12 Unforgettable Lessons I’ve Learned From Travelling

I may not have been around the world yet, but I’ve already gained plenty of the unforgettable and valuable lessons that travelling has to offer. From a young age, I’ve always been exposed to world news, animals. places, people, and cultures via the television. Now I’ve realised that learning (through a glass screen) just isn’t enough for me. I want to travel to see and experience some of the things I see on the television myself. Here’s my favourite quote by Saint Augustine:

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.

Floating books in Genting Highlands

I can’t agree more with Saint Augustine. Indeed, every travel experience has taught me many new things, and not only do I see the world in different perspectives now, I’ve also become more open-minded about the things that don’t always get along with my personal values. Here are 12 lessons which travelling has given to me.

1. Travelling is not a way of escaping life

Many people think that those who quit their job to travel the world are individuals who aren’t happy with their lives and are trying to run away from whatever problems they’re having. That’s not always true. And it’s unfair to generalise all travellers. After all, there are many reasons why people travel. For most travellers, travelling is a kind of happiness. I feel the same way, too.

I’m personally impressed by individuals who aren’t afraid to leave their comfort zone to explore the world. Depending on how you look at the matter, such a decision is either easy or difficult to make.

For me, I’ve always considered the world as a school of life. And I honestly don’t consider long-term travelling as a way to escape life. How can you escape life when you’re actually still living?


2. Travelling is not always as easy as people think it is

The beach, amazing food, and other great things you can find around the world are tempting enough to make you want to just pack your bags and go. With so many travel bloggers out there encouraging people to travel, more and more people are compelled to travel today just for the sake of getting more or less the same kind of experiences that these travel bloggers have had.

River in Laos

The thing is, there are too many misleading information out there that make people think that all you need to have in order to travel the world are a decent backpack and some savings. Travelling is not always just about having lazy days on the beach, drinking cocktails, and enjoying smooth journeys. I’ve met some travellers who did not like travelling just because their travels were tough and tiring. Maybe they felt that way because they weren’t prepared for their travels.

Honestly, I wasn’t really prepared when I first started my solo travels. But the experiences have finally unleashed my wanderlust, hence motivating me to explore the world even more till this day.


3. It’s okay to be alone

I’m the kind of traveller who always travels alone. But I do enjoy some company while I’m on the road. I prefer to travel by myself and meet people along the way. Yes, I’m an extreme extrovert, but I also enjoy some time alone every now and then.

It's okay to be alone

Travelling has taught me that no matter where I am and no matter what I do, it’s okay to be alone. In fact, it has made me stronger and more independent. A close friend of mine used to tell me that life is a like a train journey. He said that as he often watched me say goodbye to my travel friends who came and left, from time to time — because they’re travellers — just like me. And it’s perfectly okay for us to hop in and out of each other’s lives. Because in this world, we’re born alone and we die alone.

As quoted by Orson Welles, “We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone.”


4. We’re not always alone

As I have mentioned earlier, it’s okay to be alone, and as an individual, we are meant to be alone. But the people and everything else around us make us feel like we’re never alone.

We're not always alone

On the road, we can meet new people, and even if we don’t remember each other’s names and faces, it’s the journey that we share together that actually matters. I’ve already met many poor yet generous people on the road. Despite their lack of finance, they were always happy to help and share any form of happiness with a complete stranger like me.

I’ve also made many new friends from around the globe. Although we have only met once (or twice), we continue to keep in touch and even plan trips together.


5. The art of letting go

Travelling has taught me that collecting memories and experiences is more valuable than collecting material possessions. I can understand that not everybody will agree with me on this. At the end of the day, I know that the experiences, memories, and lessons I’ve gained from my travels are what matter the most to me. Everyone has their own ways of achieving happiness after all.

The art of letting go

Before I left home to see the many foreign places near me, I knew I couldn’t take everything that I had with me. So I donated some of my possessions to a nearby charity. It felt really good. It felt really good. I learned that most of the things I had didn’t really make me happy. Getting rid of the things that were once valuable to me wasn’t an easy task. But I had overcome it and I’m glad I did.

In many of my journeys, I also fell in love with many travellers like me. Saying goodbye was once hard. But not anymore. I’ve come to realise that a lot of things in life don’t always last forever, which is why I think it’s important to master the art of letting go. Indeed, the experience has helped me mature in many ways.


6. There are still many good people in the world

So many crazy things are happening in our world today. War. Hunger. Diseases. Crimes against humanity. Abuse towards the animal kingdom. And many more. All of the things humans are capable of doing have made me realised how vicious the human race can be. Recent studies have also shown that humans are indeed super predators. For example, in comparison to other predators in the world, humans usually prey on fully-grown animals instead of their young ones.

I’ve already met many good and bad people on the road. A friend of mine once said that he hasn’t given up on the human race.  He believes that there are still many good people out there. We just haven’t met many of them yet.

generous friends
When my friends and I needed a place to spend the night, Kai Feng opened his doors for us.

And as I explore the world further, I’ve learned that poverty (or money) isn’t always the root of all evil.


7. Not all who wander are lost

I have to agree with J.R.R. Tolkien that not all who wander are lost. As mentioned in point number 1, not everyone who travels is trying to escape his/her life situation. Yes, at a certain point of our lifetime, we may experience some life crisis — such as not feeling sure where our life is heading, if we’re doing the right things for ourselves, how our actions today can impact our future and the future of others, and so on.

Not all who wander are lost

Those who have left their jobs to travel the world have their own personal reasons for why they travel. If we assume that they’re the dropouts of the system we’ve created, so be it. Being a dropout is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s not fair to conclude that all of these dropouts have basically given up on, what we call a ‘stable life’, because they’re weak. This is how I look at it: No matter which path you choose in life, life is never going to be easy anyway. As long as you’ve got a strong will to live, even in the most unconventional lifestyle, life itself will continue.

If we find ourselves getting lost in unfamiliar places, that’s perfectly fine! We’ll learn many things during the process. From my own experience, I’ve learned that all it takes to survive out there is by using common sense, communicating with others, and seeking for help when necessary.


8. There are solutions to most problems

There are solutions to your problems
If your motorbike breaks down, hitch a ride instead, whenever possible.

Whenever you face a problem, you need to find whatever possible solutions you can find to overcome it, right? When you travel you may also encounter all kinds of problems and that’s when your problem-solving skills are put to the test. No matter how bad the problems are, there’s always a way out.

Whenever I travel, I’ve always had to deal with all kinds of problems. Not much money left. Sometimes no money at all. Got lost. Harassed. Scammed. And so on. Yes, solving problems when I’m outside of my comfort zone is indeed challenging, but solving problems is never impossible.

I highly encourage people to travel alone at least once in their lifetime. When we travel alone, we’ll learn to be better problem solvers. And travelling has made me stronger mentally and emotionally.


9. If you have plenty of time, just go with the flow

A bridge in Vietnam
It’s good to have a plan, but make it as flexible as possible.

Planning is a good habit and most successful people are those who are good at organising and planning things. I may not be the most organised person in the world, but like many others who dislike messiness, I also do plannings for a lot of things. But not always for my travels. I don’t like to have a fixed plan when I travel because I like slow travel, and I enjoy discovering random things and places whenever I like.

Yes, it’s important for me to have an outline of my travels. But creating a fixed plan such as where to go, what to see, how long I should stay in one place, or when I should leave my destination, are not very much to my liking. That’s why travel tours and packages aren’t really my thing although there were times when I had to purchase them.


10. People from around the world have bizarre appetites

Bizarre food in Bangkok

I’ve seen weird food that people eat in Southeast Asia. I’ve also tried ‘Balut’, a famous local delicacy in countries like the Philippines, Vietnam, and Cambodia, that features a fertilised duck embryo. That might sound gross to many people, but in these countries, it is a common street food. In other Asian countries, you’ll find people eating raw seafood and even go to as far as eating a fermented tofu and urine-soaked eggs! OMG!

One of my German friends has also told me that eating chicken feet or the durian was just too bizarre for him. While I don’t consider the durian as a bizarre food, it’s certainly is bizarre to many people especially those from outside of Asia.


11. I can choose to work from anywhere in the world

Remote work

Working from home or anywhere in the world is not impossible anymore. In fact, many companies today are encouraging their employees to work digitally. These remote workers are usually known as digital nomads or location-independent contractors. All they need: a laptop and a good internet connection. Remote work seems like a dream job for many. For me, it definitely is.

Warning: It’s not as easy as you think it is. If you think you can just sit by the beach or the pool all day, whenever and wherever you like, you’re just going to get crushed by the cold truth of remote work.

When you work remotely, you’ll always need to find a place with internet connection. I mean good internet connection. And if you’re working from an island, it’s not surprising if you experience slow internet connection. So slow that you’ll feel like punching your laptop screen.

You might also end up like one of those people who can spend up to 45 hours a week working in their rooms, and barely even have time to go out and gain new adventures. Perhaps someday you’ll end up like one of those successful remote workers who only needs to spend 4 hours a day at work, and the rest of the day is saved for relaxation, fun and exploration.


12. I enjoy learning new languages

Cultural gathering
You can learn new languages by meeting people from around the world.

Bonjour! Guten tag! Ciao! Ni hao! Hola! Salam! I am learning several new languages today.  And the cool thing is I didn’t have to take any paid courses to learn some of these basic words.

I’ve got a confession to make: Neither have I been to Germany, Italy, China, Spain, Latin America nor the Middle-east to learn these greetings, (hey, I just visited France and it was awesome!) which all mean hello. How did I do it? I travel and meet people who speak these languages.

I learned Spanish in my university since it was a compulsory subject for all Linguistics students. As for French, German, Italian, Mandarin, and Arabic, I’ve picked up these languages through free online sites such as Memrise and Livemocha. Of course, if I want to be fluent in all of these languages, taking lessons from qualified teachers or native speakers is highly recommended.

What about you? What valuable and memorable lessons have you learned from travelling?

The Walking Writer

An ENTP who’s always thirsty for new adventures. Apart from music and writing, I’m also passionate about travel, art and entrepreneurship.