The Top Things Travel Taught Me

top travel lessons
Lexington Ave. in New York City. NYC is where I learned some of my top travel lessons.

My Top Travel Lessons (So Far!)

As a frequent traveller, I can hardly imagine my life being any other way. People usually say that travel is an enriching experience. And as much as I’ve impulsively booked flights (once only 19 hours before takeoff), I’ve never regretted buying those tickets and jetting off. Not just because of the things I got to see and do, but also because of how travel has shaped the way I see the world.

Here are some of my top travel takeaways, and those of 3 fellow bloggers.

Travel teaches you to not sweat the small stuff.

My hometown of Montreal, Canada.

I started traveling solo when I was 18. The first trip I took was to New York City and pretty much every logistical detail went wrong. I took the night bus from Montreal, and got stuck at the US border for 4 hours, because someone on the bus didn’t have a visa. Once in town, I took the subway in the wrong direction and emerged, completely lost, at Columbus Circle, where I had to grab a cab.

When I got to the hotel, there was no record of my reservation – fortunately, they had a spare room. To top it all off, my flight home was cancelled, and I had to spend the night at La Guardia. I remember this cold, sheer panic seep through me. And sobbing somewhat uncontrollably on the phone to my mom.

But through all the chaos in my sheltered, 18-year-old mind, I learned something. Nothing was actually terrible wrong. I had the time of my life in New York that weekend, and I had a story to tell.

A few years later, I was boarding a flight in Melbourne, Australia. I overheard the woman in front of me say, “as long as you have your passport and credit cards, everything will be okay”. No truer travel advice was ever given. Don’t sweat the details, or the delays. You’re in it for the adventure! As long as you have your passport! This was one of the first top travel lessons I learned.

top travel lessons
One of the gorgeous beaches at the start of the Great Ocean Road, near Melbourne, Australia.

Travel teaches you your limits.

More recently, I figured out that I’m not a budget traveller. I like a good deal as much as the next person. But if I’m going to see a new city, I want to do it in conditions that are comparable to those I have at home. Or better ones, because I’m on holiday.

In an attempt to budget, I cancelled a hotel reservation for a weekend in Amsterdam and booked a hostel instead. But when I got to the hostel, I had minor panic attack (if you know me, you know I’m a total princess). I was forced to confront the fact that I wouldn’t be comfortable in a 4-bed dorm in a hostel without working internet in the Red Light District.

Of course, at that point, most hotels were booked so I ended up spending much more that I initially would have. I should have just kept my original reservation. This being said, I absolutely adored my stay in Amsterdam. And my time at the gorgeous Hilton overlooking the water was an integral part of that stay. I’m not a hostel person, but now that I know that, I can plan accordingly.

Beautiful streets of Amsterdam’s Prinseneiland.

Travel as a window to human nature.

While travelling, I’ve met the kindest, most selfless people. I’ve also met the worst. As an expat in Germany, complete strangers have helped me in more ways than I could have imagined.

A few months ago, it was getting really cold in Berlin, and I knew I would need my Canadian winter coat. So I posted an ad on an expat group, asking if anyone was travelling to my hometown and could bring it back. Sure enough, I got a response from a kind stranger, my coat, and a new friend.

On the flip side, when you’re not on your home turf, you’ve got to look out for scams that you might be more likely to spot in a familiar setting. Someone I know recently lent money to a stranger while traveling together. Then the stranger disappeared without a trace, even from social media. While these things can happen at home, the transient nature of travel makes it harder to hold people accountable.

Classic shot of the Brandenburger Gate in Berlin.

Top travel lessons from fellow bloggers

I was curious and asked other bloggers what their top travel lessons were. Here are some of the responses.

Mental preparation is everything.

“Prepare yourself as much as possible for the emotional aspects of your trip; culture shock, language barrier, lack of Internet service and being away from home and everything familiar for a long time. The mental preparation can help make the trip’s inevitable bumps smoother,” says Ella from Wide-Eyed Wanderer.

Travel and planning go hand-in-hand.

“Travel has taught me about currencies, how to compute the standard of living in a country and then set the budget for my travel. It has taught me to be shrewd when it comes to finding out where I am staying, what I am eating, how I will be getting from one place to another,” says Alyssa of Liz on Top of the World.

You understand yourself and your own culture better.

“Travel helps us learn so much about ourselves and our own culture, how differently we can act or think, but at the same time how we are all strangely similar. Travel lets us take a critical look at who we are, while making us better people,” says An Expat Diary‘s Alessandra.

What did you learn about yourself or the world by travelling? Share your top travel lessons in the comments!

15 comments Add yours
  1. Love this! I totally agree with all of these, but I think the interesting thing about “Travel teaches you your own limits” is that it can also work in the opposite way.

    I’ve found that often when I travel, I learn that my limits are not where I think they are. Being pushed out of your comfort zone and past your usual boundaries, you often discover you’re capable of much more than you realize!

  2. Trutth to all! When I was in India looking for a phone, a stranger saw my post online and sent me one without asking for anything in return. Best part about traveling solo is how it pushes you completely outta your comfort zone to meet people, love it!

  3. This is definitely true! Travel definitely broadens your mind and helps you mature. I am definitely more independent and I find that my blog posts appreciate travel differently compared to when I used to travel when I was 18. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  4. Sensible advice. The woman’s comment about passport and credit cards is awesome and so right 🙂
    Yes, even I faced such situations…delays, hotel cancellations and all…but at the end the experience taught me to be strong at all times. Added more fun to life 🙂 I learnt to ‘expect the unexpected’ 😉

  5. Some many people are put off travelling because they think it’s really complicated, but I love what you overheard about the passports and credit cards being the only necessary things, so very true!

  6. Couldn’t agree with all of these more. Sometimes people turn out to be incredibly kind, and sometimes you just need to listen to your gut. By the way, your first trip abroad sounded quite decent though haha, I think at everyones first solo trip was a bit of a challenge, but one that we happily took.

  7. These are great tips. I totally agree that travel teaches you not to sweat the small stuff. Even at home, things that once bothered me seem to roll off me now as I know, in the grand scheme of things, they are not important!

  8. Such valuable info here from the greatest teacher of all : experience !

    Thanks for sharing and happy travels to you !

    My top lessons ? Always have the essentials for two to three days in your carry on baggage, have contact info inside your checked baggage, carry copies of travel documents separately from the originals and finally don’t put all of your cash or credit cards in the same place !

  9. Couldn’t agree more on the ‘all you need is your passport and credit cards’ statement.

    I also do not enjoy low budget travel/ accommodation, but I think it also really depends if you are traveling in company or solo. I think in the end as a solo traveler I am bound to spend a little more time in the hotel than when I am traveling with someone else. Obviously a great hotel is always the nicer choice, but if it does end up being not as nice as expected it is more bearable when in company. On my first longer solo trip last year (3 weeks) around South East Asia I made a point of researching the hotels I stayed at really well. And it paid off. I loved every single one I chose and would go back to stay at them in a heartbeat…

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