Travel is a funny thing. It can be rough, tiresome, and grueling. It can push you to your ultimate limits and make you want to scream in frustration. It can make you more homesick than you ever knew possible.
However, travel can also be magical in a way that I never knew was real until I booked my first flight. Travel has taught me more life lessons than I ever expected.
My memories of my best times traveling aren’t necessarily the places that Tripadvisor recommended to me, but the in-betweens. The little moments and the interactions with people.
It’s all the small parts that make up a greater whole. The feeling is almost unexplainable.
When I think of my experiences backpacking, I think of tiny bathrooms and cramped dorms. Of laughing over a bottle with new friends I’ve met on the train. I think of the smiles from locals and the little gestures of kindness from strangers. Of strangers that turned into friends. I think of that feeling that every traveler knows. It’s that moment when you feel absolutely infinite after you arrive in a new place.
The feeling that you have no idea what you’re doing or where you’re going but somehow everything is going to work out just fine.
Traveling gives a person an absurd kind of high that is very hard to let go of. It’s what I keep chasing.
That feeling I can’t let go of. The feeling of culture shock, the leap into the unknown. It’s the trust in yourself and in others and the sudden realization that maybe you don’t have to keep doing things the same way when you return home. Maybe there is a different way.
What Travel Has Taught Me
I think one of the most important things I’ve learned on my travels is humility. Some of the best travelers I have known have let themselves be humbled by every encounter. They’ve had no preconceived notions about a place, and they let their experiences shape their travels as a whole. I’ve learned that maybe the way we do things in America isn’t always best. Travel forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world, and nothing is ever again black and white.
I’ve learned that adventures and experiences (good or bad) are the best way to learn. Yes, I’ve been a bit reckless on my travels. I haven’t always worn a helmet and I’ve taken up some questionable offers from strangers. But God, have I learned.
On that token, I’ve learned that maybe the point of life isn’t to find security, or to find wealth, or even to find love. Maybe the point of life is to have as many experiences as possible and to live fully and completely.
“We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well so that death will tremble to take us.”
I’ve learned to rely on myself. When you are traveling, especially as a solo woman, you learn to rely on your intuition and your gut instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, I simply don’t do it. Travel also can teach you massive amounts of self love, if you allow yourself to open up to it. Falling in love with myself while traveling was a very strange thing. I wasn’t expecting it, but it happened.
Travel has taught me to not be passive and to ask for what I want. I think a lot of people are afraid to ask for what they want out of life. Hence, they don’t get what they want. I’ve realized that it’s not necessary to settle, and it’s a glorious feeling.
Above all, travel has taught me to show kindness, even when kindness isn’t being offered back to you in return. It’s so easy to get caught up in our problems. We forget that everyone has a story and maybe the lady that scowled at you on the subway is just having a really shit day, you know? Travel has taught me to not take things so personally and really just try to focus on showing empathy towards others.
Overall, backpacking and traveling as a whole has changed me on a very personal level. When I took my first trip, I knew that I would change, but I didn’t know quite how much. Traveling changes you as a person, and it’s deep and permanent. I’ve left pieces of my heart everywhere I have gone, but somehow I still feel very much whole.