Don’t worry, we’re not going to get all new age hippy on you here and leave you with that “cool story, bro” feeling. But if every day’s a school day then travelling is like doing an undergraduate, Masters and PHD all at the same time. As travellers that are constantly on the move, we have learnt an unbelievable amount and today we’re sharing those life lessons.
1. People are good
The kindness that we’ve experienced on our travels has been mind blowing at times and on a regular basis, things will happen that make us shake our heads in disbelief. We even started a “Book of Kind” which is basically a notepad we use to keep track of all of the incredible acts of generosity from complete strangers.
There was the kid that picked us up when we were wandering the streets of Beijing, trying to figure out how to get to the Great Wall of China after a taxi driver had tried to scam us. A Brazilian girl we’d met briefly in a hostel in Uruguay invited us to stay at her house in Florianopolis and spent time showing us around the city. When we were grocery shopping one day in Uruguay, the shop owner gave us a bag of groceries for free, simply because he was excited at being able to practice his English with us in the few minutes we spent at his till.
Touch wood, we’ve been lucky enough not to have had anything bad happen to us so far. We’re not naive enough to think that everything is always rosy when you travel or that there are no baddies about, but the overwhelming number of people in the world are good.
2. The world is massive
Like most newbie travellers, when we first set off we made the mistake of trying to cram too much into too short a space of time. That quickly led to the realisation that the world is massive!
Now we’re aware that it might sound obvious, but coming from the UK we tend to forget how big most places actually are in comparison. We somehow imagined that two weeks would be enough time to see Brazil (it basically makes up half of South America), that flying from Colombia to China was a good idea (it’s not, just look at a map), and that travelling would satisfy our curious minds (it’s made us even more inquisitive).
We’ve chilled out a lot since we first started travelling and realised it’s important to pick and choose what we do wisely rather than wildly rushing about collecting stamps in our passports. As a result, we now try and travel as slowly as possible. Because the world is so big, it’s important for us to try and learn as much as possible from a place before moving on to make sure we really experience it rather than just seeing it.
3. The world is tiny
Okay okay, we know we just kind of said the opposite, but we’re not talking literally anymore so hear us out. Travelling has brought us to the realisation that the world is, and continues to get smaller from one day to the next.
No matter where we are we can still chat to our friends and family whenever we want. And we can even get regular face to face time with them thanks to apps like Whatsapp and Facebook. We also know that if we need to, we can be in virtually any place in the world within 24 hours which is a comforting thing to know.
Technology has made the world far more accessible and means we can go pretty much anywhere we want without a worry. We think that’s pretty awesome!
4. Too much planning is bad
The best nights out are always the ones that you haven’t planned right? You know, when you go out for one drink and end up stumbling home in the small hours after the best time ever. It’s the fact that you had no idea it was coming that makes it so fun.
Well, that’s pretty similar to travelling. Embracing the spontaneity it affords you is one of the most exciting things about it, and planning is like kryptonite to spontaneity. Obviously, it’s an essential part of life, but too much planning ends up just being stifling.
We found the key is to do just enough to stop you from getting stressed out, but allow yourself enough time to make the most of the opportunities if they arise. It took us way out of our comfort zone at first to just go with the flow and see how things panned out, but we’ve had so many exciting impromptu adventures as a result.
5. Money isn’t everything
Wait, wait wait, we’re not saying that money’s not important, far from it. After all, it’s money that makes the world go round and allows us to go around the world. We’ve just learnt that amassing a fortune is not the be all and end all.
Without getting into the whole “we’ve met so many happy people who have absolutely nothing” minefield, from what we can tell there’s no correlation between being rich and happiness. The flipside of the coin is that there is a correlation between having nothing and being unhappy, and sadly we have seen real poverty on our travels. Put simply, we now truly appreciate money and its value far more than we ever did before we started travelling.
What life lessons has travelling taught you?
You can find more of our travel stories on our blog The Whole World Or Nothing. Why not tweet us if you loved this article or you've been to any of these places? Find us on Insta too for more Wanderlust-inducing travel shots!