It took me a while to finally have enough courage to push myself to take my first solo trip.
Making the decision to pack up and head for the unknown was not an easy one to come by. But it certainly was the best and most life-changing decision I’ve made in my 38 years wandering this planet.
Sure, there was fear and hesitation, and a whole bunch of other uneasy feelings. But, for those who have already experienced it first hand, once you get that first taste of travel, you’re hooked. The wanderlust takes over, and you fall prey to its endless experiences and boundless learning opportunities.
No matter where your travels take you, it’s certain to be an experience like no other. Here are some of the most impactful lessons learned on my first 15-day solo trip.
15 Lessons Learned from Traveling
1. You’re forced to try new things.
For me, the first new thing was actually traveling. Once I was out there on my own, I had to do everything myself, even the things I wasn’t particularly eager to do.
But whether it’s getting on a local transit bus and hoping you read the map right, or trying out something on the menu that you can roughly translate into something that sort of makes sense, it all contributes to your experience.
In the end, those things you were so hesitant to try are usually the most memorable things.
2. “Mistakes” aren’t really a thing.
When you’re open to experiencing anything, it doesn’t matter if what you had originally planned doesn’t work out as well as you thought. If you miss your train, see it as an opportunity to tour the city you’re now visiting a little while longer. Treat these ‘mistakes’ as lessons learned.
3. Getting lost is awesome.
The thought of being lost in an unfamiliar place used to terrify me – how would I ever find my way back home? Of course, I quickly got over that fear the first time I got lost abroad.
I must have had my map upside-down, because I ended up at the complete opposite end of the city I was aiming for. But, because of that, I got to see parts of the city I had no intention of visiting. It was a beautifully unexpected experience that I still look back on and smile.
4. Throw your plans out the window.
If you’re a rigid planner, it’s time to ditch that schedule. Having a loose idea of what you want to do during your time at any place is good; but keep it flexible and open to changes.
If you’ve got a lineup of sights to see and things to do, but you happen to stumble across something interesting, your strict plans could prevent you from having an amazing experience.
Go with the flow. If something you’re doing ends up being incredibly enjoyable to you, don’t cut it short to stay on schedule.
5. The cultures of the world are amazing.
Putting yourself in the middle of an unfamiliar place and culture is such an incredible learning experience. It’s not just about sticking to the touristy areas, with other tourists who speak your language and live in your culture.
It’s also about gaining an understanding of the people who live there. Whether it’s striking up a conversation on the bus or with your waiter, get to know the culture from the perspective of someone who lives it.
6. Don’t Save money for traveling – make money while traveling.
One of the excuses I had always used for putting off traveling was the expense of it all. I always said I would go somewhere when I had the money, but the money was never there.
Then, I learned that it wasn’t necessary to save money for my travels when it was possible to actually MAKE money doing it.
Use your skills! Even while you’re globe-trotting to do freelance writing on sites like Ox Essays, UK Writings, and Big Assignments, or teach other people English. There are a number of ways to use what you know to make money to finance your travels.
7. Talking to people transcends language.
Yes, speaking the same language is definitely the easiest way to communicate. But that doesn’t mean it’s the only way. I’ve found through my travels that in almost every person I’ve encountered, there’s almost an innate drive to want to help.
Even if there’s a language barrier, the effort to want to understand me and help with what I need is incredible. Strangers have patiently tried to play guessing games with what I’m trying to ask them – it’s both a hilarious exchange and a learning experience in what is more easily understood.
Once they guess correctly, they can’t help but be overjoyed with happiness, pride, and excitement to help.
8. Language education is going to happen.
It’s almost inevitable that you’ll pick up at least some of the language of the people you’ve immersed yourself in. Menus, signs, and simple conversations will give you the basics. This is generally enough to get by and make you feel a little more comfortable.
9. My confidence is at an all-time high.
It took me a while to get the courage to travel, but once I did, I felt unstoppable. My confidence skyrocketed, because I felt like, if I could do this on my own, I could do anything.
10. Keep it to 20lbs. or less.
Unless it’s absolutely necessary, travel as light as possible. Lugging around a bag of gear doesn’t seem like it will be that bad, and what difference will adding in a few extra items really make in the long run? Turns out, it makes a big difference! A 20lb. limit seems to be the tipping point between manageable and horrible.
11. Dance hard and often.
I was always on the more timid side, especially when it came to drawing attention to myself by dancing or singing. But, when the opportunity is there, take it! You won’t believe the rush of energy you’ll get from doing it. Even if you’re terrible at it, who cares! What are the chances you’ll see any of these people again?
12. People are people.
After traveling and meeting all sorts of people from across the globe, one of my lessons learned is true for everyone. We are pretty much all the same – we all want the same things: happiness and health. Our languages, customs, or other minute things may make us appear different, but at our core, we are all one.
13. You can be a traveler or a tourist.
These aren’t actually the same things: tourists are happy to buy the experiences that are packaged and produced for them. But travelers have an urge to involve and engage themselves within a culture, NOT settling for the packaged goods being offered.
14. Traveling alone is the best way to go.
Think about it: NO ONE to answer to, no one to interfere in your plans (or try to, in the first place). You can go where you want, when you want to, and do whatever you want while you’re there.
15. The world is friendly and welcoming.
I can’t recall a place I’ve been where I wasn’t welcomed with open arms. People are incredibly willing to share their culture with you, make you feel welcome, and ensure you’re experiencing the best of their world.
This world is a big place. But it’s not so scary going at it alone, once you take that first plunge. Get out there and you’ll amaze yourself. Marvel at your lessons learned.