There’s a difference between holidaying in a resort and traveling – the former is great in its own way to relax, recuperate, and recharge.
But the latter changes your life.
I’m fortunate to have traveled to a humble 26 countries (so far) and I’m yet to find a more transformative experience.
Traveling the world teaches you things you can’t find in books or classrooms; from resilience to appreciation, you never return from a trip unchanged.
So, based on my experience and that of others, here are 9 life-altering lessons you’ll learn by traveling the world:
1) You’re more adaptable than you think
In September 2019, I went on a 6-month trip to 10 different countries. Although I had traveled plenty beforehand, this was the first long trip I embarked on.
Now, I’m a girl of home comforts. I can be a picky eater. I need at least 3 pillows to sleep comfortably.
During the trip, all of that went out of the window. Sat on the top of a mountain in Indonesia, with just a sleeping bag and my jumper as a pillow, it occurred to me:
No one at home would believe I could do this.
To be fair, I couldn’t believe I was doing it, let alone loving it.
So one of the very first lessons you’ll learn from traveling is you can adapt much more than you think.
When plans go wrong, accommodation doesn’t work out, or the food isn’t to your liking, you will find a way to get through it and, surprisingly, even enjoy it.
2) We are all one
The news and social media will have us believe that we’re all so different. And yes, to a degree, we are.
But traveling will teach you that at the core of every human, regardless of their skin color, language, religion, or customs, we’re all pretty much the same.
We all care for our families. We’re all out here trying to make a living and survive. We all crave love and a sense of community.
As you see how other people live, for better or worse, you’ll learn empathy and understanding.
But more importantly, you’ll realize that “foreign” isn’t something to fear.
From tiny villages to sprawling cities, we humans have a lot more in common than our governments and media would like us to know.
And traveling is the way to experience that for yourself.
3) Home isn’t so bad after all
When I’m feeling a bit “meh” about home, I remember some of the places I’ve been to.
Entire families sleeping on the floor of a one-bedroom hut.
The kids in a remote village dreaming of having a hot shower one day.
The father desperately trying to earn enough so his children can go to school.
Suddenly, my complaints are replaced with gratitude.
I remember to be thankful for the secure roof over my head, the food in the fridge, and the access to education, sanitation, and healthcare I have.
Even if you don’t have much, traveling reminds you there’s someone out there with even less.
It puts things into perspective, and more often than not, makes you appreciate the life you have.
4) How to live in the moment
Another life-changing lesson that comes from traveling the world is learning the beauty of being present in the moment.
That is if you’re able to put your phone away and just soak it all in…
I know a lot of people like myself who take traveling as an opportunity to disconnect from the online world and just be.
One of my favorite things to do is to find a cute cafe, sit outside, and just people-watch. Listen to the sounds, the different languages, and watch people go about their daily business.
This is how you get a feel for the vibe of a place. By being present and immersing yourself in the ambiance.
Sure, take a few pics here and there, but make a conscious effort to spend more time looking with your eyes than through a screen.
When you go home, you might find it easier to live in the present moment there, too.
5) The beauty of the world we live in
Well, this next point is pretty self-explanatory…
The world is a gorgeous place!
And the more you travel, the more you’ll realize it. Visiting different countries, you’ll see plants and animals you’ve never even heard of before.
You’ll gain a newfound appreciation for what nature offers us and how cultures around the world utilize what they have around them.
But above all, you’ll leave feeling immensely grateful to be alive and witnessing so much raw beauty.
In other words, you’ll never take Mother Nature for granted again, especially not after witnessing what she’s capable of creating.
6) Human connection transcends all
Want to be reminded about the goodness in humanity? Tired of all the negativity on the news?
You’ll be surprised at how kind and generous people are, even when there’s a language or culture barrier.
I’ve had random people come up to offer me money in the airport when they saw I was caught without the right currency.
I’ve seen total strangers band together to help a lost tourist find their accommodation or make a flight.
And countless times, I’ve been invited to the home of a local, their family generously serving up delicious local food, going out of their way to make sure I felt safe and looked after as a guest in their country.
Just writing this, I’m getting teary-eyed.
We all need our faith in humanity restored every once in a while, and traveling is the lesson that reminds us that most humans are actually good and kind.
7) You don’t need so much “stuff”
One thing my 6-month trip taught me was that the big suitcases I used to take filled with 12 different handbags are totally unnecessary.
In fact, I had a tiny hand luggage in which to fit my entire life for those 6 months, and ever since, I’ve always packed light.
You see, the beauty of traveling is that it makes you less focused on material things.
You start to realize how little you actually need to be content.
And if you really need something? Someone will always come to your aid and help you.
Not to mention, you stop accumulating crappy souvenirs, and instead, just select one or two quality pieces to act as momentums.
Things you’ll actually value and keep for years to come.
So, back in your daily life, you’ll notice that you stop shopping for things you don’t need, instead continuing the minimalist approach and only buying items of significant importance.
8) How to overcome your fears
Last week I was on holiday in Italy. I had rented a hire car, for the very first time, as I wanted to drive to Lake Como.
I’m not going to lie, I was crapping myself. I’m a confident driver, but on every trip that I’ve rented a vehicle on, someone else has driven. I’d also read the reviews that the lanes around the lake were incredibly tight and windy.
So many times I thought about canceling the car and just getting the train. I could have.
But I knew I needed to push myself, and I’m so glad I did.
I felt so liberated and proud of myself for proving to myself that I was capable enough.
That’s the beauty of travel – you push your limits and discover things you thought you could never do before.
You might decide to go wild and paraglide off a cliff (Oludeniz in Turkey is a great place for that, by the way) or snorkel through the coral reef, dense with underwater life (I recommend the Philippines).
Whatever you decide to do, you’ll undoubtedly learn an important lesson:
Facing your fears is incredibly rewarding. It builds self-confidence and resilience. It goes without saying, it changes you as a person and for the better.
9) Where there’s a will, there’s a way
When lost in a foreign country at 2 a.m., with no available transport and a hungry tummy, you’ll undoubtedly find yourself wondering, “Why did I do this to myself?”
But after you’ve wallowed for a minute, you’ll start to hatch a plan.
The last life-altering lesson I’m referring to here is problem-solving. And finding your willpower.
Because let’s be honest, travel isn’t easy. Things rarely go to plan and there will always be issues to solve.
But when you’re away from your support network at home, you have to fix things yourself and find solutions.
Those skills then follow you back at home as you live your normal life.
If you manage to find food and accommodation after being lost at 2 a.m. in a random village in Albania, your day-to-day problems will seem laughable.
But actually, more than that, I think it’s the confidence you gain in yourself that makes the real difference.
And ultimately, that’s what traveling does.
It opens your mind to the rest of the world, but it also shows you undiscovered parts of yourself.
So, take this article as your cue to book that ticket and just go. Through all the ups and downs, good experiences and bad, I’m yet to regret the lessons I’ve learned through travel, and I’m sure you’ll feel the same way too.