There’s something about traveling and living abroad that has me coming back for more, year after year. It’s exciting. It’s addicting. It’s an adrenaline rush that never seems to be enough, at least not yet. Interestingly enough, what was once a “once in a lifetime trip” for me has somehow turned into a trip that has lasted a lifetime. Well, at least it feels that way.
Travel is life changing. It’s beautiful, mind-boggling, eye opening, raw, and even nerve wracking at times. Travel tests your judgment, patience and your tolerance levels incessantly.
I’ve been tested and challenged numerous times throughout my worldly travels, yet I’m a firm believer that everything I have experienced along this journey of mine has made me a better person in more ways than I could have ever imagined.
So, what sort of lessons have I learned along the way, you might ask?
Well, here goes.
Table of Contents
- 1 1. OPEN MINDEDNESS
- 2 2. FOREIGN HOSPITALITY
- 3 3. THE ART OF NONCONFORMITY
- 4 4. DECISIONS, DECISIONS
- 5 5. THE WORLD DOESN’T HATE AMERICANS
- 6 6. YOU DON’T NEED TO BE MULTILINGUAL
- 7 7. LIFE IS GOOD
- 8 8. WILLINGNESS TO TRY NEW THINGS
- 9 9. SAME OL’ DESTINATIONS
- 10 10. FLYING DOESN’T SUCK
- 11 11. OVERPACKING SUCKS
- 12 12. THE THREE RULES OF TRAVEL
1. OPEN MINDEDNESS
In order to become open minded, you need to find yourself in situations that make you feel uncomfortable.
I’ve always thought of myself as someone who was open minded, even before I started traveling. Unfortunately, I couldn’t have been any more wrong. It wasn’t until I really started to travel outside of my homeland that I realized how close minded of a person I really was.
It’s only when you leave that cushy little comfort zone of yours that you start to open your mind and acknowledge other peoples viewpoints on life.
2. FOREIGN HOSPITALITY
The most mind blowing hospitality can be found in the places you’d least expect it. Of course, I can’t speak for every country in the world but I can sure speak for a few.
Let’s take Egypt for example. Would you ever guess that it would sit in the number one spot on my list of most hospitable places in the world? Yeah, that’s right. Egypt.
I’ve yet to experience better hospitality on my travels than I have during my three visits to the country. I mean, how many places are there left on Earth with people who invite strangers into their homes to join them for a cup of tea? As far as I know, not too many.
The hospitality that was shown to me during my time in Egypt is one of the many reasons why it remains as one of my top 5 favorite countries on the planet.
3. THE ART OF NONCONFORMITY
Go to school, meet your future partner, get married (then have sex), buy a house, get a dog, and have a baby or three. That’s all you need to do in order to lead a happy and successful life.
Well, at least that’s what we’re led to believe.
Conformists are brought up by conformists who were brought up by conformists. From generation to generation, it’s the same old sh*t. This is the way life has been and this is the way it’s going to continue to be. If you dare to stray off that path and start your own trail, you’re damn well on your own.
As a self-proclaimed nonconformist, I’m here to tell you that there are no rules in life for you to break, there are only rules for you to create.
Life is not just one long one-way street. As a matter of fact, there’s another road running parallel to it with a lot less traffic. On that road are millions of other nonconformists, who are in essence, just like you. They’re happy and successful — based upon their own definitions, not the definitions of generations past. They’ve been passing you by for years but you’ve never seemed to acknowledge them. Is it because they took the road less traveled or have you just never realized the road existed?
My advice is to take the road less traveled at least once in your life, preferably before your mid-twenties while you’re still young and you lack the major responsibilities that come along with life as we know it. Although, that being said, it’s never too late. At the end of the day, what’s the worst that can happen? You don’t like it? No problem, just hit the next exit knowing that you gave it a shot.
Being a nonconformist doesn’t mean you can’t have a 9 to 5, a cute little home with a white picket fence and a family of 5. It’s about learning who you are, figuring out what exactly it is that you want in life, and creating your own personal definition of happiness and success.
Note: This message isn’t intended to encourage you to rebel against a life of which many consider to be normal. It’s about venturing off the trail, taking calculated risks, and going against the grain in hopes of finding that life of yours that you’ve been dreaming of.
MUST READ: THE POSSIBILITY OF IMPOSSIBLE
4. DECISIONS, DECISIONS
If there’s one thing you learn on the road it’s how to make spontaneous decisions on the fly. You could be one of the most indecisive people on the planet before taking off on your trip but trust me when I tell you that will all quickly change. Soon enough, you’ll need to make split second decisions that will have your original master plan flipped upside down. Roll with the changes and you’ll rarely find yourself in a bind.
Note: Having the flexibility in your travel plans in order to make last minute decisions is crucial. It can also save you money. A lot of money.
5. THE WORLD DOESN’T HATE AMERICANS
No, you’ve got it all wrong. The world doesn’t hate Americans. The world hates American politics.
Despite what you’ve heard through a friend of a friend who has traveled internationally, the world accepts Americans with open arms just as it would with the Canadians, the French, the Germans and the Aussies.
Call me lucky. Call me crazy. Call me an idiot. All I know is that I’ve never been treated wrongly because of where I come from.
I’m proud as hell to be an American and if you’re an American, you should be, too.
6. YOU DON’T NEED TO BE MULTILINGUAL
People always ask me if I have ever ran into trouble while traveling due to the fact that I know one language and one language only. The answer is no, I have not.
While I do think that knowing a second or third language can be helpful at certain times on the road, I’ve never personally been in a situation where I absolutely needed to know one.
Am I embarrassed to only have learned one language in school when most foreigners that I’ve met are at least bilingual, if not trilingual? Absolutely. I’m jealous that foreign education requires youngsters to learn a second and third language and I believe all Americans should be required to be at least bilingual before graduating high school.
7. LIFE IS GOOD
Life is so damn good. You know it. I know it. Yet, we’re all guilty when it comes to forgetting how fortunate we are from time to time.
I try my hardest to stay grounded and I constantly remind myself how lucky I am to be
alive and kicking alive and wandering. Sure, it’s not an easy task, but if you find it difficult to remind yourself how fortunate you are on a daily basis then I highly recommend you check out this productivity based Google Chrome extension called Momentum.
Momentum is a tool that I’ve been using for a few months now and I cannot even begin to tell you how much I love this thing. Not only can you set your goals and focus points for the day but you can also create a task list, check the local weather, and read a new inspirational quote each day. If you’re looking for the best way to remind yourself of the most important things in life, trust me when I say that you need to get Momentum.
Note: This is in no way a sponsored message or advertisement for Momentum. I’m sharing Momentum with you simply for the fact that I absolutely love it.
8. WILLINGNESS TO TRY NEW THINGS
Before I started traveling, I was a seriously picky eater. People would tell me I was picky and I’d laugh it off as if I wasn’t that bad. When looking back on it now, I can’t believe how damn picky I really was. I mean, I wouldn’t even dare try anything new. Anytime someone asked me to give something a shot, I would tell them “No, I don’t like that”, even though I had never tried it. I’m sure some of you out there can relate.
During my travels I was pretty much forced to try new things. You know, things other than my typical go-to foods back home. I soon learned that I’d been missing out on certain foods my entire life. I mean, really. What would life be like if I hadn’t tried falafel or hummus for the first time?
Nowadays, I’m pretty much up to try just about anything. Well, unless we’re talking deep fried insects, reptiles, dogs, cats, rats, and so on. Excuse me while I politely pass on those for the time being. Baby steps. Baby steps.
9. SAME OL’ DESTINATIONS
I used to always find it odd when friends and family back home would use their miniscule vacation time to visit places like Las Vegas once or twice every year. Being someone who enjoys visiting new destinations, I would wonder why the same people continue to flock to the same places that they’ve been three hundred times already.
But, now I get it.
Some places are just comfortable. You know them like the back of your hand. You’ve been there enough times to walk the streets blindfolded. You’re safe, you’re happy, you’re content, and you wouldn’t have it any other way. I get it. I really do.
I, myself, have a few places that I’d gladly return to over and over no matter how many times I’ve been there in the past. Speaking of Vegas, I enjoy spending a couple nights there every now and then. I also love spending time in places like Ireland, Egypt, Thailand, Croatia, and Mexico.
While returning to the same destinations over and over is completely fine in my book, I would still like to encourage you to go out on a limb and visit somewhere new every year, if possible. You never know, you might find yourself yet another place to return to.
10. FLYING DOESN’T SUCK
Let’s face it. Flying isn’t as bad as everyone makes it out to be. I remember when I used to think a five hour flight was a long haul flight. I would dread having to fly to Ireland to visit my family back in the day. Nowadays, a five to six hour flight is pretty much a short hop for me.
Over the years I’ve come to the realization that it’s the true long haul flights (10+ hrs) that train you to be more patient and increase your tolerance levels when it comes to the short hops.
I should also mention that being able to sleep on flights is a game changer. If you’re the type of person who can’t manage to sleep a wink on a flight, then I feel sorry for you. Yeah, you’re right. Flying, for you, probably does suck.
I’m fortunate enough to be the type of guy who remembers walking on to the plane to find his seat but forgets everything after that. I usually wake up to the sound of the pilot announcing that the cabin crew needs to prepare for landing.
11. OVERPACKING SUCKS
Overpacking is not only incredibly unnecessary, it can be a real pain in the ass.
Over the course of the last few years, I’ve come to realize that there’s a mixture of common sense and skill necessary when it comes to packing a bag.
The common sense part of the equation is pretty simple. Ask yourself how many outfits you actually need to bring with you on your trip. When I say need, I mean it in the literal sense. You don’t need 10 shirts and 3 pairs of shoes for a weekend getaway. Sure, playing dress up is fun and all, but why bother bringing a case full of clothes to try on in your hotel room?
As far as the skill of packing goes, you must know how to pack. For example, rolling your clothes not only saves you a ton of space, but it also keeps them from getting wrinkled.
Packing is one lesson that every traveler must learn on their own though. You can advise someone to not overpack as much as you want and they’ll still take three times more than they need.
Ironically enough, my best advice for you is to whip out your pen and pad and sketch out a solid packing list for yourself. After you think you’ve covered just about everything you need, go ahead and get rid of half of it. Ah, screw it. You won’t listen to me anyway.
12. THE THREE RULES OF TRAVEL
I have three main rules when it comes to travel and I’m positive that these three simple rules have saved my sanity more times than I could ever imagine.
1. Never engage in conversation about politics.
2. Never engage in conversation about religion.
3. Never, EVER engage in conversation about politics or religion.
In other words, if you want to avoid arguments with strangers, fellow travelers and opinionated as*holes on the road, my advice would be to let the ranters rant and let the ravers rave. Whatever you do, don’t waste your time or your positive energy on conversations that are ultimately bound to lead you nowhere.
Those are just a few of the many life lessons that I’ve learned on the road. I could go on and on but I won’t dare bore you with the rest.
As you may have noticed, travel has changed my life. It will change yours, too. If I could give you one piece of advice it would be to take the leap now, while you still can. Because, as you know, life is short and tomorrow is never promised.
Can you relate to any of these life lessons of mine? If so, be sure to leave a comment below.
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