I have tried to put off the ‘end’ of my trip for a while now. I have never actually said the words “the end” or “it’s over” on this blog (and don’t worry, I hope I never will). But it appears that at least for now, I have taken an extended break on the ‘world tour’ even though, I was STILL technically living out of a bag until just a few months ago when I untethered what was left of my cherished/despised possessions from their 3 ½ year lock down in storage.
What Travel Teaches You
There’s so much I learned from travel. Don’t get me wrong, I am not done traveling and am always in some sort of early planning stages of the next trip, albeit probably never such a long one. See my Where Next post for where I may be heading soon. Admittedly, for the aforementioned reasons, I avoided doing any kind of wrap-up of the first two ‘world tours’ from 2006-2009. If you need a refresher on where exactly I did go, check out the Where LL page for my itineraries and locations around the world.
So I traveled solo around the world for 3 1/2 years – what the heck did I learn?
What I Learned from Travel
1. I learned more patience in the mundane.
Waiting for planes, trains, and automobiles became no big deal. I did a lot of waiting. But I was never in a hurry so it never really mattered. For once, time was on my side. I often didn’t know what day it was or whether it was the weekend or not because it didn’t matter. And unlike, ‘normal’ life, I never felt like I was wasting time, even if I just sat in a café all day or just wandered around. I have never felt so much in charge of my own time as I did then. When you have an open calendar and an open road before you, time is your friend and you find the joys in relaxing in the ‘wait.’
2. I learned to relax more and work less (obviously).
I learned the art of doing nothing. In my ‘real life’ with lots of to-do lists, jobs, hobbies, relationships, pets, friends, activities, outings, and vacations to plan, I had very little time to just sit around and do nothing. And I wasn’t good at it either. Just chilling for the sake of it and not crossing off lines on one of my many lists was hard for me. I have become better at just sitting in a café and letting time slip by or saying ‘yes’ to friends who just want to hang out. Now the trick is making sure I can continue to relax as my new reality of work, apartment, bills, and every day tasks inevitably grows longer once again. Gotta keep the balance.
3. I learned to let go of some control, to sit back and go with the flow more.
Although, I was traveling alone and very much in control of where I went and what I did and still had some semblance of structure, I was never totally sure of what a new day would bring. I tried to be open to change and new opportunities that came along. I let other people sway me more and tried to be open and flexible.
4. I learned I can make friends and build a community basically anywhere I go.
I arrived in Istanbul with no real idea of how long I would stay. I met some people right away who introduced me to more people and before I knew it, I was teaching English, had an apartment, was cat sitting, and had a borrowed cell phone with 20 new contacts – all residents of Istanbul who were now my friends. Amazing.
5. I learned how much we all have in common.
I connected with so many more people than I ever imagined I would.
6. I learned to give myself time, to transition to new feelings and things.
In my first month away, I felt lonely and unsure of how I would continue to live this new life for so long. Then I transitioned to my new life and the new rhythm of it all and it was okay. I realized that I needed ‘transition’ time every time I changed cities and said goodbye to new friends or even hotel rooms. Without fail, I would get to my new destination and would feel a bit uncomfortable, a bit lonely, and often would feel ‘icky’ in my new room for some reason. But I knew if I gave myself a day or two, those feelings would go away and I would have new reasons to enjoy where I was and often times, I found I liked it even better than the last place. Well, except for that one crummy hostel (university dorm during the school year) in Budapest or the pretty nasty bathroom at a couchsurfing bachelor’s flat in London. I don’t think he’d ever cleaned it …ever.
7. I learned there is beauty everywhere and in everyone.
8. I learned and believe more than ever, that people are genuinely good.
There are ‘bad apples’ everywhere and yes, a few really evil people, but most people I encounter at home and abroad are genuinely good, warm, helpful people.
9. I learned to say ‘yes’ as much as possible.
I think I always did this as a rule and less as an exception, but maybe this entire trip was my biggest ‘yes’ yet – to say yes to something most would knee-jerkingly say ‘no’ to right away.
10. I learned how little we need.
From living out of a bag with few clothes and very few belongings, I learned firsthand how very little we need (materially speaking) to live and be happy. I did not need or miss my TV or my food processor or my leather chair or my twenty-plus sweaters in various colors or dozens of pairs of shoes. Sure I missed some comforts of home at times…mostly just that, the comfort of being alone in my own home, but learned at the same time how unimportant all that ‘stuff’ is. What I do want and need is the stimulation of meeting new people, learning and trying new things, companionship, laughter…and most of all…love…just as John Lennon said.
Yes, there are so many scary reasons not to quit your job, sell your car, and get rid of most of your stuff. But, that is possibly just another reason I said ‘yes’…to buck the trend, to take on the challenge, to grab life by the balls and live the heck out of it!
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Balls are only in the grasp of the beholder. All of your posts are inspiring, but this is one that really does say more about you and your willingness to confront anything that makes you uncomfortable. You seem to understand that comfort is always immediately on the other side of discomfort. We're mostly afraid of what we don't know.
Thanks Kevin! Your last line is SO true.
Lisa – as someone who also quit her job and wandered off for three years – it was worth every second! I love your list – especially the 'shedding' bit. By the end of my third year my backpack weighed 11kg (under 25lb) and contained pretty much everything I needed, including reading material and a stray jar of peanut butter. When I returned it took me months to build up the level of paperwork that now surrounds me and I still remember how simple life was then. I too refuse to say it's over – it never will be.
If I could just add an item to your list… learning to cope, becoming adaptable, losing the fear. Things that once would have floored me seemed perfectly doable on the road – I learned to let go of fear and to take each day as it came. At home you couldn't have paid me to ride in one of those rickety old buses driven by a maniacal driver stoned out of his minds… on the road I simply learned to lean back and close my eyes (didn't really want to see myself plunge off a mountain, did I). I didn't actually lose the fear, but I learned to share my seat with it.
And yes, we miss you here in France, and your room is waiting for you!
Merci Leyla! Your additions are all so true. Becoming adaptable was definitely something I learned in each new place. It eventually just became a routine part of my transition time. I feel like I was in a very calm zone, taking each day as it came. SO true about the buses! Thanks for putting me in your newsletter. And thanks for the open invite. I'll get back there soon!
Point 4,5,6 and 9…cant agree more.
This post is in a way very inspiring for me.
The “end” hasnt come yet, India must be on the cards!
Thanks Abhi and thanks for being a new fan! You are right….India one day too. 🙂
Awesome, I absolutely love this post. We have been home for an entire year now from our one year journey, and I'm still not "used" to it. I suppose I never will be as our trip changed us in so many ways that it's impossible for things to be the way they once were. I just look at the world and life in general so much differently now. A few things really stuck out to me in your list.
"For once, time was on my side. I often didn’t know what day it was or whether it was the weekend or not because it didn’t matter."
That may be the absolute best part of long term travel. Literally having the opportunity to do what you want when you want is such a powerful thing, and it's probably the thing I miss most. Upon returning, while I loved having the opportunity to see friends and go to parties and get-togethers and all that, it got really tiresome really quickly always having plans and HAVING to do something, even if that something was fun.
"What I do want and need is the stimulation of meeting new people, learning and trying new things, companionship, laughter…and most of all…love…"
Absolutely! While I do love having a home and "stuff" again, something has definitely been missing in my life since we returned home. The constant change was such a high, and that is simply gone in the day to day life of being home.
Good luck in any future endeavor you may have. This is a great list you have here!!
Thanks again Adam! A good thing about being back nowadays is being in touch with other travelers like yourself who’ve gone thru a similar experience and similar ‘re-entry.’ I totally know what you mean by that ‘constant high’ when traveling. It’s addictive. Time to plan the next trip!
Such a great list! Definitely makes me look forward to a different pace of life. My husband and I are gearing up for a year long (at least) sabbatical in New Zealand.
Thanks for the post!
That is awesome! Good luck and have a GREAT trip! It's always nice to see more and more people taking career breaks and sabbaticals!
so inspiring! my favorite was the "art of doing nothing." that's what i truly miss about being on the road: the joy of just being and being with friends and not worrying about what's next b/c you have no idea what's next so you might as well enjoy the moment and make the most of where you are.
that's what gets lost in the everyday … the just being part. and the feeling that you're alive today, so live.
this post def tickled my itchy feet!
Thanks Rebecca! For once I really felt I was living the whole “Carpe Diem” way! I hope we can still meet one of these days. 🙂
Very thoughtful and inspiring post. Gives me hope for my upcoming journey and I'm looking forward to shedding some fears, character defects and belongings. 🙂
Good luck Brooks! It will be great. Some days might not be…but take it as 'real life'. Not everyday is "amazing" and it's still your life just different…and wonderful! Good for you!
Awesome post! I think you are so correct with the point that most people are generally good. I encountered that time and again while abroad and can only agree that yes, most folks are like you and I and are excited about helping out and about life. Fantastic post.
Oh! Also, your Where Next list looks awesome(hm, I think I must have said that to you before) but especially Kenya. I never really had an interest in this destination (I really want to go to Ethiopia) but after watching ‘Spirit of the Marathon’, I knew I had to see this place. It looks really gorgeous, right?
Great Post – all lessons we are learning slowly, especially patience.
Thanks for commenting! I'm glad you enjoyed MPG…I've added YOUR page to my Media/Press page.
I need to go see Big Lebowski again I guess!
I can’t agreee with you more! The best lesson I took from my travel was that most things (if not all) that I thought were important are really not that important. I too have learned the art of “taking it easy” and what it truly meant. My trip made me realize that my priorities were all screwed up and made me aware of what’s really important in life.
Da dude abides man!
Just like every other time I have read your site, I feel excited, inspired, less worried, and ready to keep going.
Like I told you Lisa, I "aspire" to "inspire" as you do. I may actually get there one day.
Thank you for your continued commitment to we wandering souls.
Great list! I can imagine that the transition to NOT traveling any more may be the hardest of all the transitions.
Congratulations for being open to learning all the lessons. 🙂
Whenever I feel stressed out and cornered in my thoughts……I like to visit your site and read. It is always just a matter of time and I'm back to carefree thoughts…….
I moved on Oct 1st from Wrigleyville to South Milwaukee, to house sit my sisters home while she and her husband spend these 6 winter months in Arizona…….Why can't I trade with her??
Awesome travel experience and such important lessons learned. I like #5 about learning how much we all have in common. That's something that really strikes me when I travel. Even with all of our wonderful differences, there is always some way for us to relate to others.
Totally agree that people are good! One of the best things about CouchSurfing is having this affirmed and confirmed over and over again. 🙂
What a wonderful recap of your journey and loved your introspective reflections. "The Art of Doing Nothing" sounds like a book waiting to be written my friend. I couldn't agree more with your thoughts on beauty in everything and everyone and how "litte" we actually need. Thanks for taking me along!
I love travelling and I also write on a local magazine here, in Tandil, Argentina. Travelling opened my mind. Nothing is the same after a long trip. You can understand yourself and you can also see things in a different way. I have travelled in different styles: good hotels, hostels… Everything is neccessary. I will follow your blog. Hugs from Argentina.
Hola Graciela! Gracias por tu comment! So glad you found my blog and we have that love of travel in common. Happy to welcome you as a new follower!
Hi Lisa 🙂
I am really interested to travel the world, explore the beauty of this planet. I’m 22 and almost finished my studies. Then, I gotta pay my education loan back and it will take lots of years.
How is it possible for me, and how do I earn money to fund my trips?
Would be nice if you can give some tips