Before the world abruptly stopped and travel was put on hold, I had been travelling for the last eight years. My lessons from travel span an entire memoir.
I started a blog back in 2012 as a way to document my journey and before I knew it, writing about my travels has become my career.
I’m from a normal upbringing but my life these past eight years has been anything but normal. I’ve been climbing mountains in Pakistan, learning how to make pastries in the basement of The Ritz in Paris, staying with Buddhist monks in Japan and too many more experiences to count.
These experiences have taught me more than I ever realised.
That is, until now.
Home is wherever feels good
After eight years of living out of a suitcase, I finally decided last year that it was time to “move home”. But where exactly is home, when you’ve spent so much time away from it?
I bought a house, renovated it, and promptly realised the childhood town I grew up in did not feel like home anymore. Firstly, because I’d met a man in the Okavango Delta who I would later move to South Africa with. Secondly, because I had grown and changed so much since my departure, that my normal wasn’t so normal anymore.
The truth is, home is wherever feels good.
It is easier now than ever to live in a new country. If you feel up for it, give it a try. Nothing is stopping you but yourself.
Experiences are better investments than things
Has anyone ever told you not to buy a new car because of devaluation? The same could be said about new handbags, designer clothes, and keeping up with interior design trends.
Experiences are investments that pay more in life gains than possessions ever will.
Sometimes you need a trip to grow, find yourself, or find answers you’ve been looking for. Why not take one of these life-changing trips.
Some trips that shaped who I am include: renting a van and driving around New Zealand, 10 days in Pakistan and every single solo trip of self-discovery.
Money does not equal happiness
Growing up in a privileged country, I was conditioned to believe that money = happiness. How wrong I was. Having met people from all over the world who have much less than the average westerner locked into a mortgage, suffice it to say they are much happier than their counterparts.
What is it then, that warrants happiness?
Acceptance of your reality. Simplicity in all things. The gift of giving.
Quality trumps quantity
So the old saying goes; quality trumps quantity. The same is true in light of travel. The more you travel, the more you start to realise those snippets of a new city, country or culture aren’t quite enough.
The further you travel, the less you want to.
You realise it is better to know a place – like really know a place – instead of just know how to ride the metro. The more I explore, the deeper I want to get to know a place.
Gone are the days of my late teens country-hopping around Europe. I’d rather move into an apartment in Berlin for a few months or pack up my life and move to Cape Town.
Learning a new language
Growing up in an English speaking nation, learning a new language was not a necessity nor was it easy. Living in Australia leaves you isolated from foreign languages, cultures and traditions.
Travel is an easy way to break that cycle.
From German to French and a hint of Afrikaans, over the years it has become easier to learn the basics to communicate in foreign languages.
If you are eager to learn, try these language courses.
You learn to stop caring what people think of you
What is it about travel that forces you to leave your inhibitions at home? I can hardly remember my pre-travel self who was insecure, shy, and fearful of what others would think of me.
The woman I have become would not have been possible without travel. Without encountering strangers, meeting local heroes and discovering that everyone has a story to be told.
I care less now about what anyone thinks of me, despite having created a career where I live online. I’m susceptible to criticism on a daily basis but I’ve learned that if you don’t stand for something, you believe anything.
Own up to your mistakes
Another one of my life lessons from travel has been to admit my wrongs. Granted, I’m still working on this as we are often the last to admit our wrongs.
But who was responsible for catching a train from Munich that was westbound instead of heading East toward Budapest? Me. Whose job is it to fix the mistake? Mine.
Travel forces you to make mistakes and this makes it easier to own up to them. Especially travelling alone – no one is responsible for your mistakes but yourself.
You learn how to problem solve
Not only do you learn to own up to your mistakes, but you learn how to problem-solve as a knee jerk reaction.
Wrong train? Get off at the next stop and start again.
Booked a plane ticket for the wrong date? You’ll need to talk your way out of those change fees.
Mugged on the streets and suddenly your cash flow is halved? Time to start budgeting and cutting your expenses in half, too.
What is important in your life
After spending so much time alone exploring foreign lands, I’ve learned to value human connection and community more than anything else in my life.
As a Virgo who loves her alone time, I’m more than comfortable being on my own. I have however learned that too much time alone is not good for me – because what is life without human connection, interaction, and mutual dependence?
The more you learn, the less you know
The further I travel, the more I learn – or so I used to believe. The truth is, with all my prejudices and a Western mentality, the more I travel the less I actually know for sure.
The more I travel, the more I learn. But the more I learn, the less I know for sure.
I’ve been forced to question what the media tells us, how stories are spun for traction, and just face straight out lies.
The more I travel, the more I learn. But the more I learn, the less I know for sure.
Vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness
I used to think being vulnerable was a weakness.
However being vulnerable is being yourself. After years of travel and meeting so many people the world over, I’ve come to realise that there is no greater power than just being yourself.
Being your most authentic self is a weight off your shoulders as you never have to try prove anything, you just are. This gives you all the time and power back to work on what really matters to you.
Books are just as much of an escape
Sometimes you just can’t escape. Whether you’re stuck in the office or have used your holidays for the year, often we have the urge to go somewhere but we just can’t yet.
I have found over the years that books provide just as much of an escape. Hence, launching my book club for travellers.
You don’t have to know someone a long time for a deep connection
Some of my greatest connections with people have been accomplished in a day – some even less.
You don’t need to know someone for a long time to have a deep connection with them. You can connect in such a life-changing way with someone who tells you just what you need to hear at the right time you need to hear it.
You can travel without leaving home
Now more than ever, I’m learning there are some great ways to travel and fulfil my wanderlust without leaving home. Whether it be trying a new recipe from a foreign cuisine you love or virtually visiting a museum, there are some great ways to travel without leaving home. Here are my favourites.
You learn to invest in yourself
While we’ve already learned that experiences are a better investment than things, only in recent years did I learn to invest in myself.
Whether it be learning how to make French pastries in a kitchen basement in Paris or investing in life-changing books on entrepreneurship, the greatest investment is yourself. If you never stop learning, you never stop growing.
Long-distance works if you want it to
I’ve had a few different experiences with long distance relationships after 8 years living out of a suitcase. Some have worked and some haven’t.
The truth is, long-distance works if you want to. It’s like any other relationship – you make sacrifices, you make it work. This is one of the lessons from travel I’d rather not admit to – but we can only learn from our mistakes.
Silence speaks as loud as words
Travel has a way of bringing out the best and worst in people. Unfortunately, the good comes with the bad and we have to learn to deal with it.
In travelling with my partner more recently, I’ve learned that silence speaks as loud as words. Sometimes not saying anything really says it all.
Travel is really just about perception
The old saying goes: you see what you want to see.
Travel and your experience abroad really come down to perception. Had a bad day? It could be worse. Life on the road will throw you many curveballs but is all about how you deal with them. Choose to be positive. Opt to be optimistic. If you want to have a great experience, you will.
Your twenties are practically made for travel
I used to be scared by that window of time between living with my family I grew up with and creating my own. But the truth is, this window of time is the perfect opportunity to go out on our own and discover ourselves for the better.
I used to be scared by that window of time between living with my family I grew up with and creating my own.
I never would have shaped my own world view without taking this time to go out on my own. Just because my parents taught me a certain way of living, doesn’t mean I need to follow it. Sure, I will always hold dear the way I was brought up to see the world – but I had to go out and add my own flavour to it.
You won’t always be alone so enjoy the solitude
After spending a lot of time alone, human connection becomes more and more desirable. But the truth is, you won’t always have this time to yourself. You won’t always be able to be selfish. To choose yourself. And to do all the things you want to do and skip all the things you do not. Enjoy the time in your life where you can be alone. It won’t always be this way.