You’re sitting with little kids, a woman and a man in their one room hut, with guinea pigs scurrying around on the dirt floor. There is a clay stove in the corner, which doubles as a heater and rudimentary cooking appliance. In another corner is a wooden platform where mom, dad, the two kids and the guinea pigs sleep and eat. Your accommodation is a tent 20 feet from the hut. There aren’t any showers and a hole in the ground serves as your toilet.
Although this Andean experience doesn’t fall into the traditional definition of ‘fun’, you’re paying for this. So what do you learn from it? That guinea pigs are a great food source, of course.
When abroad, or even when traveling locally, you’re taught lessons not within the usual pedagogy. You start to think outside the box.
Trippy member, Kellett Burns asked:
What are three things traveling has taught you? How it’s changed you or what you’ve discovered from embarking on your journey.
So here are 50 lessons learned from travel, a culmination of a lifetime of travel experiences from Trippy members and my family:
1. Respect the locals
Bill Caloia from Detroit wrote:
First and foremost, RESPECT THE LOCALS! Respect their culture, mores and folkways, and if you have nothing good to say… keep your mouth shut… even in gest!
There are two kinds of sightseeing. Natural and man-made.
When you are touring the Louvre, or Notre Dame, don’t act like you are in Yankee stadium.
2. People are all alike everywhere
Katerina Popov said:
We all want to love and be loved in return.
Linda Grossman had the same conclusion too. And Jae Oh from Singapore echoed:
That people can be great and terrible anywhere you go.
3. Be patient
Mañana mentality is not necessarily wrong. It is part of the Latin culture.
Carolann Hughes discovered:
We spend a lot of time trying to get from one place to another and it often involves waiting for one reason or another. Whether we are in queue to buy tickets, in line to board a plane, train or bus, (or get off of said plane train or bus), waiting for a delayed flight, in line at a night market for a popular stand, or attempting to communicate with someone who speaks another language, our patience gets tested on a regular basis – especially when we are travel-weary, hungry and tired. We’ve slowly become more patient and able to maintain our calm in a variety of situations.
4. Eat local food and save money
Linda Grossman wrote:
Eating local food makes you understand the culture (and realize how adultered that same food is in the U.S.)
Eating local food not only saved us a ton of money, but it also gave us opportunities to see how the locals eat and how they interacted with one another. In Banos de Cuenca in Ecuador, my husband and I stood in line and ordered the only dish served, chicken and rice. The meal was only $1.50 per person. We figured 20 men were eating and it wouldn’t hurt to eat, and the chicken and rice looked fresh and clean.
Eat only thoroughly cooked food.
5. Face your fears
Carolann Hughes also discovered:
The unknown can be frightening. Heading to a new destination with a completely different culture and language, a new system of transportation and new etiquette, can be scary. Travel forces you to face the fear of what’s-to-come head on, to be more present in the moment and to take things as they come. There’s always going to be some nervousness associated with leaving a place you are comfortable with and heading to someplace new but the anxiety becomes more about the excitement of the journey and less about the fear of the unknown.
6. Get out of your comfort zone
Krista Gray from San Francisco said:
There’s something to be said for the confidence that comes from pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, and travel forces you to do this. I no longer feel contained to a small town life, or the US for that matter. I truly feel like I can go anywhere, do anything, and make it work! So freeing.
7. Get on the local bus and get a free tour of the neighborhoods
In Ulaanbaatar Mongolia, our tour leader took us on a bus ride from Narantuul Market to the city center. In the bus, we had fun conversing with a local college student and riding along with families, grandmas, and dads.
8. Keep an open mind and stay with the locals
“Keep and open mind and step-out of the American brand hotels. There’s a lot to learn and enjoy the rest of the World. Make friends with foreigners,” said Tony A from Connecticut.
Even though I get to mingle with the locals, every once in awhile, I had to break away from staying at local hotels and apartments. Frankly, I do need a dose of familiarities like an American or European brand hotel. How about you? The key is to find a balance while being open minded.
9. How delicious food and wine is
10. To be courageous
Tiffany Weber wrote:
It isn’t enough to see with the eyes. Travel has taught me to see through experience and some of those are scary. Sometimes it’s little things like trying new foods because they’re offered and I don’t want to be rude… like eating chipirones (tiny squid cooked in their own ink) or snails in Valencia, pig ears in Albacete, or “lamb fries” in OKC.
Or in our case being led by our tour guide to a Mongolian yurt out in the country without an appointment, where the host offered airag (fermented mare’s milk) and homemade cheese.
11. To have empathy
Travels teaches you empathy by showing you firsthand the heart of a place through its people. And by seeing the place and learning the history, you can understand, know, and love the people even more. That enables you to be exceedingly kind, to hug strangers, to share of yourself in new ways, and to participate in local events.
12. The world is not such a scary place
I like and agree with Carolann Hughes’ answer. She wrote:
It’s true that it’s important to be aware of your surroundings, scams and other potential dangers while traveling, but we’ve learned that the world is not such a scary place after all. There have been so many situations where a stranger has helped us, many even gone out of their way. People we have just met have loaned us their phones, walked us to a location we couldn’t find, driven us places, fed us, and even housed us. There is a lot of good out there and we’ve become more open to noticing it and accepting it.
13. To be flexible
Gina Czupka from Minneapolis valued flexibility:
I have a strong natural inclination to research the crap out of a place and then make plans according to what I find. Travel has taught me that I need to chill out and let things happen.
14. Need very little to be happy
“Doesn’t matter for how long I will be gone, I still travel with 10kg carry on and small shoulder bag. The less I have, the less I have to worry about,” said Rasto Elgr.
15. Gain more understanding of the world
Rasto Elgr from Edmonton said:
The more you travel, the more you understand the world and why things are working or not working as they should be. Traveling is like continuous education you pay for and eventually benefit from.
17. Travel is the greatest classroom of life
When my son was seven, we brought him to London and Rome to see the ancient ruins and to discover the 3,000 years of Roman history. Did you know the Romans built Londinium (the current exact location of the City of London) around AD50 to 410? His world history book came alive during that visit and propelled him to read more about history and politics.
Spencer Spellman from Los Angeles said:
Travel really is the greatest classroom of life. Like every sense is heightened when you’re traveling and you’re on your toes like never before. I really don’t think there’s anything we can do as adults that captures the wonder of our childhood like travel does.
18. Easier to learn a new language
The best way to learn a new language is to travel to the country that speaks the language you are learning. Imagine the possibilities. You can use the new words instantly and have access to new words every day – in the markets, historic sites, restaurants, and more.
19. Experiencing everyday things as if for the first time
Bill Bryson (in the Introduction to The Best American Travel Writing 2000) wrote:
To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.
20. The world is big and beautiful
The more I travel, the more I realize how big and beautiful the world is. There is just so much to see and do – something for everyone to explore.
21. Detach yourself from things
Travel has taught my family to value experiences over stuff. Prior, we were allowing our things to own us.
22. Put your toothbrush away
Never leave your toothbrush in the hotel’s bathroom when you are out and about. You never know how it is handled by the housekeeper when you’re out.
23. Find the magic in the mundane
“Magical moments can be found all over the world in the most mundane situations if you open your eyes and witness.” wrote Kim Dayman.
24. Meet people from around the world
Travel allows us to meet people from different countries, most of the time with like-minded folks. For example, in cooking classes, we have met individuals who like to try out new food and love to explore the country’s culture, just like we do.
25. Appreciate every moment because every place is momentary
Every place we visit was transient, and led us to understand our daily life is the same – brief!
Wassim Bassil from Beirut said:
Traveling alone can be very therapeutic and exhilarating, you’ll have time to reflect on your thoughts, you get to do whatever you feel like doing whenever you want, you’ll pay much more attention to the details of your surroundings because you’re less distracted and you will appreciate every moment of your time.
26. Taking a break is good for you
“Vacations are a short break from all your problems & hectic schedule, so I enjoyed it to the fullest without even thinking about my work once,” said Joana Coelho
27. Put aside preconceived ideas about a destination
Linda Bell hit a bullseye with this answer:
…by having an open mind you will learn the uniqueness of the places you are visiting. Adapt to the places you are visiting. Don’t go to New York and wish it were calm and quiet like your small home town. Don’t go to Paris and wish there were ice in your drink. Don’t go to Latin America and wish everything started on time.
Even if you are the best organizer, things may go wrong when you travel. We find that overplaying and over scheduling will kill spontaneity. Spontaneity may lead to unexpected adventure and fun.
Spencer Spellman said:
Most of the best travel moments are unplanned. Spontaneity really is the spice of life, but it’s also where travel is at its best. We can plan and plan for a trip until every moment of every day is planned, but if a trip is so predictable, then it doesn’t leave any room for the extraordinary, which is often a by-product of those unpredicted moments of travel.
29. Discover yourself
Travel taught us more about our tolerance level. We discovered our inner being and greatest potential.
30. Develop a new hobby
Some people may find a new hobby in photography, dancing or drawing after traveling. My husband became a better photographer at the end of our two-year journey compared to the day we started.
31. Greater appreciation for home
Courtney C from San Diego said:
There’s no place like home – At the end of a trip, a vacation, or adventure I never want to come home. But I go home and it’s different, and it’s better than as I left it- every time.
32. Develop a greater awareness of our potential
Lynn Austin from Lafayette wrote:
How much of the stress in our lives is “self-inflicted.” Others live with so much less and are so much happier. Learn from them to “chill.”
33. Live with less
Linda Bell had this to say about living for less:
When you travel, leave your stuff at home. You are traveling to see, not to be seen. You really don’t need multiple pieces of jewelry, shoes, or a different outfit for every day. Use the hotel sink to wash out clothes, dress neatly, don’t wear big white sneakers in Europe or anywhere else but your gym at home, and you will be fine.
34. Valuable information is usually found at local stores and restaurants
Not only will the local stores and restaurants offer authentic food, but chances are also you’ll meet locals and shop owners who will provide the information you can’t find in guidebooks or from the hotel concierge.
35. Think independently and make every experience your own
“I can’t tell the number of times I’ve been to places people said I needed to check out and I’ve been very disappointed, but also places people said sucked that I ended up enjoying. You really need to remember it’s your life, your trip and you should be doing what you want to do.” These were the exact words from Ashley and Ryan R, Trippy user from Calgary.
36. Fuel your passion
Besides helping you discover a new hobby, travel can fuel your passion, particularly if you plan your trip around your interest, like cooking, art, visiting coffee plantations, diving, and more.
37. Give back and have compassion
Carving out time during your travels to volunteer will deepen your travel experiences and develop compassion for the less fortunate. It’s an avenue to give a portion of your earnings or use your skills to help others.
38. Realize that we eat too much processed foods
One of the shocking truths, when we returned to the United States, were the food choices at the local supermarket. We have aisles upon aisles of processed foods, snacks, and carbonated sugary drinks.
39. Life happens when you travel too
If you’re not happy with yourself, chances are you won’t be happy anywhere you go. Don’t expect boredom or frustration to disappear when you travel.
40. Have an open mind and heart
Katerina Popov said:
When exploring, an open mind and heart in different places will teach you so many things that you would not learn otherwise. These lessons and eye openers will carry you through life and remain with you at home when you are not traveling, but will better you and strengthen you as an individual.
41. Learn to treat people and nature better
Richard Barone from Costa Rica observed: ”people and nature are more special than we will ever know.”
42. Make us humble
Travel made us humble after we saw how little some people have, their struggles, and their simple lifestyle.
43. Bad people do exist everywhere
Linda Gruenert wrote:
Ask for help, most people are happy to assist. Just be aware that some cultures will say they know, don’t and will tell you something even though it may be wrong or misleading or will tell you what you want to hear.
Learn to identify the good from the bad and use your instinct.
44. Not every country has clean water and hot running water
We experienced days on the road staying in hotels with no hot water in freezing temperatures. In some places, we could only brush our teeth using bottled water. These experiences made us complain less.
45. Blend in, dress down and dress appropriately
We dress not to draw attention or impress when traveling. It is essential to dress appropriately because certain cultures or houses of worship may find short skirts, shorts, sleeveless shirts or any revealing attire to be offensive.
46. Always carry a snack and a bottled water wherever you go
We do this even when we are not traveling because you never know when you’ll need them. Trains and buses may face delays, and you may be a long way from the closest restaurant or store when hunger strikes. Don’t get dehydrated.
47. Learn about budgeting
Kelly R from Massachusetts said:
I like to think that when we travel I’m teaching my kids:
2) Exploring different places.
3) budgeting & navigation skills
We certainly did with our kids, particularly before and during a trip. One of the things we couldn’t do when traveling long-term was staying at Four Seasons hotels or similar class hotels in all destinations (for two years) and the kids knew that.
48. Protect your valuables and be aware
In Rio de Janeiro, a well-dressed gentleman snatched a fellow traveler’s gold necklace. And on the same day, the driver’s wallet was stolen when he was sunbathing with his partner at Copacabana. These are real incidences at the start of our 46-day overland tour in South America.
49. It is not customary to tip in certain countries
For example in Denmark, Anne Kathrine wrote:
We do not have a tradition in Denmark to tip in restaurants and bars. But it is not looked down on if you want to tip – it is even an option to add tips if you pay by credit card. The option is mostly given because of tourist who are used to tipping – but the Danes almost never tip, as we know the waiters are well paid.
50. New-found confidence
And last but not least, a great piece of advice from Krista Gray:
To trust myself (+ newfound confidence!). Theres something to be said for the confidence that comes from pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, and travel forces you to do this. I no longer feel contained to a small town life, or the US for that matter. I truly feel like I can go anywhere, do anything, and make it work! So freeing.
M. Morgan stated in his book, “National Identities and Travel in Victorian Britain”: Traveling was thought to enhance knowledge of human nature, and therefore, to civilize and liberalize the mind.
Article and photos by Claudia Looi