They say experience is the best teacher in life. We say that travel is our favorite class! Even Euripedes said that “Experience, travel– these are an education in themselves.” Well, you can’t argue with Euripedes!
I’ve been out and about for the past few years, exploring the Philippines, and some other parts of the world. From Luzon to Visayas to Mindanao, I’ve been blessed with the opportunities to explore India, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Japan, USA, and Germany over the past 2 years!
Some days, I slept on a luxurious bed in a five-star hotel, other days, I fought off bed bugs on a hostel bed. Long bus rides up the winding roads of the Cordilleras somehow turned into the subway of New York, and then one day, it turned into a train from Mumbai to Aurangabhad in Central India.
No matter how sure I was of where I was going, or how extremely lost in translation I felt, each moment felt like a new beginning. As I traced my steps back though my different journeys, I realized the things that changed in the way I think and do things.
Here are a few of my favorite ones:
Lesson 1: SIMPLIFY YOUR LIFE.
Take only what’s important, and absolutely necessary. One day, I realized that I was taking too many things that I hardly ever used during my trip. Most of the time, they pretty much just weighed me down and made my luggage even heavier. Not to mention the wasted baggage allowance (that could have been used for chocolates and pasalubong!).
The best way to counter this is to narrow down your must-haves into a small backpack that you can take with you anywhere. You know, the things that you know you can’t live without. If you think that you’ll end up leaving it in your room most of the time anyway, leave it. You’ll probably end up not using it at all anyway.
In a way, I’ve learned to do the same with my life. Suddenly, my closet and room became less cluttered, and my schedule had time for spending with the people I love. My everyday schedule became my backpack, and the space in it I’ve learned to save only for the things and people that truly matter to me.
Lesson 2: YOUR COMFORT ZONE ENDS WHERE YOU LET IT.
Clifton Fadiman said: “When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.”
They say your comfort zone is the limit of your growth. In truth, you are the only one that can dictate how far it can go. The beauty of taking yourself out of it, is that it forces you to extend it.
Traveling is a way that challenges you that does just this. Trip after trip, I found myself going on more difficult adventures, and I always ended up thanking myself for taking up the challenge. Each time, I got better at dealing with different situations, and eventually, I could take up even better challenges.
Lesson 3: WALKING WILL ALWAYS LEAD YOU TO SOMETHING A CAR CAN’T.
Take your time and soak it all in. Little discoveries lead to great stories! Some of the best experiences we are those that we simply stumble upon. I’m an advocate of always have a plan…A, B, C….Z, but it’s always good to leave room for some misadventures.
On my first day in New York, I walked from the site of the World Trade Center all the way to Central Park. It was not my intention. I was simply awestruck by the beauty of the city. I just kept hopping one spot to the next, checking out whatever caught my eye. The next thing I knew, I was already by the park, and I happily smiled as I tried to identify spots that I recognized from watching Gossip Girl.
In Hyderabad, my boyfriend and I could have easily taken a taxi everywhere. It was affordable enough to use it, even on a tiny budget. Yet if we didn’t choose to walk, we wouldn’t have been able to come by a stall where a man was freshly cooking up a new batch of chai tea, our favorite tea. We watched as he put in fresh spices, and let the aroma fill up the street. Because he finally got to watch a real local doing it, my boyfriend found out what it takes to make chai tea. Therefore, I can now enjoy fresh chai tea whenever he feels like making a batch! Yay!
Lesson 4: THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME.
“People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home.” -Dagobert D. Runes
It’s normal to get desensitized to our own surroundings. Heck, we go to far away places to “experience culture”, often without having actually taken note of our own. It’s normal. We live in our own bubbles, wherein we’ve settled into our routine and identified our “familiar”. We wake up, get on with our commute, brave EDSA, if needed, then go off into our offices or schools, and work. We clock out, turn off our laptops, and gaze into our phones, as we make our way to a dinner, a meet up, or a cup of coffee at our regular spot. At the end of the day, we go back to our homes, settle in. Go to sleep. Repeat.
Yet when we travel someplace distant, we marvel at the lives of other people. We feel as if we’ve gotten a glimpse of “the other side”. When, in fact, “the other side” was right in front of us to begin with. Exploring other paths made me appreciate my familiar surroundings. The hustle and bustle of the streets of Manila, the food that you get on the street, whether from a fishball or fruit stand, or a jolly jeep by the road. Suddenly, I woke up to the streets I tread on a daily basis, and began to really look at the people around me. In a way, I grew to love my home and the people in it even more. Rowdy jeepney drivers and DBD vendors and all. You simply won’t get them anywhere else.
These are only four of the lessons I’ve learn from my life on the road so far. There are a lot more. I’d love to hear what you’ve learn on your own adventures, so please feel free to write a comment on this post!
April is the Head Explorer and co-founder of FlipTrip. Often referred to as a walking Philippine travel and tourism encyclopedia, she is also the soul behind FlipTrip. A true adventurer at heart, she has been passionate about tourism since she could remember.