For 14 months, I was traveling solo (for most part that is) in South America. It wasn’t all rainbows and breathtaking views, but the life lessons it taught me made it all worthwhile.
I came back home as a totally different person. To be honest, I felt more alone when I’m home than when I’m out traveling. Talking to friends I made on the road, they also feel the same way. It’s bittersweet, a strange feeling you have when you go back home.
Everything is just as is when I left and I guess, that is the problem because now, I have different views on things and issues. What my family and friends consider as important, I see as superficial and shallow. And while many are content on escaping their daily lives temporarily and travel short-term, I want more.
I will always want more of the world, to explore and embrace everything that this big big world has to offer.
Traveling long-term definitely has its ups and downs. You have no financial stability, you put your safety and health at risk, and you will encounter a lot of emotional stress.
On a positive note, you will meet a lot of people with different race, background and culture, develop worldly views, and see that there’s so much goodness in this world despite the negativity that the media is always broadcasting.
I only traveled for 14 months but the life lessons I gained were something I will treasure for the rest of my life. I’ve met travelers who have been traveling for 5, 10 years (even more) and I just can’t imagine how traveling changed their lives.
Here are 5 life lessons that long-term traveling taught me:
1) You may be traveling solo, but you are never alone. And it will get lonely.
I landed in Brazil, from the other side of the world, all alone. It didn’t scare me because I was an introvert to begin with. Then I realized, you are never really alone even if you are traveling solo.
I’ve lost count of the number of Germans, Australians, and English I shared a drink with, Brazilians who tried to hit on me, Dutch whom I’ve shared several laughs and witty conversations, and French who, true to their nature, can be snobbish but also highly misunderstood.
I shared so many stories with these fellow travelers that at times, you will find the need for an alone time. Ironic, right?
On the other side, it can and will get lonely. Because these people come and go. You won’t really have a constant companion to share your travels with. And worse, saying goodbyes will be your second nature which can be emotionally tiring.
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2) Universe always got your back, no matter what.
Money will run out, eventually. You will hit a crossroad and wouldn’t know which road to take. You will get lost when hiking or going to a new town.
These are all part of long-term traveling. The best part, Universe will always find a way to help you. When money is running out, you will suddenly get hired to that online job you applied for a few weeks back. When hitting a crossroad, signs will be there to help you choose. And when you get lost, a heaven-sent local or fellow traveler will just appear and show you the way.
During my travels, I’ve had countless times when I just said to myself, “Thank you, Universe. You always surprise me.”.
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3) The importance of having less to have more and turning myself into a minimalist.
For 14 months, everything I need and own were just inside a 65L backpack. I didn’t have a closet full of shoes, bags and clothes. I didn’t have the latest iPhone or the latest gadget.
I wasn’t complaining about not having anything to wear; I was doing the opposite as a matter of fact. I was complaining that I had too much clothes making my backpack too heavy to carry.
At one point, I had to give away half of my clothes and even my shoes. I was happy about it because it made me realized that I wasn’t clinging on material things anymore. And using the same clothes over and over again didn’t bother me at all.
Long-term traveling made me realize that I didn’t need much in my life, that I need to let go of all excess baggage that are dragging me down. It taught me that subtraction is creation — that when you let go of certain things, you are making room for bigger and better things.
Related post: Creating the Life that I want [A Case Study]
4) You won’t have time for drama for all the shit that will come your way.
Lost my laptop in a night bus bound for Peru. The constant goodbyes to all the travelers I met along the way were emotionally stressful. And dating while traveling, or worse, getting your heartbroken whilst traveling can be both an insanity and clarity.
So many shitty things will happen when you live a life on the road. But instead of making a big deal out of it and creating so much drama in your life, you will just brush it off because really, you won’t have time for any dramas.
When you a live a life on the road, life goes on and fast. You’d rather think about survival than mope around and think negative thoughts. You’d rather be optimistic and see the good in every situation, knowing that everything happens for a reason.
After all, your worst day on the road is still so much better than your worst day in the office.
5) You will realize how small your world is before you started traveling long-term.
This is so true in so many levels. Once you have the chance to step outside of your comfort zone, you will see how tiny your problems really are.
During the first few weeks of my travels, I already thought to myself how pathetic I was and those around me for being so caught up with our own life issues, creating so much drama around it.
It felt like my life was all a lie. Traveling let me see how manipulative society can really be and how capitalists can be very greedy. I started questioning if everything I was taught growing up was real.
Political and economic issues matter more to me now. I believe that social issues are something that we should all bother ourselves with. Striving to make a contribution in making this world a better place. Sounds like a cliché but really, it’s not. You just have to stop thinking that the universe revolves around you.
Long-term traveling will always teach you a thing or two. The question is, will you be resistant to it or will you let it change you?