It may sound pretty cliché, but there honestly is no school that will teach you what you’ll learn through travelling. I don’t think I ever really understood what people meant when they talked about “gaining life experience through travelling”. I just always smiled and nodded as if I agreed and knew exactly what they meant.
I can remember dreaming about travelling since high school. I made various plans that failed the one after the other but, nonetheless, I always knew that I knew that I knew that I would go sometime when I least expected it. And unexpectedly that happened. Just as well, because I probably wouldn’t have done it if I had too much time to think and ponder about the pros and cons of leaving my steady job, family and friends and all my comforts of home for the unknown.
There are always one hundred reasonings and questions fighting it out in our heads when we need to make big decisions like this. All the what-ifs.. “What if i don’t find a job again once I return?”; “What if I hate it and wasted all that money just to hop on the next flight back?”; “What if I love it so much that I don’t want to come back?”
While it’s a good thing to be wise and want to make the best decision, I am convinced that the pros of travelling will always outweigh the cons. So here’s my 2 cents on what I think some valuable things are that one can learn through travelling:
1. I’m a big big girl (or boy) in a small small world
It’s incredible how, once you’re settling in in a new country, you realise that the world you’ve been living in is really, really small. You know, you think you’re keeping up with world news, current events, the Kardashians, or whatever else, but still actually have no idea what is really going on outside the comfort zone of your own borders, TV, PC or mobile screen. There is a big, big world out there and personally, I think it’s quite sad that many people have no desire to travel whatsoever and/or aren’t interested in learning from other people and cultures. There truly is nothing more enriching than that.
2. Same same but different
Even though cultures may differ in extreme ways, people are still people. Whether it’s catching the bus every day, sitting in a café or waiting for a train; watching people is probably the most interesting activity there is (not in a creepy way of course). It’s fascinating not only because it can be funny as hell, but also because you realise that language, religion, sport, geographical borders, food and drink preferences, habits and all the like aside, people are still people – desiring relationships, friendships, conversations, humour or even just a smile (once again, not in a creepy way).
3. Cry me a river
Believe it or not, your home country, with all its issues, isn’t the only one with problems. We often hear that we should be thankful because, you know, “there is always someone else worse off than you.” That is actually a very valid truth you’ll only grasp fully through travelling. Now don’t lose the plot too quickly… I’m not saying we only see people worse off than ourselves if and when we travel, I just mean that once you travel, you come to the realisation that spreading bad PR about your own country isn’t as easy as when you’re actually in your own country. It feels like you’re zoomed out and it becomes easier to see the awesomeness and potential while the corruption and other issues look small in comparison to some things you learn about other countries while on the road.
In Italy, for example, the moon hitting my eye like a big pizza pie, the pasta, the wine, the culture and the out-of-this-world gelato aside, there are tons of political and social issues that want to make me go on my knees every night and thank the Lord that it’s not like that in my country.
4. Challenge accepted
Language barriers. Food. Public transport. Around every corner you’ll find yourself a challenge. It’s up to you how you’re going to overcome it. Travelling is not for the faint hearted – and that’s exactly why the faint hearted should do it. It challenges you like you could never imagine with the result of a nicer but smarter, wiser but humbler, stronger but more sensitive, and all round cooler version of you, as a result.
5. How you doin’?
There’s more often than not some truth in stereotypes, so be ready for them. The best thing you can do when encountering a stereotype is to not get annoyed, but rather let them humour you. It’s an added, and usually funny, experience :P
6. Expect the unexpected
Whilst travelling, you learn that people will continually surprise you. People can actually be nice. Yes, even in this cruel and at times disgusting, corrupt world we live in. If someone drops by to bring you a melon or some figs, maybe that’s all there is to it. Maybe they don’t want to stick their nose in your personal business or want something in return. Maybe they are just nice neighbours, had an extra melon or a few figs, thought of you and end of story? We need to work hard to trust again and expect good things from people.
7. Get in there and soak it up!
When travelling, it’s very much up to you what you get out of the experience. Learning the local language, or some basic words and phrases at least, will enrich not only your travel experience, but your life in general. It’s also not easy to get immersed in a culture if you’re not willing to learn the local language. You’ll be the one missing out.