Skip to Content

10 Life Changing Lessons from More Than 10 Years of Travel

Last updated on June 17th, 2024 at 09:16 am

10 Life Changing Lessons from More Than 10 Years of Travel 1

A decade ago, I packed my bags with a mix of naivety and excitement, not fully grasping how the journey ahead would reshape my view of the world and myself. Over the past ten years, through countless borders and countless encounters, travel has taught me more than I could have imagined—about cultures, resilience, human connections, the unforeseen challenges of living a life on the move and the ways travel can change your life in beautiful and unexpected ways.

There’s nothing more unfortunate than not having extensive travel medical insurance to cover you on your emergencies. Believe us when we tell you that purchasing travel medical insurance is not just a box to tick in your visa or entry-requirements list. It is a necessity. And for this, we trust SafetyWing. For only $14 USD per week of travel, you can ensure that you’re secured in any medical emergency.

Check here to learn more.

*Travel medical insurance prices can change based on location and add-ons.

In this guide, “10 Life-Changing Lessons from 10 Years of Travel,” I’ll share the pivotal experiences that have not only informed my adventures but also transformed them. From the continuous backpacking year in Latin America to island hops in all of Asia, each lesson is woven with stories of places and people that have left indelible marks on my heart.

Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or just starting out, these lessons are designed to inspire and equip you for your own journey, wherever it may lead.

Lesson 1: Embrace the Unplanned

When I first set out on my travels, I was a meticulous planner. Every hotel was booked, every train ticket purchased in advance, and every day was scheduled down to the hour. But it didn’t take long for me to learn one of travel’s most enduring truths: not everything goes according to plan—and that’s often where the magic happens.

Anecdote: In my year of traveling in Latin America, I found myself stranded a few times as my bus broke down. The initial panic slowly gave way to an unexpected joy. The locals invited me to a local wedding, an experience replete with vibrant dances and a communal feast that no guidebook had ever mentioned. It was unplanned, unscripted, and utterly unforgettable. I met friends that are up until today I stay in touch with and have so much fun stories to tell, just from that small wedding alone.

Insight: Embracing the unplanned taught me to let go of my rigid expectations and be more open to opportunities. Whether it’s a delayed flight leading to a chance encounter in an airport café or a lost map resulting in discovering a hidden gem of a neighborhood, the unforeseen can lead to enriching experiences.

Safety Tip: While spontaneity is a valuable travel companion, having reliable travel medical insurance like SafetyWing ensures that you’re not left vulnerable when plans do go awry. Whether it’s for medical emergencies, trip interruptions, or lost luggage, knowing you have a safety net allows you the freedom to embrace the unknown with open arms.

Lesson 2: Dropping the Ego

Me working in the Strawberry farm in Australia

Traveling long-term often means finding creative ways to sustain yourself, and that can include taking on jobs you might never have considered at home. From farming and fruit picking to couchsurfing and house sitting, embracing these opportunities not only helps you save money but also offers unique experiences and insights.

Anecdote: During my travels in Asia, I found myself short on cash and far from home. I ended up working on an organic farm in Australia, picking strawberries and tending to crops. Initially, the work felt beneath me—an ego-driven reaction. However, as the days passed, I found immense satisfaction in the physical labor, the camaraderie with fellow workers, and the beauty of living close to nature. This experience not only provided much-needed income but also taught me humility and the value of hard work.

Insight: Dropping the ego allows you to see the value in all types of work and interactions. These experiences often lead to unexpected friendships, new skills, and a deeper appreciation for different ways of life. Embracing humble opportunities can enrich your travel experience far more than sticking strictly to traditional tourist activities.

Safety Tip: When taking on new jobs or staying with strangers, always ensure your safety. Use reputable websites and read reviews when arranging work or accommodations. Inform friends or family of your whereabouts and maintain regular check-ins.

Lesson 3: Not All Cultures Are the Same, and Honestly, It’s Better That Way

Traveling the world exposes you to an incredible tapestry of cultures, each with its own unique customs, traditions, and ways of life. Embracing these differences not only enriches your travel experience but also broadens your perspective, teaching you to appreciate the beauty in diversity.

Anecdote: During a trip to China, I was invited to a traditional tea ceremony. The precision and care with which each step was performed were vastly different from my own fast-paced, casual approach to tea back home. Initially, I felt out of place, struggling to understand the significance of each ritual. But as I observed and participated, I began to appreciate the depth of meaning behind these practices. It was a humbling experience that opened my eyes to a different way of seeing the world. China was so surreal in that I experienced so many things with locals, without ever speaking their local language. Such is the language of travel.

Insight: Understanding that not all cultures are the same—and that this diversity is a strength—allows you to approach new environments with respect and curiosity. Instead of comparing them to what you know, you begin to value the unique contributions each culture makes to the global community. This mindset shift fosters deeper connections and more meaningful experiences.

Safety Tip: While exploring different cultures, always research local customs and etiquette to avoid unintentional offense. Simple gestures or behaviors that are acceptable at home might be inappropriate elsewhere. Showing respect for local traditions can also enhance your safety by fostering goodwill among the people you meet.

Lesson 4: The Immeasurable Value of Local Connections

One of the most enriching aspects of long-term travel is not just the places you see, but the people you meet. Building relationships with locals can transform your understanding of a destination from the superficial to the profound. These connections can offer insights and experiences no guidebook ever could.

Anecdote: While staying in a small coastal town in Honduras, I befriended a local fisherman who invited me to join him on a fishing trip. That day at sea didn’t just teach me about fishing; it also offered me a glimpse into the daily life, challenges, and joys of the community. This experience enriched my travel in ways I hadn’t anticipated, providing a deeper connection to the place and its people.

Insight: Local friendships can open doors to authentic experiences and provide a safety net of knowledgeable guides who can navigate the less touristy, and often more rewarding, aspects of their culture. Whether it’s a home-cooked meal, a festival invitation, or a recommendation for a hidden gem, these relationships can define your travel experience.

Safety Tip: While making local connections, it’s important to stay aware and cautious, particularly in areas where tourists are uncommon. Always let someone know where you’re going, and trust your instincts when it comes to sharing personal information or following someone to an unfamiliar place.

Lesson 5: Learning to Navigate Alone

10 Life Changing Lessons from More Than 10 Years of Travel

Traveling alone can be one of the most daunting yet liberating experiences. It teaches self-reliance, problem-solving, and the joy of discovering your own path. The lessons learned from solo travel often translate into greater confidence and independence in all areas of life.

Anecdote: I recall my solo journey through the bustling streets of Vietnam. Navigating the city’s complex public transport system and bustling markets alone was initially overwhelming. However, the challenge quickly turned into triumph as I learned to rely on my instincts and embrace the independence that comes with solo travel.

Insight: Solo travel forces you to engage directly with your surroundings and often pushes you out of your comfort zone. It’s a powerful way to develop personal strength and resilience, as you must make decisions and solve problems on your own.

Safety Tip: When traveling alone, always have a plan for staying connected. This can include scheduled check-ins with friends or family back home and carrying a reliable means of communication. It’s also crucial to research and be aware of the safety issues in the areas you’re visiting, especially if you’re going it alone.

Travel Safety Net: For solo travelers, having a comprehensive travel medical insurance plan like SafetyWing is invaluable. It ensures that in the face of medical emergencies, lost passports, or other travel disruptions, you have immediate access to assistance. This safety net allows you the freedom to explore with the reassurance that help is just a phone call away, letting you focus on the enriching experience of solo travel.

Lesson 6: The Art of Packing Light

One of the more practical lessons I’ve learned from years of travel is the art of packing light. Mastering this skill not only simplifies your logistics but also teaches you about what you truly need versus what you can do without.

Anecdote: During a month-long journey across Asia, I started with a suitcase that was nearly impossible to lift. Halfway through, burdened by the constant packing and unpacking, I decided to pare down my belongings, donating or discarding items I hadn’t used. This lighter load made the remainder of the trip not only easier but also more enjoyable.

Insight: Packing light is not just about saving space; it’s about freedom and mobility. Traveling with less means less to worry about and more flexibility to move spontaneously. It encourages you to rely on your resourcefulness rather than your possessions.

Safety Tip: A lighter pack also means less risk of physical strain or injuries related to carrying heavy luggage. Additionally, with fewer valuables on hand, you become a less obvious target for theft.

Travel Safety Net: For those times when you might still run into trouble, whether it’s losing your bag or needing a quick travel change, having travel medical insurance like SafetyWing ensures that you’re covered. They can assist with lost luggage or unexpected accommodations, allowing you to continue your journey with minimal disruption.

Lesson 7: Appreciating the Moment

In a world dominated by social media, where capturing the perfect photo often takes precedence over experiencing the moment, learning to truly be present has become a priceless part of my travels.

Anecdote: While watching the sunset over the temples of Bagan, Myanmar, I initially found myself more focused on capturing it through my lens than experiencing it with my eyes. Realizing this, I put my camera down and allowed myself to be absorbed by the breathtaking view, the gentle breeze, and the quiet chatter of those around me. That sunset remains one of the most vivid memories of my travels.

Insight: The ability to disconnect from digital distractions and engage fully with your environment enriches your travel experience significantly. It deepens your connection to the places and people you encounter and often leads to a more profound appreciation of your surroundings.

Safety Tip: Being present also enhances your awareness of your environment, which can be crucial for personal safety. Being alert and attentive can help you navigate unfamiliar places more safely and avoid potentially risky situations.

Lesson 8: How Quickly You Realize the World Doesn’t Revolve Around You

10 Life Changing Lessons from More Than 10 Years of Travel Kyrgystan

Traveling extensively teaches you humility in profound ways. It’s easy to become wrapped up in your own world, but once you’re immersed in different environments and cultures, you quickly learn that your perspective is just one of many. This realization is both humbling and enlightening.

Anecdote: While volunteering at a school in rural Kyrsgystan, I was struck by the stark contrast between my life and the lives of the children I met. Their daily struggles were a world apart from my own, yet their resilience, joy, and sense of community were incredibly inspiring. It became clear to me that my problems and concerns were just a tiny piece of a much larger mosaic.

Insight: Recognizing that the world doesn’t revolve around you is a crucial lesson in empathy and global awareness. It encourages you to listen more, judge less, and appreciate the vast diversity of human experience. This mindset shift fosters a deeper connection with the world and a greater appreciation for the lives of others.

Safety Tip: When immersing yourself in new environments, remain aware of local sensitivities and issues. Approach each situation with respect and openness, understanding that your way is not the only way. This attitude can help you navigate interactions more smoothly and safely.

Lesson 9: You Actually Don’t Need Much to Be Happy

10 Life Changing Lessons from More Than 10 Years of Travel 2

Traveling long-term often means living with less, and this minimalism can reveal a surprising truth: happiness doesn’t come from having more things, but from experiencing more moments and connections. Learning to appreciate simplicity is one of the most valuable lessons travel can teach.

Anecdote: During a stay in a small village in the Philippines, I lived in a modest bamboo hut with minimal amenities. Despite the simplicity, I found myself incredibly content. The days were filled with meaningful interactions, beautiful landscapes, and a sense of peace that I had rarely felt in more materialistically abundant settings. This experience taught me that true happiness comes from within and from the richness of life’s simple pleasures.

Insight: Embracing a minimalist lifestyle while traveling helps you focus on what truly matters. The fewer possessions you have, the more freedom you feel. This freedom allows you to invest in experiences, relationships, and personal growth, which are far more fulfilling than any material possession.

Safety Tip: While traveling light and living simply, always keep essential safety items with you, such as a first-aid kit, emergency contact information, and travel medical insurance details. Minimalism shouldn’t come at the cost of being unprepared for emergencies.

Lesson 10: The Importance of Flexibility

Flexibility is not just a desirable trait in travel; it’s an essential one. The ability to adapt to changing plans, unexpected challenges, and new opportunities can make the difference between a stressful trip and a joyful adventure.

Anecdote: During a trip in Myanmar, my carefully planned itinerary was thrown into chaos when locals went on strike, canceling my flight. Instead of panicking, I used the opportunity to explore a nearby city I hadn’t planned to visit. This detour led me to discover the vibrant culture and history of a place that ended up being a highlight of my journey.

Insight: Plans are helpful, but rigidity can limit your experiences. Embracing flexibility allows you to take full advantage of spontaneous opportunities and navigate disruptions with a positive attitude. It teaches resilience and opens doors to unexpected adventures.

Safety Tip: Always have a backup plan. Research alternative routes, accommodations, and activities so that you can quickly adapt if your original plans fall through. Additionally, maintaining a calm and positive demeanor in the face of change can help you make better decisions under pressure.

Travel Safety Net: Having a reliable travel medical insurance policy like SafetyWing is a crucial part of being flexible. It provides a safety net for trip cancellations, delays, and other unforeseen events, ensuring that you can pivot your plans without financial stress. This security allows you to embrace flexibility fully, knowing that you’re protected against the unexpected.

Life Changing Lessons From Travel That Will Stay With Me

Travel has the power to transform, educate, and inspire in ways that few other experiences can. Over the past ten years, the lessons I’ve learned have not only enriched my travels but have also shaped the person I’ve become. From embracing spontaneity and learning new skills to respecting diverse cultures and practicing sustainability, these experiences have taught me the value of being prepared, adaptable, and open-hearted.

Each lesson shared here is a testament to the incredible growth that travel can bring. They underscore the importance of venturing beyond your comfort zone, of saying “yes” to new opportunities, and of connecting deeply with the world and its people. Travel challenges us, but it also rewards us with unforgettable moments, lifelong memories, and invaluable insights.

In all these adventures, one thing has remained constant: the need for a solid safety net. Reliable travel medical insurance like SafetyWing has been an essential companion, providing peace of mind and allowing me to explore with confidence. Knowing that I’m covered for medical emergencies, trip interruptions, and unexpected hiccups means I can focus on what truly matters—embracing the journey.

So whether you’re just starting your travel adventures or are a seasoned globetrotter, I hope these lessons inspire and guide you. Pack your bags with an open mind, a spirit of adventure, and a robust safety net. Here’s to the next ten years of unforgettable travel experiences.

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on these links and make a purchase, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Please note that we only recommend products and services that we have personally used or believe will add value to our readers. Your support through these links helps us to continue creating informative and engaging content. Thank you for your support!