9 Things Traveling Taught Me About Life

The Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.
The Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.

I love discovering a new city or exploring new sides of a familiar one.  But traveling isn’t always without its speed bumps and detours.  While I’ve learned a lot about traveling, I’ve learned that many of those lessons apply to life when I’m not on the road.  Here are 9 things travel taught me about life.

King's Chapel Burying Ground, the oldest cemetery in Boston.
King’s Chapel Burying Ground, the oldest cemetery in Boston.

1. Time is limited.
If you want to do something, do it now.  That means if you want to go somewhere, see something, eat something, or experience something, do it now before your trip is over and your time is up.  As morbid as it sounds, life is no different.

2. A little bit of planning goes a long way.
Some travelers (and people) will argue this one with me, but I’m a huge planner.  I’ve found that by doing a little bit of research (either before the trip or prior to heading out for the day), it saves me a lot of headache, confusion, or outright problems down the road.  You don’t always have to stick exactly to the itinerary, but having a general idea of where you want to go will keep you on track and prevent you from ending up somewhere far from where you intended.

Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto, Japan.
Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, Japan.

3. Save more money than you think you’ll need for piece of mind.
Because you never know when your cab ride suddenly costs 100€ and you thought it’d cost 20 or when you stumble upon a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that requires an extra few bucks, having more money than you need is both a safety net and an opportunity producer.  Same goes for the real world.

4. Take a chance.
I have a tendency to be more daring about life when I’m traveling.  (Probably thanks to #1.)  If I see a cute guy, I go talk to him because I know the chances of running into him again are next to impossible.  When I’m served a dish that may otherwise make me squirm, I dive right in while on vacation because it’s part of the experience.  I try to bring that bold attitude with me when I’m home.  Besides, isn’t there a saying about trying everything once?

Hôtel de Ville de Montréal, Montreal’s City Hall.
Hôtel de Ville de Montréal, Montreal’s City Hall.

5. Know when to splurge and when to skimp.
Some people use traveling as an excuse to splurge on literally everything–hotels, food, transportation–but it doesn’t need to be that way.  Some of the best food is found on the city’s streets for pennies and some of the best experiences I’ve had while traveling were free.

On the flipside, some things are definitely worth splurging on.  I like to treat myself to an extravagant splurge meal on every trip and I’m not a fan of hostels so I always opt for the pricier hotels.  Where you decide to splurge versus skimp all boils down to preference, but know that you don’t always have to stay in one camp over the other.

6. Compromise is the key to getting along with your partner.
Nothing tests a relationship like traveling, whether it’s platonic or romantic.  I always say that if you can travel with someone, you can do almost anything with that person.  Not all friends make good travel companions but even good travel buddies know that the key to remaining friends after your trip is compromise.  Also, spending time apart never hurts.  Both of these translate perfectly to real life (non-traveling) friendships and relationships.

Barcelona's opera house, the Gran Teatre del Liceu.
Barcelona’s opera house, the Gran Teatre del Liceu.

7. Follow your passion.
If something calls you enough to make your heart sing, chase it.  I travel for opera because nothing moves me the way seeing one live does and that passion has taken me to 15 cities (and counting) around the world.  I’m often on the younger spectrum of patrons at the opera, but I love talking about it at intermissions with people.  I get teased all the time for my opera obsession.  And you know what?  I don’t care one bit.

If something moves you, do it.  Don’t let the opinions of others eat away at you.  Go after what you love and follow your passion.

8. Give people the benefit of the doubt.
It’s easy to assume that because someone reacts differently than you do to something, you can’t relate to them or that because you don’t fully understand their way of life, you can’t understand them.  But that’s not true at all.  Most people, regardless of their cultural differences and language barriers, are genuinely nice people.

At home or abroad, I’ve learned to remember that while it’s good to stay on my toes and be cautious (especially when traveling alone), most people are good people with good intentions.  And if you treat people with respect and kindness, usually they’ll return respect and kindness back to you.

The Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.
The Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.

9. Know the difference between tired/hungry and angry.
Confession: I get hangry.  That is, I get angry when I’m hungry.  Years ago, I realized I got hangry while traveling a lot, making my travel buddies flat-out angry.  So now I make sure to eat breakfast when I travel and eat regular meals to prevent Hangry Kelli.  (Nobody likes Hangry Kelli, not even me!)  Whatever it is that sets you off, know it so you can prevent it–both when you travel and when you’re in real life at home.  Everyone around you will thank you.

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Every trip I take teaches me something new about life and about myself–not to mention about the place I’m visiting.  That’s why I love this quote so much: Traveling is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.  I couldn’t agree more.

Related :: 6 Tips for Dining Out Alone, 7 Tips for Seeing the Opera, 6 Things I Hated About Paris

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