These are 8 lessons we've learned while traveling, both internationally and on the road here in the U.S., that have changed the way we live our lives and look at the world around us. After reading, let us know what traveling has taught you!
1. For the most part, people are good!
The world can be a scary place sometimes, especially in this day and age. But the amazing thing about humans is that, aside from the small percentage of nut jobs out there trying to cause terror and destruction, people are inherently good. Here’s a personal story to demonstrate (I’ll keep it short):
Pete and I were in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. After a day of traveling on busses, we did something uncharacteristic; we put all of our valuables into the same backpack: our passports, camera, cash, and credit cards. While this was smart for the duration of the bus ride, it was incredibly stupid when we decided to walk to the night market with it. We sat down on a bench at a nearby park and I put the bag on the ground and squeezed it between my feet while Pete laid with his head in my lap. A few moments later, a Cambodian man ran up to us and in broken English told us that someone took our bag. We turned around and saw a man running away with our bag — that contained OUR ENTIRE LIVES in it— toward a heavily trafficked street. Without hesitation, Pete ran after him across the street barefoot, almost getting hit by cars, into a dark alley to chase him down (our moms were so angry when we told them this story). I trailed behind yelling “Help! Help! He stole our bag!” through panicked tears. Some local men heard the commotion and immediately started chasing him with Pete. The thief saw the band of men chasing him and dropped the bag in a puddle in a small dark alley way. THEY are the reason we got our bag back. They were good people who didn’t speak our language, who didn’t know us at all, but simply wanted to do what was right. They put themselves in danger to help complete strangers.
So remember this: For every person who's willing to cheat and steal, there’s a band of good people ready to do what’s right.
2. A more realistic view of the world and your place in it.
We grow up learning about people and animals and cultures from faraway places. But when you actually get to see those places, experience those cultures, and talk to those people, they become real; they become a part of your own life. You think more about the things you do that might affect them and their world. Travel helps you see how small you are in this world and despite the fact that we are each a tiny spec on the planet, we still have the capability to change the world and impact the lives of those near and far.
Piggybacking off of the previous lesson, travel also gives you a clearer perspective in life. You encounter people who have a lot more than you, as well as people who have so much less or even nothing. You learn that in any unfortunate situation you may find yourself in, it could be a lot worse. Is it really worth being pissed off that Starbucks was out of whole wheat bagels? Or that your van won’t start? At least you have the option to buy a bagel. At least you have a van to sleep in rather than a sleeping bag on New York City pavement. It can always be worse, and travel helps you appreciate every little thing you have.
4. More money doesn’t mean better experiences
Everyone knows that money doesn’t buy happiness, and I think that’s especially so when it comes to travel (unless it’s for fixing van repairs…more money is definitely better for that). You have a lot more fun riding a cheap, uncomfortable overnight train while talking, laughing, and joking with locals and other travelers than you would if you lounged and drank mimosas on a first class flight. And you know what's better than staying at a swanky beachside resort? Being parked on that beach and falling asleep to the sound of crashing ocean waves. It goes back to that perspective thing I mentioned before!
5. Less “stuff” means more freedom
When you’re living in a van, backpacking another country, or carrying a suitcase, we all know that having less stuff makes traveling easier. And when you live with less, you start to find that you don’t need as much as you thought you did. The more clothes and toys and memorabilia you have, the more stuff you have to store and take care of. Travel has a way of helping people realize that a lot of the time, less really is more.
6. To spend time more intentionally
When you’re traveling, depending on your style of travel, you don’t typically have access to technologies that cause us to turn off our brains and body, such as Netflix, full-bar cell service, Netflix, a sound internet connection, and Netflix. I think that’s an accurate list. With those distractions gone, you’re left to make conscious decisions about how to spend your time.
7. A little bit of kindness goes a long way
I know how cliche this sounds, but it couldn’t be more true. I’ll use another real-life example to illustrate this:
While exploring Big Sur with friends, we went to check out one of the coast’s most well-known attractions, McWay Falls. We walked the side of Hwy 1 multiple times looking for the entrance to the trail, but there were no signs or indication as to where it started. However, there was a part of the fence that had obviously been pushed down as a short cut by pedestrians, and even though we knew it wasn’t the entrance, we decided to take the short cut. Just as we did, we heard in the distance, “What the hell are you doing?! That’s not an entrance! Use your damn head!”, and saw a park ranger running toward us. He approached us panting and began lecturing us like he was our dad and we just showed up an hour after curfew. We had two choices: be defensive because this problem would have been avoided if there was a simple sign indicating the trail head, or admit we were wrong for taking the obvious, non-trail shortcut and apologize to the man who is merely trying to protect the park. We chose the latter and in about two minutes, his anger was diffused and we were all chatting and laughing. Kindness goes a long way….and helps avoid getting tickets from angry park rangers.
8. There are a lot of things you may not know about yourself
Travel is an opportunity for endless self-discovery. Once plucked from the comfort of usual faces and surroundings, we’re often presented with circumstances that force us to discover things about ourselves we’d never otherwise notice. Maybe you fall asleep faster to the sound of crickets, or are better at making new friends than you thought, or that a religion you’d never known about deeply resonates with you. The possibilities are truly endless.
Now we want to hear from you!