10 Travel Lessons That Will Change Your Life

November 5, 2015
10 Travel Lessons That Will Change Your Life

I was shaking. Already late, I was still thinking of all those “What if I need this?” last minute items, and getting a hundred “Where are you?” texts. The night was off to a great start. My phone started to ring. Too busy trying to get my suitcase to close, I promised myself I’d answer it on my way out. It was time.

“Julie, calm down,” everyone tried their best to console me. My heart rate ignored them entirely. It took about 30 minutes to get to the airport but it felt like centuries. Wow, this was really it. We said our final goodbyes and I was off.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into. We had planned to see 10 countries in one month and sure, I was excited, nervous, overwhelmed even, but I still had no idea what really lay ahead. The travel lessons I learned this past summer have changed me forever. Here they are:

10 Travel Lessons That Will Change Your Life

1. Expect the unexpected

Things won’t always go according to plan. Embrace that. Just because something didn’t go the way you planned doesn’t mean it has to be bad. Some of the best experiences come from taking a risk. Leave your comfort zone at home.

2. Get lost

Yes, I said it, get lost. On purpose! Obviously make sure the area is safe first, but don’t be afraid to stray off the main course. You’ll come to see that the tourist sights are the least exciting (and most expensive) while some of the best experiences will come from exploring what you like. Don’t be afraid to go off on your own. You’ll learn a lot, not just about where you are, but about yourself.

3. Talk to strangers (but don’t tell your parents I said so)

One of the most exciting parts of traveling is learning about new cultures. When you stay in one place, you get this idea that every place is similar to those you already know. You may think people all over the world are just like you. Traveling shows us otherwise. Find out where other people are from and what brings them to where they are now. Discover another person’s passion. You never know what you might have in common with someone new. And hey, it never hurts to have friends abroad, right?

4. Be respectful

If you’re new to a place and the language used there, try to learn a few words and customs beforehand. Personally, I sound a lot like “Joey” from Friends when I try to speak French. (My friends told me I should stick to English.) However, natives appreciated me trying.

5. Be a traveler, not a tourist

Tourists come to see what they expect to see. They’re “experts” about a country because of that one movie they saw or book they read. It’s less about learning for them, and all about checking items off a list.

Travelers, on the other hand, want to jump into a new culture. They want to immerse themselves in what’s unfamiliar to them. They care less about what they’ve seen and all about what they experience. So which are you–a traveler or tourist?

10 Travel Lessons That Will Change Your Life

6. Don’t panic

As I mentioned earlier, things won’t always go according to plan. Don’t freak out. Even what initially might make you nervous can turn out to be a blessing in disguise. In fact, some of these seemingly bad situations may actually turn into your favorite travel stories.

John Lennon Wall, Prague
John Lennon Wall, Prague

7. Savor the moments

Even when you’re rushing around, it’s important to take some time to just breathe in your surroundings. The sights aren’t going anywhere. So, soak it all up. If there’s a common tradition in the place you’re going to, why not give it a shot? You never know what you might find.

10 Travel Lessons That Will Change Your Life

8. Be curious

Ask questions. Try foreign foods–even if they sound crazy to you. Avoid what you can get back home. (Yes, McDonald’s included. I’ve been told that it “isn’t greasy enough” in Europe, anyway.) Create your own tour wherever you are.

9. Leave the regrets behind

If you’re scared of doing something, ask yourself, “Will I regret not doing this once I get home?” If the answer is yes, take the leap. I can tell you from personal experience that doing the things that scare you often turn out to be the things you’re most proud of. Even if your experience goes differently from how you expected it to be, it’ll be an experience nonetheless. Push your limits. You may even surprise yourself.

10. Take it all in

Here comes the big secret. Who says that these tips are all about traveling? Sure, I wrote about exploring Europe (and these lessons can apply to any trip you’re planning) but the same things can be said about exploring a new hobby or career. Don’t be afraid to embrace changes in your everyday life.

Wander away from common roads (and common opinion), and get a taste of the unfamiliar. Discover who you are apart from everyone else. Don’t be be afraid to go for what matters to you. Curiosity is life’s open ticket. So, hold on to it.


10 Travel Lessons That Will Change Your Life top photo credit by Unsplash.com.

About Julie Weinstock

Julie is a native New Yorker (and serious dog enthusiast) with a passion for laughter. When not exploring or writing, she’s more than likely namasteing it out at yoga or doing some ridiculous task to make a stranger smile. Years ago, a teacher signed her yearbook “I hope to get an autographed book from you one day. “ Currently, she’s working on making that happen.

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