A Time to Reflect – Six Things I Learnt While Travelling

I’ve been putting off this post for the last three weeks….you know the post about how it feels to be home after you’ve spent near to ten months travelling the world. The truth is I’ve been in complete denial that my feet are now firmly back on English soil and quite frankly the reality of coming home has been quite the emotional rollercoaster. That’s right…..the travel-blues suck big time.

Of course catching up with friends and family after such a long time away is always good fun, and getting back into my career again and being able to earn some money is obviously a big bonus too. But while I’m slowly, slowly getting back to “reality”, I can’t help but feel this overwhelming sadness about it all coming to an end (at least for now anyway!).

But then it occurred to me…if I had come home not feeling this way, then it would have meant I’d taken this whole experience completely for granted and that I had learnt nothing from it. And that is not what I set out to do when I made the decision a year ago to leave my life here and hit the road.

So what have I learnt from this experience? Probably the biggest thing is that travel is one of the most enriching experiences a person can have. A year ago I was absolutely terrified about taking the plunge into the unknown, but getting out my comfort zone was probably one of the best things I ever decided to do. And while it may sound overly clichéd to say this – travel really does teach you things about yourself (the good, the bad and the ugly!) and the world that you would have otherwise never learned.

So here’s just a few of those life lessons I learnt along the way…

You can survive on a lot less than you think

I remember in one of my first ever posts, the turmoil I put myself through when deciding what to take with me. But after a couple of months, I soon realised that I didn’t need half of the stuff I had packed!  When you have to carry your life on your back like a turtle, you quickly learn the difference between what would be nice to have and what you can’t live without. You do not NEED a travel hairdryer in the depths of the jungle – trees and monkeys quite frankly don’t give a shit about your hair. Prioritising is a great life lesson to learn, and one that travel has taught me well.

You learn to be more adventurous

Skydiving in New Zealand

Skydiving in New Zealand; snorkelling with sharks in Fiji; camping in the wilderness of the Serengeti; motorcycling the busy streets of Vietnam; skinny-dipping in the Zanzibar ocean – these were all things I would never have imagined myself doing a year ago. I was raised to be a sensible and responsible girl, and was (by my own admission) the biggest scaredy cat/control freak I knew. But when you travel, you find your mind opens up to new experiences and you learn to be a bit more spontaneous. Suddenly you have the chance to try out new things that you may never get the opportunity to do again and saying “yes” rather than “no” gets easier.

You gain a new perspective

Volunteering at Newlands School and Orphanage in Tanzania

When you travel to new countries, you see first-hand just how different things are compared to your own country and culture. While volunteering in Tanzania, I had one of the biggest culture shocks of my life. It’s one thing seeing TV ad campaigns showing the poverty some African communities live in, but it’s another thing witnessing it with your own eyes.

While I was fully aware of the emotional challenges I may face when volunteering, what I didn’t expect was how it would not only make me appreciate how fortunate we really are, but how it would also begin to make me re-evaluate what’s important in my life. When you spend enough time with people who are actually living on next to nothing, but still lead happy lives, you realise that as long as you’re not living on the street or going hungry, you don’t “need” all the money in the world or the best-of-the-best possessions to have a fulfilling life. As they say, some of the best things in life are free (and for everything else, it’s way cheaper than you think).

The world is a wonderful place with wonderful people

A Time to Reflect - Six Things I Learnt From Travel

On the road you get to meet so many amazing people, both backpackers and locals, from all different walks of life. One thing I found is that most of the time you will learn someone’s life story before you even know their name. Because relationships are so transient while travelling, I feel people tend to cut through the tedious crap and be a lot more open about who they are. And while travelling long-term inevitably means having to say lots of sad goodbyes, occasionally you will meet people who you form strong friendships with, and things like distance and time won’t matter. One of the best things about travel is meeting new people, getting to know them and sharing memorable moments with them. As someone once said, “a journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles” and I certainly believe this to be true.

You’re more adaptable than you think

Six Things I Learnt from Travelling

There are occasions while travelling where you are likely to feel uncomfortable. Like the time you had to sleep on a hard wooden bench surrounded by cockroaches and rats while travelling third class in a train across Thailand for 15 hours. Or the time you got completely lost in the middle of nowhere and had to trust an elderly Vietnamese man to show you the way. Or the time you got food poisoning in the jungle and had to sleep next to not the most hygienic of toilets in a bamboo hut (with god knows what other creepy crawlys lurking around). The list goes on…and on. But the point is you find ways to cope with these situations a lot better than you think you would – because you have no choice but to!

“Hakuna Matata – what a wonderful phrase!”

Six Things I Learnt from Travelling

It means “no worries” for the rest of your days – as once quoted in the Lion King. “Hakuna Matata” or “Hamna Shida” (which basically means the same thing) were Swahili phrases I picked up during my time in Tanzania, and the reason I love them so much is because I feel that they encompass probably one of the biggest life lessons I learnt.

As I’ve touched on before, I was something of a big fret-head and it always used to frustrate my friends how much I would overthink practically everything. But when you’re travelling you also begin to realise that there are much bigger things in this world worth worrying over, and life’s little complaints are a lot more manageable than you think. There’s only so much in life that you can control, and things rarely turn out how you plan them to…so roll with the punches and everything will eventually fall into place. Keeping a calm head can make dealing with stressful situations (which happen a lot while backpacking!) much easier to handle.

Have you recently come back from a trip? What were the biggest things you learnt from travelling? 

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33 Comments

  • Reply
    Ed velasco
    August 7, 2015 at 12:35 pm

    Fantastic post. Love the ‘roll with the punches’. That was my exact Moto whilst travelling and it continues to be in life! Makes me miss it again tho x

    • Reply
      no0dle5
      August 7, 2015 at 12:41 pm

      thanks 🙂 always great to hear feedback!

  • Reply
    seedoconquer
    August 7, 2015 at 1:32 pm

    I absolutely love this blog post. My husband and I just welcomed out first baby so I’ve swapped my passport for burp cloths and while becoming a mom is my greatest achievement ever, I’d be lying if I said I don’t miss what adventure is waiting around the bend. I can relate to your melancholy of returning home because there is something so freeing about being on the road.

  • Reply
    Swapping a passport for burp cloths | See. Do. Conquer.
    August 7, 2015 at 3:25 pm

    […] it would be and more – the good, bad and ugly of being on the road, as my fellow blogger Noodles […]

  • Reply
    Julie
    August 7, 2015 at 9:20 pm

    Another great read x

  • Reply
    Love to Wanderlust
    August 26, 2015 at 11:09 am

    Love this! so inspirational

    • Reply
      Nikki
      August 26, 2015 at 11:29 am

      Thank you 🙂

  • Reply
    kellygrady
    October 26, 2015 at 7:59 pm

    I hope I’m as gutsy and open to experiences when I study abroad as you sound like you’ve been! incredible! (especially the skydiving–that’s on my bucket list)

    • Reply
      whereisnoodles
      October 26, 2015 at 9:31 pm

      Haha thank you! I was totally petrified but it was worth it 🙂

  • Reply
    jennsutherlandmiller
    November 4, 2015 at 10:01 pm

    Love it! This is great! I have a feeling you’ll be out there again before long… “for now…” giggle. Well done for making your trip happen, for learning all you’ve learned and for sharing it with the Indie Travel Challenge! Expect to be quoted in this Friday’s round up on BootsnAll!

    • Reply
      whereisnoodles
      November 5, 2015 at 11:48 am

      Thank you Jenn! I think your feeling could be right! The travel bug never goes as they say! I look forward to seeing it quoted on BootsnAll! 🙂

  • Reply
    Sally E
    November 5, 2015 at 9:12 pm

    So accurate! I feel like I become the best version of myself when I travel and these reasons hit the nail on the head. Great post!

    • Reply
      whereisnoodles
      November 5, 2015 at 10:27 pm

      Thank Sally, I definitely feel that way too when I’m on the road!

  • Reply
    Indie Travel Challenge Roundup: Why You Travel, What You’ve Learned & Going Local! | BootsnAll
    November 6, 2015 at 8:04 am

    […] Nikki, Where is Noodles? […]

  • Reply
    Nuraini tripovo
    December 22, 2015 at 3:05 am

    So true! I am so agree with that phrase where it actually give us a new perspective. Once we traveled to a place, our perspective change based on how we experienced it, no more from what we heard going around with no solid facts. 🙂

  • Reply
    Heather
    March 10, 2016 at 1:12 pm

    All spot on! Travel brings out the best in some of us 🙂

  • Reply
    Scott
    March 10, 2016 at 1:18 pm

    Fantastic insights. More proof that the second layer of travel is the one past the things you see.

    • Reply
      whereisnoodles
      March 10, 2016 at 8:21 pm

      Thanks Scott…glad you agree! For me it has always been more about the experiences that come with travel 🙂

  • Reply
    Kevin Wagar
    March 10, 2016 at 5:57 pm

    I couldn’t agree more with your thoughts on this. Travel has a way to break you apart from your insecurities and open you up to the world.

    • Reply
      whereisnoodles
      March 10, 2016 at 8:25 pm

      It certainly does! Glad you think so too! Thanks for reading 🙂

  • Reply
    Rob Taylor
    March 10, 2016 at 8:03 pm

    I agree that being adaptable was one of the first things I learned when I started traveling as an adult. And now traveling with kids, that’s the most important thing to know how to be.

    • Reply
      whereisnoodles
      March 10, 2016 at 8:23 pm

      I can imagine with children on board you have to be even more adaptable! And I’m sure they will learn a hell of a lot from it all too.

  • Reply
    Patricia - Ze Wandering Frogs
    March 10, 2016 at 9:35 pm

    Great post, can relate to so many points! And love “Hakuna Matata”, should try to apply every day!

    • Reply
      whereisnoodles
      March 10, 2016 at 9:53 pm

      Haha I do try to make this my motto to everyday life!

  • Reply
    Crazy Travelista
    March 10, 2016 at 9:42 pm

    Totally agree on all of these! Especially the gaining a new perspective on life. I’m actually doing volunteer work in Tanzania (Zanzibar) this summer. I know its going to be such a great experience. Cant wait! It sounds like it was very rewarding for you 🙂

    • Reply
      whereisnoodles
      March 10, 2016 at 9:52 pm

      It was indeed! Zanzibar is so beautiful! I hope you enjoy your time there as much as I did. I am hoping to return sometime towards the end of this year! 🙂

  • Reply
    Tarah Vongbouthdy
    March 10, 2016 at 9:45 pm

    Yes! Love it! Traveling really teaches us so much about ourselves and others! Things happen that aren’t supposed to and sometimes its for the better!

    • Reply
      whereisnoodles
      March 10, 2016 at 9:55 pm

      Thanks! I think we learn and grow a lot when we are challenged! Something that inevitably comes with travel. Thanks for reading 🙂

  • Reply
    Taylor
    March 12, 2016 at 2:24 pm

    I agree with all of this! Especially the “stop saying yolo” part ahah

  • Reply
    Laia
    May 9, 2016 at 10:10 pm

    Great post, and completely agree!
    I traveled for 11 months last year, and I also learnt a lot about the world, about life and about myself.
    I also discovered that the world is full of nice and friendly people, and was touched by the hospitality I received from locals, and the smiles, and to see how they’re happy with simple things.
    The most important things I learnt were that in essence, people from different cultures are not so different from each other. We’re all human. I also learnt that I can do it, I can challenge myself and come out of my comfort zone and that helps me grow. And finally, I learnt I should follow my dreams.

  • Reply
    Francis
    May 12, 2016 at 11:21 pm

    Such a great post! The world is a wonderful place with wonderful people, I love to travel and see more of it 🙂

  • Reply
    Natalie
    June 20, 2016 at 9:26 pm

    I can 100% relate to this right now! Brilliant post 🙂 x

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