waiting on your best friend knowing she’s always late…patience is your friend. 

For the things we can’t control, yes, it might be annoying and even irritating, but what will getting mad and upset do for you?

Absolutely nothing.  

It won’t make the plane take off faster.  It won’t make your chronically late best friend get there on time.  All it will do is make YOU miserable and unhappy. 

This isn’t to say that you can’t feel a little annoyed at the plane sitting at the gate hours after it was to have left.  Sure…feel it, experience it, but then embrace patience.  It’ll make the wait a little bit more pleasant.  

Find something to read, or someone to chat with.  Plan out your goals or check in with yourself.  Write in your journal.  Listen to music.  Or…just allow yourself some time for quiet reflection and daydream.  No harm in that and infinitely more enjoyable than getting impatient!

#8 | Be gracious in someone else’s world

Whether you’re traveling the world and popping into other countries, or visiting your great aunt Martha…be gracious when you’re in someone else’s world.

Take the time to learn a little about the culture where you’re traveling (or a few sentences in the local language).  Not only will it make your trip more enjoyable, the locals will appreciate you more.  

It’s just like when you’re visiting friends or family.  You wouldn’t say it’s better at your house or laugh at their habits (at least I hope you wouldn’t!).   Everybody is different and unique and wants to be seen, heard, and appreciated and taking the time to learn about whomever or wherever you’re visiting allows you to be gracious to those around you.

Allowing yourself to enjoy a different perspective than your own will open doors for you and allow you to see life in a different light, and likely, within yourself.

#9 | There’s no place like home

At the end of the day, no matter where you go…whether it’s on the other side of the world or to a hotel down the street, there’s no place like home.  

Be grateful for your home and make it your zen.  Its your base and where you relax, recharge, grow, and just be.  And, there’s no place quite like it!


Final Thoughts

While traveling may not be everyone’s answer to life bliss, I would encourage you to venture out and explore new places.  It doesn’t have to be somewhere overseas or exotic!  Pick a place within a 200 mile radius of your home that you’ve never been to and make a plan to get there.  

I realize traveling takes money and that can be a block, but if you want to travel, plan for it.  Cut back on your other expenses, look for deals and packages, and save, save, save.  

I have a savings account set up specifically for travel and every paycheck when I auto transfer money to my regular savings, I also transfer some money to my travel account.  It might mean a few less pairs of shoes, or not going out as much, but having the money to travel is important enough to me to set it aside.

If your dream is to travel, make a commitment to yourself to make it happen!

What life lesson have you learned from traveling? Leave it in a comment below and we’ll grow our list!

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