Sometimes it feels like you’ve been in a place so long, you know everything about it. You know your routine, every inch of where you live, what the people around you will say and do. You know every detail of what’s around you. Then you travel and it’s this incredible sensory overload, where everything looks, smells, feels and sounds brand new. With this comes new experience and a million opportunities to learn, connect, grow and share. Travel is a powerful thing and it has a huge impact on many people’s lives, changing them forever. Here are 19 of my favourite, life-changing things travel teaches us.
1. How to be alone
When you’re in the comfort of your own home, the idea of packing a bag and heading off overseas by yourself can seem crazy. But, when you finally do it, you realise how loud and clear your inner-voice is. Travel teaches you that it’s okay to be alone and, honestly, it’s kind of wonderful too. It allows you to tune into what your heart truly desires and discover what it is you really want from life.
2. Money doesn’t matter
When you travel you quickly realise money does not equal happiness. All over the world you’ll meet people who earn very little and still have huge smiles on their faces. Happiness doesn’t come from money, it comes from love and as we all know, love don’t cost a thing (thanks J-Lo!)
3. The world isn’t as scary as the media makes it seem
As much as the media loves to portray certain regions, cultures and religions as ‘dangerous,’ it’s usually just a bunch of sensationalised bullshit. When you get out there and start to see the world you realise just how much crap we’re fed through the ‘News.’ The world is a beautiful place full of fascinating, wonderful people. It’s nowhere near as scary as it’s all made out to be.
4. Music is incredibly powerful
Listening to music when you travel is essential. You can hear a certain song in a certain place and it will connect with that memory forever. There are so many songs I listen to know that transport me back in time to a particular memory. It’s amazing. When you’re sitting on a train, watching the world go by, headphones in, you get lost in the music. It’s a great feeling.
5. Respect for other cultures
I’ve heard and read some insanely bigoted, ignorant comments about different religions and races. When you travel and you meet people of varying race, age, gender, sexual orientation, faith and social standing, you immediately recognise there is a deep connection running through us as all, regardless of where we live, the colour of our skin or what we believe. We are all human and we all deserve love, respect and equality. Travel humbles you, teaching you that you are no better than anyone else. It teaches you respect.
6. How to let go
When you’re standing on top of a glacier in New Zealand, with not a sound to be heard other than your own breath, you realise nothing really matters. The world is huge and full of beautiful, wonderful moments. Time moves on and so does life. These realisations help you learn to let go of things and put your problems into perspective. It teaches you to be present, rather than dwell on the past.
7. Being lost is a good thing
Some of the best travel experiences you will have will be unplanned. You’ll get totally and completely lost, ask someone for help, then wind up invited to their best friend’s, half-sisters, twice-removed cousin’s wedding and have an absolute RAGER. You’ll wake up the next morning with only one shoe and no shirt and have no idea WTF happened. It’ll be amazing.
8. Communication is more than words
You don’t have to speak the same language to communicate. I once saw a white guy flirt with a beautiful Japanese girl at a dog park just by looking at her and smiling. After a few minutes of ridiculously cute eye-contact he finally went over to her and they just stood next to each other, being awkward and cute, petting her dog together. Communication isn’t just verbal and you quickly learn that a smile is universal, body language is powerful and a friendly wave translates in ANY language.
9. The Universe is much bigger than you
When you start to see huge mountains, gigantic waterfalls and endless stretches of ocean, you realise earth is actually one huge beast! Like, really, really big. It makes you feel small and that is an amazing thing because it makes you realise how small and insignificant your problems really are.
10. Food is… AMAZING
One of the very best things about travel has to be all the amazing food you get to try. Flavour combinations you never knew you needed and a whole world of new tastes just waiting to rock your world. You’ll drink wine in Paris while nibbling on the best fresh bread and cheese of your life, you’ll eat pasta in Rome that melts in your mouth and you’ll eat all kinds of food in Thailand that will make you realise you LOVE spice. Food is life!
11. How to trust yourself
Sometimes when you travel you realise you have nobody to depend on but yourself. So, you have to trust yourself. The great thing about that is it’s actually pretty hard to let yourself down and, once you start following your heart, you’ll quickly realise you know what’s best for you.
Nothing will teach you patience quite as well as travel will. Patience for your fellow humans and their unique qualities, patience for yourself, patience when you’re stuck in a ridiculous traffic jam in Bangkok or a repeatedly delayed flight. The thing you’ll learn is that life goes on whether you’re frustrated or not, so you may as well chill the heck out and just wait patiently for whatever it is you want to happen, to happen.
13. How to stand up for yourself
There will come a time when someone at a hostel is being a dick or you’re on a group tour with a massive jerk or a hotel or taxi driver is trying to rip you off. In these moments you will learn how to stand up for yourself and, when you get it right, it’s going to feel amazing and transfer into your everyday life too.
14.The best experiences happen well outside your comfort zone
Nothing feels better than surprising yourself by doing something you would never normally do. That rush you get afterwards, where you feel totally invincible and so overwhelmingly happy, unable to wipe the smile of yourself because you’re so proud you actually did it! Those are the best moments. Do more of them.
15. We’re all so alike
Little kids running, playing and laughing together. Older men and women gathering to share stories or play a game together. Those with jobs rushing off to get there, a busied look on their face. Children off to school. I didn’t name a place, but you probably saw one in your mind, right? This scene could have been anywhere, a small village in Indonesia, a city in Europe, a rural area in Australia. Communities around the world can be quite similar and you see that when you travel.
16. It’s important to get off the internet once in a while
You know you’re having a really great adventure when you forget to update your Facebook status, share a photo on Instagram or check your email. It feels amazing to drop off the grid for a while, forget about social media and live in the moment.
17. How to pack light
Travel teaches you that you’re actually a really terrible packer and you will absolutely NEVER wear that outfit you always pack ‘just in case’.
18. It feels good to disappear
Every now and then I love to have a ‘nobody knows where I am’ moment. You know, that moment where you realise that you could disappear and absolutely nobody would know where you are. It gives you that sense of total freedom and independence and a little splash of danger.
19. We all want what we don’t have
I’ve met so many beautiful little girls who have told me they wished they had my fair skin and blonde hair. But those little girls, in places like Indonesia and Cambodia, are absolutely beautiful and I always tell them just how perfect and beautiful their caramel skin, shiny dark hair and big almond eyes are. When you travel you’ll see products that make white people get a tan and turn dark skin lighter. It makes me feel sick when I see them and I wish, instead of promoting products that encourage people to change their skin colour, we would promote just how perfect people are just as they are.
Phoebe Lee is a travel writer and award-winning blogger with a love for storytelling. Phoebe creates practical, fun and engaging written content designed to inspire and energise travel-lovers and dreamers. Follow her and Matt’s adventures at home and around the world, right here on Little Grey Box and through Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.