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What Traveling Teaches You

What Traveling Teaches You

Things you Learn when Traveling

A window in time. Overlooking Bologna in the foothills of Tuscany.

Traveling teaches us many things.  In fact, traveling changes us in many ways.  We are always challenged by the life experiences that we have, regardless of whether those experiences are at home are abroad.  Life tests us, pushes us, and eventually we find out who we are and where we stand.

For those who listen, traveling is full of life’s lessons.  Some, may find lessons in small ways, others may remember an experience as a whole for being life changing.  Whatever the case, traveling and exposure to all things international is a great way to challenge yourself mentally. In this article, I have put together a list of things that you will learn from traveling.

1.) Language and culture – When it comes to things that traveling teaches you, first and foremost is language and culture.  Language and culture come naturally when you are traveling for a long time.  Through the trials and tribulations of traveling, one begins to adopt new terms into their dictionary and vernacular while simultaneously adhering to new cultures.  With time, little things like taking your shoes off at the door, or greeting someone in another language will be like second nature.

2.) Your limitations – Traveling will teach you in which ways you can go further and which ways you cannot. Whether it’s your fear of heights, being alone, walking, personal hygiene,  picky eating, sleeping in unfamiliar places, or just unfamiliar things in general, you will definitely know after spending some time on the road.

3.) Your likes and dislikes – I call it a mental check-list, but it is something that we get from life’s experiences. Each time we have an experience in life, we subconsciously keep a mental check-list of our likes and dislikes. If we have a good time at an event, then likely we will associate that event with a good time.  The same applies for foods, people, places, and things.  This also works in reverse.  Thus, a bad experience leaves a bad taste in your mouth for future experiences like it. So, while traveling, you will accumulate a mental check-list of your most common likes and dislikes. Italian corn fields

4.) Who really cares about you – When you are living at home, your circle of friends and acquaintances is likely to be lengthy, or at least consistent.  However, when you disappear for a few weeks, months, or years, you will quickly find out who cares about your whereabouts.  Friends will contact you from time to time to see where you are and how you are doing.  Others will wonder about you.  Then, there will be those who won’t.  At the end of the day, your true friends are the ones that you can spend months and years away from, then pick up like you never left.

5.) Your level of tolerance – Traveling tests you.  People who can’t hack it, won’t be doing it long unless they stick to the well-defined roads and familiar places.  In fact, traveling will test all 5 senses, even your 6th we will call your travel sense.  Imagine yourself walking through a market and taking in the smells of rotten fish from days past? Or the extreme noises of a bustling city.  Sleeping on the ground or in a train station?  Personal space? What about using a Turkish-style toilet or out-house (maybe even the ground) as a bathroom, then having no toilet paper.  Stuff happens right? I’ve personally experienced all of these, you will too if you travel long enough to the right places. How far are you willing to go?

6.) How to make do – One of the biggest things that traveling has taught me is how to make do.  For instance, when you don’t have the best cooking arrangements for a kitchen, just do what you can.  Or when your bed isn’t so comfortable, just make it work.  If you don’t have a place to wash your clothes by using a washing machine, then just find a sink or water source and get to cleaning.  You can learn to make things work, sometimes it just takes a bit of creativity.

7.) Adaptation – Adaptation is a large skill that travelers attain, which I think is often overlooked.  Travelers learn very well how to adapt to the most diverse of situations.  New languages, cultural practices, missed plane flights, missed connections, running out of money, losing stuff, and much more, all require a person to be adaptable.  You will learn this traveling.The forbidden garden in Pompeii

8.) Why you aren’t always right – This is a hard lesson for some travelers to stomach, but I find it to be true if you are open to it.  Traveling exposes you to the ways that others do things.  This in turn, shows you why your way, or the way that you were taught, might not be the only way to do something.  People learn, and are taught, in different ways.  No two people think exactly alike.  You will fast learn that there are ‘100 ways to skin a cat’. Maybe even 101…

9.) What you have to be thankful for – Traveling exposes you to all aspects of society.  The really great things are the people, sights, and memories. Traveling also exposes you to many of the negative aspects of our world.  Poverty, corruption, un-education (or people kept uneducated via suppression), and underdevelopment are among some of the things that you may encounter on the road.  When I see these things on the road, I cannot help but sit back and give thanks for the life experiences that I have been afforded.  We are fortunate, and must not forget it.  Not everyone gets the same opportunities as you.

10.) How to connect with others in different ways outside of language or culture – Relating to others is a useful skill that travelers pick up along the way.  When you begin, this may be difficult.  However, the more exposure that you get to people from around the world, the easier it is understand them and relate to their thoughts and feelings.  Soon, you’ll be able to communicate without using words. The lake in Bremen Germany

11.) What you don’t really need – Every time that I return from a trip, I try to get rid of more things. Perhaps, this is part of my inner desire to become nomadic, but it is also because I just plain don’t need it.  Material things become less and less important to me as I travel.  I realize that basic necessities are sufficient for me.  TVs, electronics, clutter, and crap, are just not needed in my life.  I’m far more happy with experience.

It is true that an experience traveling will change for every person.  What traveling teaches you will differ from person to person. One’s experience of a particular place, will not necessarily be the same of another’s.  Life’s lessons come from small experiences to wild fiestas, simple conversations to great debates.  The way we learn is by being receptive to them and listening up when they speak.  Words aren’t the only way the world speaks to us.  Moreover, it is probably mother nature’s least favorite method.


What are your thoughts?

What did I miss? What do you learn from traveling?  What does traveling teach you? What are your most important take-aways or lessons from traveling?


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  1. Excellent post, Andy. Thanks, always, for your insights.

  2. Christina Noel Smith via Facebook

    how to be humble

  3. This is a great list, Andy! I totally agree that traveling teaches us so many things we can never learn through books, shows and movies. It really does test your level of tolerance and how you adapt to so many unpredictable situations. After traveling with kids, traveling has taught me a lot to be patient and travel more slowly and be more observant.

    • Many thanks Mary! What you say is so true, patience is definitely learned when traveling. I could imagine how traveling with children has helped you with that :). Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Awesome post, Andy. I agree with all of your points, especially the last one – you really learn simplicity is best when it comes to travel (and life in general!)

    • That is probably my favorite of this list. I really don’t need much to be happy these days. I can thank traveling for that. Appreciate you stopping by, look forward to meeting up!

  5. Travelling also teaches you how to read and understand a bus/rail/plane timetable – and how to be patient when the bus/train/plane doesn’t leave or arrive on time

    • I’ve definitely been there Judith. I can certainly agree. Or perhaps even when the train says it will take 6-7 hours, then it takes 12. I like those moments too! Thanks for stopping by!

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