When you spend some time away from home, seperated from the people you are used to and experience a different country and its culture, you learn a lot of lessons about yourself and life. Which lessons this will be exactly may vary from person to person, but the experience surely changes you.
These are the five most important things travelling has taught me – so far, as you never stop learning.
1. Be self-confident
I didn´t use to be a very self-confident person, always felt insecure and was super shy when it came to talking to strangers. When you´re travelling though you´ll have to stand up for yourself and master problems and life by yourself, far away from that safe place called home, where you had the support of family and friends.
Challenges may range from just asking for directions in a foreign language – and understanding the instructions afterwards of course – to building up a whole life while staying abroad for longer. For me a big changing points were to suddenly have the responsibility for two kids such as my first self planned solo trip to Washington DC.
Also make sure you always seem self–confident, even if you´re lost or don´t know what to do while travelling alone, because you don´t want to seem helpless and therefore like an easy target.
While travelling with your parents as a child probably meant staying in a nice hotel or vacation house, travelling by yourself while you are still a student or starting your career means travelling on a budget for most of us. Hostels, AirBnB, Couchsurfing or even Camping are great options to make sure your travels don´t leave you completely broke. I´ve had great experiences with those places but so did I have a bad one in New York City, but while my 17-year-old brother wanted to look for something else, I just took the situation as it was. After all I don´t have to spend more time there then the night and off I am to explore the city. That was though, when I noticed that I didnt´have the high expectations of my brother anymore. And isn´t it part of the experience seeing how other people live anyways? That leads me to point number three.
Living in the same place for a long period of time you´re being exposed to the same people and environment day by day. Also, you may – like me – have never travelled far away from home and didn´t get to know other cultures, but once you visit a foreign country you are seeing new habits, new food, people, that are different from what you are used to. You are going to love some of the new things, while others you might never be able to comprehend. What you´re going to understand though is that different people do things differently and that you don´t have to live or like their way, only accept it. You´ll start to get an acceptance for those differences and be curious about them and that means you´re becoming a more tolerant person.
I have travelled quite a bit now, but it wasn´t until I spent a day in Paris that I had some time for myself to think and notice what a big difference travelling can make, especially solo travel. At the Metro Station in Montmartre I got into conversation with an older man who had helped me find the right metro and he told me he had lived in Switzerland for a long time and travelled a lot when he was younger. At night that day I talked to another local. He had studied in Germany for a while, lived in China for a few years and spoke six languages. Afterwards I thought about conversations with locals on earlier journeys. Now, the vast majority of these people have travelled and/or lived in different countries and are therefore really open and search for contact with people, because they want to explore and are interested in other peoples´ stories. After all you´ve certainly got something to tell after travelling.
“Traveling: It leaves you speechless, then turns into a storyteller” – Ibn Battuta
I used to be that girl that ALWAYS overpacked, that had to basically jump onto her suitcase to close it and that wanted to do lots of shopping while on vacation (I had a job myself, so I saved for it). But when I packed for my year abroad I thought about what I really wanted to take and believe me, you´ll notice how many things you don´t need. Taking my first trip in the States – three days in DC – I really kept it to a minimum. I knew I´d be walking a lot, before even getting to my AirBnB, so I opted for a pretty small backpack (you didn´t notice it in the picture above, did you?) and discovered, that I could reduce the stuff to take with me even more than I thought.
Now, what are your lessons learned whilst travelling?
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