9 unique life lessons only travel can teach you

As I’m writing this, I’m sitting sandwiched between two strangers on a four-hour flight. 

The laptop keeps slipping from my hands as the wind toys with the plane, I can barely move my legs because of the backpack stuck in front of my seat, and it’s gotten very cold all of a sudden.

Thank God I brought a jumper.

Believe it or not, my situation is far from dreary. After all, I’m returning home from an amazing holiday in Madeira, and even though I still have about eight hours of travel awaiting me, I’m feeling great.

In fact, there are plenty of pros about days spent traveling – and the ability to write sentences that actually make sense while my stomach’s doing somersaults is only one of them.

These are the 9 unique life lessons only travel can teach you.

1) Chaos builds resilience, which builds immunity to chaos

Travel is hectic.

There’s the sprinting across the airport as you’re about to miss your next flight; there’s the endless standing in queues; there’s the sandwich diet that momentarily replaces kitchen-made meals.

And then there’s the fear of things going wrong, the panic when they do go wrong, and the relief when everything sorts itself out eventually.

In short, it’s a whirlwind of emotions.

The advantage? After some time, it all becomes routine. Practice makes perfect, and the same applies to travel – the more chaos you throw yourself into, the more you get used to it.

You stop stressing so much. Slowly, you build thicker skin, and after months or years, your mindset molds itself into something new entirely. Your approach transforms into that of:

2) Stuff happens – that’s just life

Luggage gets lost. Flights get delayed. The 6-dollar coffee you’ve bought in the duty-free zone gets splashed all over the floor.

The planet keeps spinning, your holiday is still a success, and before you know it, the wasted coffee is all but forgotten.

Since travel is primarily about exploring new places and cultures, a few hiccups aren’t enough to warrant a spiral of negativity.

If you get on the wrong bus, you get to see a part of town you wouldn’t have otherwise. If it rains, you go visit a national museum where you learn about the country’s history. There is always something to do, and so there is no way to get travel wrong.

What’s more, your problem-solving skills grow exponentially. As a result, you realize that…

3) You’re actually fully capable of taking care of yourself

There’s no better confidence boost than visiting a foreign country.

By the end of your trip, you’re a pro at Google Maps, you’re not scared of asking people for help, and you’ve managed to sort out so many things on your own that you end up wondering if there even is something you can’t do.

I grew up in a small town, and I still vividly remember the first time I flew abroad for the summer. I was seventeen. My friend and I moved into a tiny flat in Brighton, found summer jobs, bought UK SIM cards, and opened bank accounts.

All of that in very imperfect English.

When I looked at myself in the mirror at the end of August, I saw a new person. I had gained so much confidence that I was glowing as I smiled at myself, my chin held high.

At that moment, I knew. I knew that no matter what happens to me, I will always be able to fend for myself. Because if I can exist in a foreign country and thrive, I can do anything I set my mind on.

4) The world is brimming with possibilities, not limits

After my trip to Brighton, I had itchy feet. I dreamed of all the opportunities the world could offer – cities that touched the sky, sandy beaches straight out of a magazine, mountains that took your breath away.

One year later, I flew across the world to volunteer in Indonesia. Then I moved to study at a university in Scotland. Back then, the people in my town thought it was a pipe dream.

I’ve studied and lived here for five years now.

The most amazing thing about travel is that it opens your eyes. Suddenly, you see beyond the horizon and realize just how vast the world is – and how much power you hold over your own life.

If you can fly across the globe in a metal box and make yourself at home in a foreign land, there’s nothing you can’t accomplish.

5) Everywhere is home

While it’s a great feeling to know you have a stable base to return to every time you’re away, travel teaches you one important thing about life: home is what you make it.

Digital nomads have a home and an office in Airbnbs all around the world. Flight attendants learn to make themselves at home in overnight hotels. Backpackers find a good spot at the beach, set up a tent, and call it a night.

When you travel, you naturally cross the boundaries of geography and culture. But really, you cross so much more. You realize how bizarre borders are because when it comes down to it, we all share just one big home.

Planet Earth.

6) Sharing is caring depending on what you care about

We live in the greatest era for travelers. What used to be a luxury is now quite an affordable venture, and as long as you’re willing to share, you’re able to explore the world without running into financial ruin.

And what do I mean by sharing?

Well, the fact that I’m basically sharing my office with two strangers who are very much in my personal space due to the airline’s seat dimensions is one thing.

Then there are dormitories in hostels, shared bathrooms in low-budget hotels, or public buses where you feel like you’re a piece of sushi in a set of fifty, the handle above you being the only thing anchoring you in place as everyone around you moves in tandem with the bus.

Not to mention the insufferable heat.

Budget travel teaches you that sharing your space in exchange for an experience is actually quite a good deal.

Over time, you become such an expert at minimizing your need for space – sleeping at the airport, anyone? – that you learn to thrive in the most extreme conditions.

7) Material possessions are for now, memories are forever

Another thing you learn to minimize as part of travel is the amount of stuff you need on a daily basis.

I’m not much of a minimalist – primarily due to my massive collection of books – but every time I travel, I appreciate just how little I truly need.

For me, travel is about my seeing the world, not the world seeing me. There’s no need to pack a suitcase full of designer outfits for a short trip to Italy because 1) you never actually use all of it, and 2) no one will remember you.

You, on the other hand, will remember all that you’ve seen, not what you looked like.

Travel is one of the greatest ways to appreciate minimalism, focus on experiences, and marvel at the beauty of the world we live in.

8) Mindful wonder is the gateway to happiness

Travel is an excellent tool to bring your childlike sense of awe alive.

Remember when you were small, and every day was a new adventure? You didn’t worry about the future and didn’t ruminate on the past. You were simply present, taking it all in.

It was the purest form of happiness.

Since travel constantly exposes you to new experiences, that wonder easily creeps back in, grounding you in the present moment.

Instead of being glued to your phone, you’re staring out the window of the train, mesmerized by the countryside, by the ocean, by the mountains.

I love taking a bus and riding all the way to the final stop because I get to look outside the window, exploring a little bit more of the world and feeling a sense of calm wash over me in warm waves.

Travel is one of the best forms of mindfulness there are.

9) Pushing yourself outside your comfort zone almost always improves your life

When I took that plane to Brighton at seventeen years old, I was terrified. It was my first time, and I clutched my friend’s hand the whole time, my heart furiously beating against my ribcage.

But I didn’t let my fear stop me. And that was the first – and most crucial – step on my travel journey.

When you travel, you challenge yourself. You step into the unknown with nothing but faith and you just hope you’ll be able to catch yourself if you fall.

And the truth is, you will. Time and again, you’ll become your own safety net.

If there’s one thing travel teaches every single one of us, it’s the fact that stepping outside your comfort zone is so very worth it because you build a strong base within yourself. 

A base that stands on the foundations of confidence, resilience, childlike wonder, practicality, and the curiosity to always ask more questions.

As for this article, there’s only one question left.

Where will you go next?

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Tina Fey

I'm Tina Fey, the founder of the blog Love Connection. I've extremely passionate about sharing relationship advice. I've studied psychology and have my Masters in marital, family, and relationship counseling. I hope with all my heart to help you improve your relationships, and I hope that even if one thing I write helps you, it means more to me than just about anything else in the world. Check out my blog Love Connection, and if you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter

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