Looking back to my 2019 resolutions, I didn’t manage to achieve them all. But there was one thing that I’d added to my list – to visit at least five different countries. A big goal, I know! But last year I was lucky enough to journey across five new lands (Australia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Thailand and Vietnam), meet some amazing people and generally live my best life. While exploring, I also learned some incredibly valuable travel lessons. Here are five of the best lessons that I think every traveler should learn…
Life lesson #1: while you’re exploring new places, you discover yourself along the way
We’re always excited about exploring a new destination and to experience things that we’ve never done before – but amidst all of this, we keep discovering ourselves as well. I had a travel checklist when traveling to Australia, but once I was there, I felt like going with the flow rather than ticking things off.
There were days when I would just stroll around the South Bank in Brisbane or sit at the beach of Surfer’s Paradise on the Gold Coast, watching the surfers conquering the waves. Growing up, I’ve always had a fear of being alone, until I came to a point where I started enjoying my own company and fell in love with traveling solo.
I went on a Great Ocean Road trip with a bunch of strangers, and saw the amazing Twelve Apostles. But what touched me more was that this was where my mum had visited, before she left for another beautiful world. Being hosted by a lovely Indian family in Melbourne, I had the chance to visit Cape Schanck and soak in the Pacific winds, as I dipped my feet in the freezing cold waters. My hosts were the most amazing people and made me feel at home while I was at their place.
I realized that the world beyond our checklist has a lot of surprises in store. We just need to be open to embrace and experience all that comes our way!
Life lesson #2: it’s not always about what you do for yourself, but what you do for others
Nowadays, many of us are so self-centric that we’re always concerned about how to get things for ourselves; how to be better than others, how to be richer or happier! We often miss out on the happiness we get from doing something for others. I wasn’t any different until I decided to take a volunteering trip to Kenya, which completely changed my perspective.
I was in Kenya for a month and I volunteered at a Childcare Center on the outskirts of Nairobi, sheltering abandoned kids. There were 70 kids of varying ages; some were just a few days old while some were 12 years old, going to the community school. Being there with those kids helped me realize that we don’t really need much to be happy – if we know how to find the small joys in our daily lives. As I cuddled them and laughed with them, played around and cooked for them I felt this kind of innate happiness, which I’ve never felt before. They didn’t understand my language, neither did I understand theirs, but in those few days, we connected via our emotions. When leaving, I had tears rolling down my cheeks.
Life lesson #3: sometimes the world can teach you more than school can
Geography has always been my favorite subject and to be honest, I was pretty good at it. But until the time I planned my trip to Ethiopia, I never knew about the Danakil Depression – which is one of the hottest and the lowest points on Earth! In fact, there are thousands of places with immense geographical or historical importance, that we’re just never taught about. It’s only when we step out for ourselves to see the world that we get to come across such places of wonder! Walking around the huge, acid pools while soaking in the heat, I felt like I was on Mars! With every footstep, I felt grateful to be alive in a world that’s so mysterious and magical.
Life lesson #4: reconnecting with your childhood best friend is priceless
As they say, there are some things that money can’t buy; and I realized this lesson of happiness when I took a trip to Thailand with my best friend from school. We hadn’t been in touch for about nine years since we left school, but when I met her again, it felt like nothing had really changed. She was still that girl who’d grab her make-up kit before the essentials, or just drop in a stupid comment that made me laugh. She was the best travel buddy I could have ever asked for and she helped me realize that no matter how much we grow up, our friends are unchanging.
We hopped from Bangkok to Krabi and explored the islands of Koh Phi Phi. We got dressed up as often as we could, gorged on delicious Thai food, clicked thousands of selfies and laughed till our stomachs ached! Watching the sunset together, we talked about the good old days when life was simpler and realized how lucky we were to just have each other in our lives.
Life lesson #5: if you keep waiting for the right time, you might be waiting the rest of your life
Just before 2019 was about to end, I planned an impromptu trip to Vietnam with my partner. The minute we stepped out of the airport in Saigon, we figured that weren’t really any road rules – or at least not any that people seem to pay attention to! In fact, the streets in the busiest city of Vietnam are a scene of organized chaos.
We were told by a Vietnamese man that the key to cross the road is to just walk, no matter what. Well, he was right. If we had decided to keep waiting for a suitable opening, you wouldn’t be reading this story because I’d still be standing there, surrounded by thousands of motorbikes. So, we just walked and the motorbikes just… moved around us!
We learnt that we can’t always keep waiting for things to turn in our favor, but we have to keep trying and moving ahead if we want to achieve things. And while it seemed terrifying crossing the roads in Vietnam, once we took a step, it seemed more like everything was in beautiful harmony.
I’m sure that all of us, at some point in life, will get to learn these little things and find the most extraordinary paths to happiness. I hope life keeps surprising you in the most beautiful ways!