Traveling experience is so much more than crossing places off your bucket list. There is an endless multitude of powerful life lessons to learn when visiting other countries. You bravely open yourself up to new experiences, getting to know the people and the culture of each new place you explore – and then you suddenly realize that you return home, not only with bucket loads of colorful memories but a lot of new skills too.
At a young age, I felt pulled to travel. Early on I sensed the profound lessons that existed beyond my front door. To my adventurous heart, the lessons required flying through the clouds to learn them. I was like a child in a candy store, admiring the world in wide-eyed anticipation.
Over the past eight years, I have traveled to six countries on three different continents: Peru, Thailand, Canada, Honduras, India, and Guatemala. Without a doubt, it is from my travels where some of the greatest lessons I have learned were born.
1. Make the most of the “-” in between your birth and death dates
While in Guatemala, I stumbled upon a cafe where I met the owner – a gentleman with amazing energy and insight. As I sat at the bar top and sipped my latte, I asked him how his journey led him to open a cafe in a small town in Guatemala. It’s a story that would continue to stick with me several years after.
At 21 years old, he was paralyzed after a motorcycle accident and was told he would never walk again. Clearly, he beat those odds, and in the midst of his recovery, he saw with clarity just how precious this one life is. Sometime after, he and his family gathered in a van and headed toward Central America where they eventually started the cafe I was sitting at.
“The greatest thing I learned from that experience,” he told me, “Is to make the most of the space in between your birth and death dates.” As he shared this I imagined my own tombstone with a space between two dates. I wondered to myself: how would I choose to fill that space; what stories would connect the dates together?
2. Life is just as rich whether you’re alone or with someone else
Half of the countries I have visited, I did so alone. Both my solo travels and the trips I’ve taken with others have come with invaluable lessons and memories. Neither is better than the other, but they certainly differ from each other.
In solitude, I have the opportunity to explore a space within myself that’s inaccessible when I’m with others. In that space, I have found an abundance of often overlooked treasures. In those moments, falling in love doesn’t involve another person. It’s instead a romance with life itself where I’m married to wonder and enamored by the journey.
Just like every little thing in life glows with a new hue of beauty when in love, so too does everything shine in a unique way when you find yourself exploring this incredible life with the soles of your own two feet.
3. Everything ends whether we hide or expose ourselves, so why not take a risk?
I have taken my fair share of risks while traveling: catching a ride on a local man’s motorcycle in Guatemala, bungee jumping in Thailand, catching rickshaws in India, and trekking 50 miles alone through the Andes Mountains.
Traveling is inherently risky, just as life itself is. To simply live requires risk. Many of my greatest experiences are those that asked me to say “yes,” unaware of where the answer would lead me.
Though I try to follow my intuition and make cautious decisions while traveling, the results of the risky decisions I’ve made were unpredictable back in the moment. I could’ve easily found myself in a bad situation in moments that thankfully ended up being liberating, not harmful.
But regardless of the outcome, what I’ve come to realize is that whether I hide in my house or take a leap, my life will one day come to an end, and I’d rather it ends while I’m in the depths of experiencing it than in the depths of my fear of it.
4. Experiences are far more important than material objects
There will be a day when nearly everything I currently own will be in the hands of someone else because material objects are difficult to move from place to place. Over the span of many years, I will get rid of things and buy new ones. Therefore, the money I spend on objects doesn’t really produce a tangible, lifelong outcome.
The money I invest in traveling, however, produces results that stay with me permanently: experiences and memories. What’s more, those experiences have a positive impact on who I am, unlike material objects.
You, nor I, need an overflowing wallet to invest in experiences, which are far more meaningful than material objects. You only need to prioritize where you spend your money and ask yourself a very important question: what is more meaningful to you?
5. You don’t have to travel to enjoy the pure pleasure of existence
Though my travels are near and dear to my heart, I’ve found equal richness in the everyday experiences of life. In the moments I’ve felt most inspired while traveling, it’s because I was simply present to what I was experiencing in the moment.
What follows me everywhere – no matter if I’m home or thousands of miles away – is a moment to be mindful of life’s everyday treasures.
Every morning I wake to a group of birds singing a symphony outside my house.
Every week I have opportunities to spend time with those I love.
Every day is a chance to appreciate the countless beauties of life.
Life is best experienced in the moment, whether you’re where you are now or on the opposite side of the world. I hope you seize the day, regardless of where it leads.