Some people think that traveling can teach them skills they will later put on their resume to impress potential employer.
And it is somehow true that you could learn some useful stuff on the road – independence, budgeting, negotiations or crisis management. But I never seen traveling as a way to improve my CV. I travel to be free and see the world.
There are however a few things I’ve learnt to understand. Things I probably always knew, but they were hidden somewhere at the bottom of my brain. Being on the road freed my mind and showed me new perspective. Here are five most important things I learnt to understand:
I understood there is no point in getting emotional about things I don’t have control over
Living in a world composed of rules and people who tend to follow them made me used to things happening rather fast and in an orderly way. But then I went traveling and discovered that not the whole world lives by the same rules. I spent what felt like eternity on overcrowded public transport. I spent hours in massive queues trying to buy train tickets. I joined numerous long lines in front of the only working ATM in town. My bus broke down in the middle of nowhere. And so on.
Normally these kinds of situations would drive me nuts. And they did at first. But after a while I discovered that no matter how angry or frustrated I was the situation wouldn’t change. The queue would not get shorter, the crowd would not disappear, the bus would not fix itself. So I started to worry less. I became patient. And somehow life became much easier.
I understood we all care about the same things
No matter where you go people care about the same things. We might have different skin colors, speak different languages, believe in different gods and go about our lives in different way but at the end of the day we want the same from life. All kids want to have fun. All mothers want the best for their children. All fathers want to provide for their families. Everyone wants a happy life. And while happiness is defined differently across the globe at the end of the day we all want it.
I understood that almost everything comes in a cheaper version
When you travel over a long period of time with a limited budget, you need to use your money wisely. So I mastered budgeting and price negotiations. But most importantly I learnt that most things come in a cheaper version. You can get a nice double room in Vietnam for $30 but you can also find one for $10. You can have a delicious green curry in a tourist restaurant in Bangkok for $5 or eat it on the street (where it is cooked in the same way) for $1.5. You can take a $46-one-way train trip from Cusco to Machu Picchu or you can catch a public transport and get there for under $10. And when you get back home and apply those lessons you suddenly discover that 50c pasta tastes equally good as the one for $2 and that by just shopping around you can buy the same book for $18 instead of $25. Suddenly the same money can take you much further.
I understood that having less things makes life easier
Traveling with one backpack for 20 months was a very interesting experience. I quickly discovered that having only a few t-shirts and shorts and two pairs of shoes was not really making any difference to my level of comfort or happiness. But it’s not just the clothes. I didn’t have my apartment, my car, my books, my electronic gadgets and other stuff. And I didn’t miss what I didn’t have. I understood that happiness doesn’t come from having things, but from who I am, what I do and who I have around me.
I understood world is much safer than we are made to believe
I remember the first time I was going to South East Asia. It was about eight years ago. I told my friends and family I was about to visit Cambodia. “But it’s dangerous!” they all told me. Of course none of them have ever been to Cambodia. Most couldn’t even name its capital or place the country on the map, but they still knew better. I guess it’s because we tend to fear what we don’t know. We fear everything that’s different. And media do a pretty good job of showing the world as a dangerous places. They are masters of putting stereotypes in our heads. But you know what? You don’t have to go another country to get robbed. This can happen on the way to work in your hometown.
And what about you? Have you learnt any interesting lessons on the road?