Traveling is a fantastic facet to any lifestyle. Everyday is an adventure, but sometimes the frustrations and can fatigue kick in. When the going gets rough, I remember to appreciate what travel has done for me and reflect on the many lessons learned. There are so many lessons I have learned by traveling. Here are my top five.
1) How Lucky I am: I have now been to 31 countries around the globe. Never has a situation occurred where I was unable to afford the next meal, worry about medical care, or stress about my lack of access to education. We as a western society complain about not being able to afford certain things that are outside of our income brackets. Nearly 3 billion people in our world live on less than $2.50 a day, do not have access to a fundamental education, and struggle to acquire the basic necessities of human life (shelter, food, water). Whenever I am about to complain about an experience going wrong or not being able to afford something, I reminiscence about my past travel experiences. I think about the people I met and the way in which the rest of the world lives. From seeing entire families living in cardboard boxes on streets in central China to witnessing starving homeless Bolivian children living in thatched huts; the experiences slap me in the face. They remind me to enjoy what I have been given and to appreciate all that I have access to.
2) We are all Interconnected: I have made lifelong friends from all corners of the world; Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, Christian, etc. with every skin color imaginable. We come together from a myriad of backgrounds that share, joke, hug, and cry over the same things. I truly realize that we all come from the same place, and we are not as different as the media leads us to believe.
3) Selfish Western Culture: There is a direct correlation between the wealth of the countries I visit and the level of selfishness in their society. Although this is true across all continents, it is even more prominent in Western Europe & North America. Most of this is driven through fear generated by the media, capitalism, and social advertising. When I am in need, I have always been taken under someone’s wing in a poorer country. This has not been the case in wealthier countries and that is a genuine shame…
4) There is More to Life than Money: I have seen an entire village of smiling children play with a single soccer ball in the Panamanian jungle. I have witnessed Taiwanese Buddhist monks, living with nothing more than the basic necessities, enjoy life more than anyone I have ever met. It is arrogant and misguided to suggest that because we have access to more products, shopping malls, and technology, we are even an ounce happier than these people. In fact, I would suggest quite the opposite. We need to recalibrate what’s important in life and genuine travel will do that. Oftentimes, it is the little things in life matter the most.
5) True Happiness is Only Real When Shared: Solo travel is a great thing, it builds character and forces us to be open and warm, but when push comes to shove, I’d prefer to have my friends/family/girlfriend standing beside me sharing that amazing sunset in Thailand. It’s amazing on your own, it’s even more amazing with loved ones.
I could have added so much more to this list – it could have easily been 100x longer. The lessons from travel never end and only get better over time. The world is a very small place and at the end of the day, we are all the same.
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
― Saint Augustine of Hippo
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