It was a ‘pinch-me’ decade. One that I never conjured up, intentionally. Fifty plus countries, countless new friends and a new place to call home (New York), my decade of travel coincided with my journey to adulthood, through my 20s.
From breaking stereotypes, travelling through Egypt during the Arab Spring, to spending a decade of savings on exploration, I’ve had dozens of long haul plane rides to reflect on what my continental hop-scotching tendencies have taught me.
After travelling for an entire decade, I’ve learnt a lot.
1. Follow your inner compass
Travelling slowly as well as living in other countries has given me the license to be myself. No matter where our roots are, there’s family, social and cultural pressures that weigh on us. Travelling has taught me to embrace diversity as a personal value and to accept others for who they are. But more importantly, it has given me permission to be whoever I want to be.
Experiencing diversity helps you embrace others as well as yourself.
2. Be patient and grateful for what you have
When you’re sitting on an airport floor, tired and hungry, with a delayed flight, you’re forced to practice patience. The same goes for the scheduled bus that just never arrived (yes, usually somewhere in Asia). You discover how much you have, even if it’s as simple as infrastructure. I noticed the people who were happiest had the least. It’s a wonderful lesson in humanity and just how little we need.
Travelling allows you to meet those who have very little, which is a lesson in humanity.
3. A routine is essential to keep you grounded
No matter where I was in the world, routine kept me grounded. It’s the key to maintaining positive habits and living a healthy life. Whether I’m on a short weekend trip away or a long backpacking adventure abroad, having a routine keeps me sane. When people asked me, “how do you travel for so long”, routine is my secret.
Your adventures make you appreciate your family back at home.
4. Appreciate where you come from
As the old saying goes, you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. Leaving home has been an enabler for me, which has fostered a new, and unfiltered connection to it. I have learned that my love-hate relationship with home was more about my perceptions, rather than about the city itself.
I’m an advocate for movement, change and re-location, but a beautiful and surprising part of this journey is returning home and starting anew.
Being away from home allows you to appreciate it more.
5. Relationships change… and that’s okay
I left Australia at a transitional time in my 20’s. I feared that the more I travelled, the more I’d edge further away from my friends. While that was true to some degree, the journey has helped me realise the friendships I have that really matter. The ‘party’ friends and the acquaintances drop away, and the people left are the advocates that truly love you and are happy to watch you chase your own version of happiness, whatever that might be.
Travel makes you realise the importance of true friendship.
6. Your worldview continues to evolve
When you’re exposed to different cultures, languages, philosophies and people with varying ideals, your worldview will change. The best way I can describe it is the process of de-layering an onion – the core being your truth, whatever that may be. Travelling has changed my perspectives, psyche, and the way I live my life. For example, I now ask this question every day – ‘Is this what I really want or is it just what I think I should do’.
Travelling gives you the chance to expand your worldview.
7. Travelling is a mirror
When you’re faced with 200,000 protestors below your hotel, missed flights and language barriers, you learn a lot about yourself – the interesting nuances you’re not presented with in everyday life, but help you meet unknown sides of your psyche. For example, I used to be chronically afraid of flying. But after literally hundreds of flights, I’ve able to overcome my anxieties and calm myself down in frightening situations.
Never lose your sense of fun and adventure.
8. Never outgrow your inner child
We all have an inner child, but we ignore it because, well, we’re adults. Travel taught me the importance of play and letting our inner child out. Adventure teaches us presence and living one day at a time.
You can’t get time back, so live in the moment.
9. Money is renewable, time isn’t
This philosophy has allowed me to say yes to life-changing experiences that I could so easily have (sensibly) rejected. Many of these moments I did second guess – at first – as I wrestled that little voice (describing all the worst-case situations). I can say, with conviction, I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t adopt this philosophy.
I nearly turned down a one-month invitation to spend in Nicaragua, because it blew out my travel budget. I met some of the most amazing people who helped push my book project off the ground. I also met my best friend here. But, I was so close to not doing it, out of fear. It was one of those life-changing moments.
Peaceful moments give you the opportunity to reflect.
10. The adventure is never over
Ironically, a life of endless physical adventures was the precursor for the most important journey I’d ever take – the internal exploration.
Travelling took me inwards like I never had before in my life. It helped me to question the outdated societal expectations and gave me the courage to reinvent myself based on my own values.
And, most importantly, I’ve learned that the voyage is never over. Each adventure becomes part of our life story.
What’s the most important thing you have learned from travelling?
About the writer...
A journalist by trade but storyteller by heart, Amanda writes content for a variety of communication agencies and individual brands, and editorials and feature stories for magazines, blogs, and news platforms. She’s worked with over 100 brands across Australia and globally. Always curious, Amanda draws her creative inspiration from people – whether it’s sitting in a cafe people watching, having a conversation with a stranger or reliving memories from the 50 countries she’s travelled to. Follow her on @amandasmith_writer and visit her online at www.amandasmithwriter.com.au.