Travel. Why do so many love it? Some love the escape from work or family. Some love the yet unwritten adventure. Whether a weekend at the beach or a 9-month backpacking trip through southeast Asia, travel teaches us valuable lessons about the world and ourselves. Those who have the ability to travel often and longer, are getting an AP class in these lessons.
Here are some important travel life lessons I learned:
Power of Patience
While this is still the hardest fought lesson (for me), patience is paramount in preventing insanity while on the road. I can point to any of the 10 hour + bus rides that turned into 15 hour + bus rides because of delays, traffic, engine issues or other general WTF’s. No way to ask when you are arriving (you wouldn’t get the truth) and no way to get alternate transportation.
Transportation will be the biggest source of headaches anywhere in the world and unless you are dangling from a cliff on the road of death in Bolivia, it’s better not to sweat the small stuff. My personal favorite was a train strike that left me abandoned for 12 hours in Slovenia 8 miles from the Italian border. I was 20 years old at the time and the Eastern European borders were still closed.
Power of Giving Up Control
Travel at it’s essence is giving up control. From the minute you enter the glass doors of the airport, you are ceding control of your life to others. TSA officers, pilots, flight attendants and airline passengers all control your mental and physical well being for the foreseeable future.
If you have ever been in India, you know that you essentially powerless. The culture, language, constant haggling and endless poverty seem to work against you at every turn. No more is this the truth then when you travel through India by bus. One tip I have, never sit at the front of the bus where you can see oncoming traffic. The constant near death collisions will create permanent insomnia.
Once you learn to stop applying the rules of American living and society to that culture, you loosen up and just go with it.
Power of Humility
Culture is defined simply as the way we do things around here. If you aren’t from around here, odds are you are not going to know the written and unwritten rules. Ah, the power of humility! The ability to be an idiot and not shriek away and die.
Accidentally baring shoulders or knees in conservative cultures, drinking too much or not enough when welcomed by locales, pointing at a menu and ordering sheep brains because the menu is not in English nor does the waiter speak it, standing in the men’s only section/line/area when you should have been in the ladies, or my favorite, getting on the wrong bus because you were too nervous to ask someone if this was the right bus.
Power of Taking Risks
Every time you leave your house you are taking a risk. Every time you leave your country, it’s even bigger. Travel helps to flush the head trash that accumulates over time. It leaves a wake of cant’s, shouldnt’s and wouldnt’s and irrational fears.
Risk taking gets me a bit deeper into the culture by stripping away all the negative thoughts I would have if I was watching myself on television doing it. It was why one of the best meals I had in Vietnam was a $1 bowl of pho at a dust cafe (basically an old lady with a big pot who sets up shop on a sidewalk) in Hanoi.