What I Learned About Myself From Travel

Wanderlust is the driving force behind some of my most life-changing experiences as well as my most frustrated moments. If I could afford— financially and emotionally— to be on the road all the time, I would be. There are a million places that I want to see, and it seems like every time I visit a place not only do I want to visit again, but it inspires in me a desire to see another dozen places that I may not have considered before.

So far, I have set foot in ten countries.

Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, Wales, Italy, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, and Spain.

Some of these places I only stayed in for hours, some a couple of days, and others for weeks. I feel like I learned something in almost all of them. One of my favorite things about travel in general is the myriad of opportunities to learn new things— tastes, history, culture, language, and so on. And of course, there are the things you learn about yourself.

This week I just wanted to reflect on some of the most useful things I learned about myself and the universe from traveling, primarily alone. I’m sure I will revisit this topic at some point and expand upon my knowledge, but for now, these are some of the most striking things I learned while traveling:

You can trust yourself

When you’re traveling alone, everything comes down to you. Meeting your food, accommodation, and transportation needs is something that you need to figure out yourself. You can’t rely on someone else to keep an eye out for you (or watch your bags while you run to the bathroom!) To many people that may sound daunting, but really, once you’re out there and experiencing the full freedom of being yourself, you realize how trustworthy and capable you really are.

People are generally kind

Now of course discretion should always be applied, but I learned that nine out of ten times, people are more likely to help you than hurt you when you’re traveling. Especially in the hostel and B&B circuits, you are primarily meeting people who share one major thing in common with you— they love to travel! In my experience, travelers tend to be people who are open-minded, kind, and willing to connect with those around them. This is the kind of traveler I aimed to be, and I can only hope that I succeeded. I am assuming that I did, as some of the most important people in my life I met while traveling, and we still remain connected. I literally cannot thank all of the people who helped me on my journey, because there are so many chance encounters and fleeting moments that are now only very fond memories. But all of those moments helped change my perspective on humanity as a whole, and I am so thankful for that.

Life is so, so short

Traveling bends time. Everything seems to go way too fast, and when you’re removed from your life, things take on a different sense of time. My most recent trip was almost four months, and sometimes it felt like it was an entire lifetime and looking back on it I feel that it was not even a fraction of what it really was. Now that I am back “home” in my normal life, everything has changed. It seems that the changes I waited years for happened in a matter of weeks. I look at my life stretching before me and have a whole new perspective on what my life means and how quickly it is all coming at me. Also, there’s so many places I need to go! When you have so much to look forward to and so much work to do to get there, it causes you to reflect on what that time actually means and how you’re going to make the most of it.

Things will be okay

I know this is a very general statement. Something I noticed while traveling was that things that didn’t make sense to me before— why did this happen, why didn’t that happen— came into focus. Things that haunted me dissipated, worries I had fell off my shoulders. And I just remember thinking, repeatedly, for literally the first time in my life with meaning: it’s going to be okay. I assume this is a feeling maybe not as related with travel as it is with doing what your heart is calling out for you to do. But I will never forget it and what it meant for me for that mantra to come breaking through.

Of course I learned so much from traveling— that is part of why I love it so much.
I plan to start a mini series of posts about what I learned in specific places abroad on my travels. Hopefully these posts will help inspire others a little and give them some cues for their own travels.

Currently, the travel bug is gnawing away at me. Wanderlust is at high tide. We’ll see what I end up doing about that.

(Image is of the place and time that I do the most daydreaming and wanderlusting currently— from my bed in the early morning hours.)

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One thought on “What I Learned About Myself From Travel”

  1. Absolutely love this ? And you’re so right – it’s amazing how worries just seem to disappear when you’re traveling. True proof that the environment you’re in has a big effect on your mental wellbeing. (I’ve never understood that whole ‘if you’re not happy where you’re at you’ll never be happy no matter where you go’ – all lies!)

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