Travelling is something I just do, it’s sort of like breathing – it’s a need, not a want. I am in a very lucky position that I have the time, the flexibility and the resources to travel. I completely understand that it is a luxury that many people cannot indulge in and for that I am grateful on a daily basis. According to Judith Thurman “Every dreamer knows that it is entirely possible to be homesick for a place you’ve never been to, perhaps more homesick than for familiar ground” – well ain’t that the truth! I’m 33 and have travelled far and wide my whole life, yet I constantly yearn to see places I’ve never seen and meet people I’ve never met – life, after all, is for living. Over the past three decades, travel has, I’m sure, changed me, I honestly do not think I would be the person I am today without it. However, I have had to change and adapt over time by learning lessons to get the most out of it. Here are 10 of the most important lessons I have learned from travelling so far.
1. You’re never too young to start
I was very, very lucky as a child, my parents always ensured we took at least two foreign holidays per year, meaning that I got to experience a lot from such a young age. From 2 week allocation on arrival holidays in the Costa Del Sol to full on Disneyland adventures in Florida, every time we took a trip I took something from it and look back on the times we spent as a family fondly. As an only child, my folks had a little more money to spend on our holidays and also, as I didn’t have any siblings to hang out with it gave me the opportunity to play with and learn from children from many different countries and cultures. As Mr ESLT and I don’t have children, I obviously cannot comment from a parents point of view, the thought of travelling with your kids may actually fill you with dread. However, I can comment from the perspective of the child who travelled and I can confirm that the wanderlust fire inside of me was lit from the experiences I had the opportunity to have way back when.
2. To immerse yourself in other cultures
I have learnt that if I am in another country I want to experience their culture, learn about their history and visit religious sites. I’ll be honest the worst place I have ever visited was Cape Verde, it has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, but they are all it’s really got going for it. There are a lot of 5* all inclusive hotels popping up all the time on the islands, which are great if you want to get away from everything for a week or two. However, whilst I was there I felt like I could have been anywhere and nowhere at the same time. I wanted to see how people lived, what they ate and what they did for entertainment. Instead, we were confined to the perimeters of the hotel. I’ve never been one to just sit and sunbathe, I’ve got an inquisitive mind and travel has taught me that’s a good thing to have. Seeing how other people live and why they do so has opened my eyes. Learning about other people’s cultures has allowed me to be more open and patient, even if at times I do not agree with them.
3. To collect memories not things
Mr ESLT and I have learnt that we would rather collect memories instead of things. Don’t get me wrong we have a house and cars and the usual material possessions that people have. However, when it comes to birthdays, anniversaries, Christmases or any special occasion, we get enough bubble bath gift sets, gift vouchers and boxes of chocolates from friends and family, therefore we always travel instead. We have been together just over a decade now and have always bought the other a travel experience rather than a gift, therefore every special occasion we have shared together has been spent somewhere different and amazing in the world. We feel that the bubble bath gift sets get used, the gift vouchers get spent and the boxes of chocolates get eaten, however, the memories that we have created from the travel experiences we have shared are extremely important and precious to us and will last us a lifetime. We will continue to do this and we already have the next year’s special trips planned.
4. It’s an opportunity to make friends from all over the world
Although I’ve never travelled solo, I’ve always had Mr ESLT or family or friends with me, it has never stopped me making new friends along the way. Even if you are not staying in a backpackers hostel or on an organised tour, a traveller can always spot another like minded traveller, meaning even if you are travelling on your own you actually are never alone. Travelling is an opportunity to make friends with people from all over the globe and with technology being the way it is, it’s extremely easy to keep in touch with them regardless of where in the world you are or where in the world they are. I’ve met a number of people through travelling from different countries and different backgrounds and I feel that it has enriched my life no end. Even though I do not see them on a regular basis we always have the time that we spent together to remember. Also, by having friends in every corner of the globe means that travelling can be cheaper, as I’m sure they have a spare room or a sofa to crash on should it be needed.
5. Eat ALL the food
Nowadays, I eat everything or I at least try it. However, when I was little I refused to eat anything that I considered weird or different. I didn’t try pizza until I was at least 16 and curries and Chinese food not until my early 20s. I seriously did not know what I was missing out on. Even though I travelled a lot as a child, I didn’t make life easy for my parents when it came to meal times. On one trip to Turkey, I survived on cucumber and pickled onions for two whole weeks. Whereas now, I have to try the local food as soon as possible when I arrive in a new destination. From gelato, pizza and pasta in Italy to seafood kool in Sri Lanka and not forgetting my favourite Nasi goreng in Indonesia, I cannot believe that for all those years I was missing out on so many taste sensations. Of course, there have been times when I have tried something once and wouldn’t dream of letting past my lips again, top of that list is definitely scorpion in Thailand, many people say it tastes like chicken, me – not so much.
6. An Opportunity to practice language skills
I’d love to be able to speak another language fluently but research has shown that some people are just incapable of doing it – I am positive that I am one of them. Research has also shown that if you can speak another language fluently than languages are obviously your thing and you will find it easier to pick up others too. I do try, however. Wherever I go I always try to learn the basics like hello, goodbye, thank you and two beers, please. Most important phrases can be found in the back of travel guides or failing that, Google Translate is a great tool. I must admit even though I learn the basics, I struggle when it actually comes to speaking out loud for fear of getting it wrong, I really don’t like the thought of looking like an idiot, I don’t think most people do really. I have learnt that even if you don’t get the phrase right most people will appreciate you trying in the first place and many will give you the time to practice. Therefore, giving you the opportunity to at least try to speak another language properly, even if it is just a few words.
7. The world is big, yet so small
No matter where you are in the world you are only a maximum of 24 hours away from home. So if when travelling something happens that you need to get home for, you are literally only a day away. For some, the world seems so big it’s incomprehensible and granted to visit every single country in the world would take a long time, however many travellers have proved it can be done. As of 1st July 2015 there 7.349 billion humans that live on this planet, yet I have learnt that sometimes the world isn’t as big as you think. On more than one occasion I have bumped into someone from home whilst travelling. First time was in Malta when I was little when I bumped into a girl I went to Brownies with on a bus to the capital Valletta, the next time I bumped into a girl I went to school with whilst walking through the streets of San Antonio, Ibiza and only a couple of weeks ago Mr ESLT sat next to a guy in a bar in New York that he went to college with in the North East of England and hadn’t seen for 25 years.
8. The world is not as scary as you think
Even though I travelled a lot as a kid with my parents, when it came to taking my first trip without them they painted the world to be a big bad place. Looking back now they were trying to protect me from not wandering places I shouldn’t and I’ll be honest it put the fear of God in me. It took me a while to learn that it’s not that bad, in reality, it’s not bad at all. In fact, it is beautiful, well most of it anyway. Of course, there are places that you need to be extra cautious of and if you are worried you should check if there are any travel warnings in place before you travel there. There are of course bad people out there who do atrocious things but if we all lived our lives worried about what could happen, then none of us would ever go anywhere and how fun would that be? My cousin’s boyfriend won’t even visit America because of his fear that something bad will happen. I don’t want to even imagine the beauty, history and sheer amazingness I would be missing out on if I’d believed my parents all those years ago.
9. Trust your instincts
I learnt this very quickly. If something seems right and feels good then go for it. If something seems off or dodgy then walk away. 3 weeks after meeting Mr ESLT we jumped on a plane and headed to Florence, it just seemed right and every trip we have ever taken after has always felt right. Our love of travel is something that brought us together and has kept us together all these years since. We are lucky that we have very rarely been in a position where we have felt unsafe or in danger. I’d like to think that’s because we are quite sensible, without being boring of course. However, there has been one or two occasions when something could have happened if we had not had our wits about us and trusted our guts. There’s a lot to be said about listening to your instincts. On more than one occasion I have walked away from what may have been a dangerous situation because it just didn’t feel right. Personal safety is a big thing for me and I have also learnt to be aware of my belongings and what’s going on around me.
10. Make one day, today!
This was a big lesson for me and one I learnt through heartbreak. My mum had always wanted to go on a cruise, you know the ones, big flash and fancy, the ones where you get dressed to the nines every night and enjoy exquisite food and gorgeous scenery. Now those sort of cruises come with a whacking great price tag, not your average holiday cost. My parents decided that it would be the ultimate treat when they both retired. After working hard for decades what a way to celebrate not having to anymore. My mum passed away at 46 from cancer, she never got to take the trip, the worst thing is they had the money and time to do it, so why didn’t they? For the same reason, Chris and I have never made it to Bora Bora or you haven’t taken that trip you want to – because there is always tomorrow. I’m not saying forgo everything and head to your dream destination but if your bills are paid and you can still afford it, then do it, why wait years, possibly decades when you could do it sooner. Why not make one day, TODAY!