This article was published on Stuff.co.nz.
Today I’ve been away from home for exactly 411 days or 1 year 1 month and 14 days. It’s a fairly long time and as much as I miss home and am looking forward to finally stepping foot on New Zealand soil this December, I have never been more content in my life. Currently I am finding my feet in Europe, but in the past year I have been based in the US, visited Denmark, Great Britain, Germany Hungary, Bosnia, Montenegro, Serbia and Croatia.
There are many things I have learnt or re-learnt in the past year that I felt were worth sharing. Here are ten things you learn from traveling the world:
1. People are good
The more I travel, the more I realize just how similar people are. We all want the same things. We all want to be loved and accepted. We all want to be happy. Most of us want to meet someone and fall in love and have a good job. Generally we want the best for others and if someone asks us for help, we will. When we’re younger we’re told not to talk to strangers and we’re warned of all the dangerous things that could happen to us at any moment because of some “bad” person. Add to that; most of our news focusses on the worst things that our happening in our neighborhoods and around the world. It’s not to say that bad things don’t happen, but we should focus more on all of the good and positive people that surround us everywhere in every country.
2. The world is small
Our home planet earth is actually incredibly tiny. Apparently there are at least another 17 billion earth sized planets in our galaxy. Besides being a tiny insignificant dot in the galaxy, even to us mere mortals earth is actually a small place to be located. The other side of the world is only a 24 hour flight away and while those long haul flights can seem like an eternity, it’s not the six or more weeks on a boat our ancestors had to do. Many of us are lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit far away places in short periods of time.
3. Your problems are even smaller
Once you’ve navigated your way to your Bangkok hotel in the middle of the night after your hotel transfer didn’t arrive, or survived a visit to a Laos hospital, or had 24 hours of Chinese water induced diarrhea; the so-called “problems” you had back at home won’t seem so big any more. You’ll also see that other people have problems, probably much bigger than your own. Problems like not having enough food to eat, or a home to sleep in – after that worrying about a meeting or assignment might not seem so reasonable.
4. You are not right, nor are you wrong
As your travel you will come across a series of different perspectives that aren’t necessarily your own. Some of these perspectives might make you look at your own morals. You might want to adjust or solidify these morals. Generally speaking no one is right or wrong. I like to think that if your belief or action isn’t harming other people, it’s probably ok – but that’s for you to decide.
5. A smile gets you a long way
I’m always amazed at how approaching a situation with a smile and a genuine positive attitude can create a better outcome. This lesson really hit home just over a year ago when I was in New Zealand having a dinner with a large party of dinners. The restaurant managed to mix up the orders leaving me and around four others without meals. The waitress had to explain the situation, firstly to me and then to the other four who were seated down the other end of the table. I was in a really good mood that night and although I was starving, I smiled at her and told her it was “no problem” and even remember giving her the thumbs up, because I didn’t want her to feel bad. She seemed pleased that I wasn’t too upset and then offered me a hot chocolate on the house – I gladly accepted. I then watched as my fellow dinners were told of the situation, their reactions weren’t so friendly and they seemed to be huffing and puffing about it. No free drinks were offered. That one hot chocolate might seem like a small thing, but I think the hot chocolate represents the good that can come of any situation in life if your bring a positive attitude.
6. Traveling does make you awesome, but not as awesome as you think
Traveling will open your eyes to new cultures, religions, information and ways of life and it will probably make you more awesome. It won’t necessarily make you more awesome than your friends who are studying, getting married, starting families or buying houses. Remember everyone has their own priorities and everyone is learning their own life lessons on their own adventures, whatever those adventures might be.
7. Buses are the worst public transport ever
I hate buses. Generally I hate all public transport, but in the places that I have chosen to live, not using public transport is almost impossible, so I have learnt to like trains and at a stretch, trams. Commercial airlines serve their purpose of course, no matter how awful a long haul flight can be, but buses are the worst thing on the planet, with perhaps the exception of walking to a new country. The only long bus ride I ever enjoyed (above the age of say 9) was one where I was chatting to a particularly attractive guy – those 6 hours just flew by.
8. Nothing changes at home
9. Traveling is a healthy addiction
I don’t drink, smoke, do drugs or any take an other mind altering substances. This means that the fun I have has to be real fun and not what I call ‘artificial fun’ that mind altering substances create. Traveling is a very good way to get high on life and although you can catch the ‘travel bug’ it’s a pretty healthy addiction to have.
10. Nowhere is perfect
There is no perfect place, or at least I haven’t found it yet. (Please let me know if there is such a place and I will move there immediately.) All countries and cities have their advantages and disadvantages and at the end of the day what is right for one person might not be right for another. I have found that there is no substitute for research, (although I recommend it) at some point you have to bite the bullet and just go for it. Whether you’re taking a short break or deciding to move to a new country you won’t know until you get there and find out what you do and don’t like about a place.
What have you learned from traveling? Comment below.