I have been home for a little over a month now, and I have had some time to reflect on all the things that I have learned from my trip. I was inspired to create a “Things Travel Has Taught Me” post from my friend and fellow travel-blogger, thefreshstarttraveller. If you haven’t already, check out her blog for awesome travel tips and neat insights on a plethora of travel destination! Onto my list…
7. Be Social. Looking back on it, I definitely can say that I feel like I am much more confident in initiating conversations with strangers than I was before. As a solo traveler, the only way to get that social interaction that we sometimes crave is to buck up and be the first person to strike up a conversation. A simple “hey” is all you need sometimes.
Travel Tip: Any time you hear your native language, for me that would be “American English,” make it a point to introduce yourself and find out where that person is from. You immediately have something in common right away and sometimes it’s nice to hear a familiar voice from back home.
6. Be Appreciative. Travel has opened my eyes to see how other people live across the world. It has taught me to be appreciative of the things I have in my life, both physical and non-physical. I knew I was blessed with the opportunity to completely leave my life behind and venture off into the world. I knew that most people will not ever get the chance to do what I did because of financial restraints or family obligations. However, exploring the small towns throughout the Philippines showed me another level of gratitude that I could have never imagined. So many locals live simple lives, working day by day to provide food for their families and a roof over their heads, and yet they were so happy. They were always smiling and grateful for visitors, eager to share their culture with others.
5. Be Aware. As Americans, our reputation precedes us as “dumb” and “self-centered,” and it’s actually true. It’s definitely a stereotype, but I think we could all use a little bit of travel in our lives. So many people live their lives in an imaginary box, never venturing outside of their own country. I wouldn’t call myself the stereotypical dumb American, but I never knew the capital of Canada was Ottawa until a Canadian told me. I didn’t know the capital of Australia was Canberra (not Sydney).
Perhaps the biggest wake-up call for me was when I learned that 85% of the world’s population is multilingual. And here I am struggling to learn Spanish, and I don’t even know how to speak Tagalog. It’s so easy for us, as Americans, to say, “learn English, learn English” but truth be told, we’re the ones that are behind. We are uneducated. We expect the world to speak a language that we can understand, but we don’t bother to learn theirs. We were raised on the idea that, “America is the greatest country in the world,” but is it really? (That’s as political as I’m going to be)
4. Be Yourself. You may not even realize it, but it’s very common to act a certain way based on whoever is in your company. It’s human nature. We conform to others’ expectations of ourselves. Maybe not everyone does this, but I certainly have a more malleable mind. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but I found that living in an environment surrounded by people who didn’t know me to be very liberating (and also knowing you will never see those people again). So be honest. Say what you mean. And don’t apologize for being yourself.
3. Be Brave. This one was not originally on my list of things that I wanted to take away from my trip, but it happened. While I will always be one to preach about safety while traveling, I will also say that there is a certain amount of risks that you should take. The best example I have for this was when I jumped off the platform on the 10 meter cliff at Salagdoong Beach in Siquijor. Now, if you had asked me three months before, or two weeks before, or even the morning of, I would’ve told you hands down that there was no way in hell you could get me to jump off a cliff.
However, the idea of facing my fears first sprouted in my head after spending a week in Queenstown, NZ and watching my friends face their fears by doing crazy ziplines and skydiving and bungy jumping and death-boat rides. I felt like I was the only one walking away from Queenstown without conquering anything. And I was okay with that! I would have been perfectly fine, except there was something inside of me telling me that I should do it. That was the feeling I had to focus on to just do it (also with the help of my cousin). Again, I would have been perfectly fine without jumping off a cliff, but because I was able to conquer that fear, it led to a jump rope swing into a waterfall and renting a motorbike in a foreign country (that was a big deal for me). Sometimes it’s nice to have someone with you that pushes you a little bit past your limit.
2. Be Present. This was one of the hardest lessons that I had to learn while abroad. Mostly because I have always been the type of person that is constantly looking into the past or hoping for the future. It took so much mentally to discipline my mind to focus on the present. To live in the now. When times were tough, I had to physically take a deep breath, slow down my thoughts, and remind myself to be aware of my surroundings. It usually went like this, “Hey, you’re in fucking Australia!” Something will always go wrong, but at the end of the day, figure out a way to move past it, and you will be a better traveler afterwards.
1. Be Happy. Perhaps one of the greatest things that I could have taken back from this trip was my newfound ability to “take a step back” from my life and see things clearly. I didn’t realize that for two years, I had been living my life shift-by-shift and week-by-week, constantly worrying about getting through the next day and relieved when my 3-shift week was ending. On my days off, I spent a lot of time inside my apartment, on the couch, catching up on TV shows that I had missed while at work. I let my relationships with family and friends slide to a level that I was unhappy with and wrote it off as “we’re all busy doing our own thing.”
I’ve learned that I do not want to be in a position where I am constantly getting through each shift and always waiting for my next vacation to be happy. Travel has made me realize that it’s okay to put your own happiness first, above everything else. Be a little selfish. Get that massage. Take the day off. Explore. Do whatever you need to do to maintain your happiness, because without it, what’s the damn point?