Traveling the world, learning languages, and immersing myself in new cultures.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

6 Things This American Has Learned From Traveling

We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.

Reflecting back on my last few years of travel around Europe, and I've realized that I learned quite a few things that, otherwise, I would not have learned. These aren't enlightened discoveries, but simple things that I think have made me a better person.

Fear robs you of great experiences

When I'm in travel mode I tend to be braver and more adventurous. Let's try that strange food. Let's climb that statue. Let's talk to and follow that strange hobo around town (Andy from Albania). 

Fear, in the form of not wanting to leave your comfort zone, can be detrimental to your travel experience. I would hate to return home after a trip and be showing my friends photos and having to say, "Here is that time I didn't try that thing because I was too scared". Where's the fun in that? 

Even if it's not something I'm going to incorporate into my daily life, when traveling, you have to go out on a limb and do some things you wouldn't normally do. I tend to have a better feeling about the quality of my trip, and I also tend to have better stories to tell.

If it doesn't conflict with your values or morals, there's no reason not to try it

This is a spin-off, or evolution, of the first point. Once fear is not a roadblock, I make sure it doesn't go against my morals, then I go for it. What I mean is, I'm not going to do drugs, just because I'm in the country that has the world's best (insert drug here). But I will try to imitate the local traditional dance in front of hundreds of strangers, as a way to embrace and learn the local culture.

Don't be such a stickler to your plan

Have a plan, but understand that it may not happen in the way that you plan. This is pretty much the subtitle of my travels (if not my life). When I go somewhere, I try to plan what I'm going to see, make a list of foods and drinks I want to try, and then look for some local thing to engage in. 

Most times, when I arrive at my destination, I'll be presented with a choice of doing what I planned or randomly going off with some locals I just met and seeing what happens. I can tell you that more often than not, the second choice has left me with a more intense, if not more impressive, experience. Plus, most times I was able to incorporate my plans along the way. Of course, I've had some bad experiences from these kinds of decisions, but now that I look back, they are just crazy/funny stories.

I've been on a few all-inclusive, everything-planned-for-you trips and I had a good time, so if you absolutely need to have and stick to a plan, do it that way. You will have a good experience, but it is likely you will miss that hidden gem that you only find when you go with the flow.

There's always a hidden gem -food, drink, people, waterfall, music, art, museum, etc.

Even if you have visited a place before, or live there, I bet you can find something new or different that you never even knew existed, that you can take part in and enjoy. I can't count the number of times that I've spoken with Spanish people about my travels in their country, and about things I've done that they never heard of that leave them amazed.

Sometimes the best thing you'll find on your trip is the one thing that you didn't plan for and/or didn't know existed.

How unimportant money really is

Money can definitely make life a lot easier, especially when traveling. Many people think that you have to be rich to travel a lot - or at least save up and spend all of your money on a trip. However, I've met so many people that have been traveling the world for very little money, or even for free. It boils down to preferences and goals. 

If you prefer to travel in style (fancy hotels and 5-star dining), it will cost more money. If you prefer to immerse yourself in the culture, you can couchsurf for free. Both ways will offer you a great way to experience a new place and its culture, just from different perspectives based on the person's preference. 

If your travel goals are to enjoy a vacation and be pampered, it will cost more money. If your travel goals are to gain an understanding of a new culture and live for a moment in that culture, you can work in a hostel (free room and board) and take part in the free day-to-day activities offered around that location.

I've always been a budget traveler, but after traveling and meeting new people, I've seen the entire spectrum of travelers, from the expensive all-out vacation travelers to the backpack-across-the-world-with-no-money-in-my-pocket travelers. They were both able to travel and see and learn new things from other cultures; again, just from different perspectives.

Traveling is not the goal, but having new experiences that enrich your life and help you learn about yourself

Well, this one pretty much sums up this blog post. Yes, one of my goals is to visit every country in Europe, not for any other reason than to see what each one has to offer. But, that goal is not only to check boxes, but also because I know, based on my past experiences, that everytime I visit a new country, something inside me is sparked knowing that I am fortunate and blessed to have the desire and the opportunity to travel. Letting go of your routine and habits to live as the locals do, gives you insight into the culture, but also into yourself and what you're really capable of.

What do you think? Share, like, and leave a comment below!

Location: Pamplona, Navarre, Spain


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