What makes a good traveler? Well, there are a myriad of personal characteristics and ideals that every good traveler hopes to embody. Travel is the ultimate educator. Travel changes you. Travel forces you into some uncomfortable situations that are invariably a catalyst for growth. Traveling extensively will not only change the way you see the world but also the way you see yourself and your immediate world. This list could be 100 items long, but we wanted to focus on 10 things that traveling teaches you. Perhaps we will build a series and share more and more things we have learned from our travels.
If you read the list below and you think that you’re reading a list of your qualities, well, good for you! The very best of travelers are individuals who epitomize these attributes. If you feel you lack in some areas, well, travel! Travel long enough and far enough, and the journey will teach you innumerable life lessons and will transform you into a better person, a better friend, and a better global citizen.
“Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life — and travel — leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks — on your body or on your heart — are beautiful. Often though, they hurt.”
The best travelers are infinitely curious and even the most novice travelers have to partly curious to undertake a new journey. The more we learn and the more we encounter on the road, the more curious we become. Curiosity fuels further curiosity. Any time we experience a new culture, try new food, make new friends, we are immediately inspired to go farther, learn more, try more things, etc. Put simply, the more you learn, the more you want to know.
Travel will rid you of prejudice if you still have any. We firmly believe that travel is a force for good. Sure, travel is often seen as a luxury and is often about an escape from reality, but sometimes that escape from reality is exactly what is needed. If your reality is a bubble and you spend your life fearing others for their differences, travel is exactly what you need. If you grew up in a community that is still relatively backward and had prejudice views forced on you, travel will eradicate that hate. Hate isn’t innate. It must be taught.
You’ll also become more tolerant of other predicaments in life. Maybe you’re rich and you’ve always been rich and you don’t understand why poor people don’t just get a better job and become wealthy. Travel to the right places and you’ll see poverty like you’ve never imagined. You’ll better understand the circumstances that contribute to these situations. You’ll become more compassionate and tolerant because you’ll understand better. Any opportunity we have to walk in someone’s shoes or eat someone’s food is a learning experience – and a rich one at that.
With your newly found curiosity (as we noted above in #1) you’ll instinctively seek more adventure. This adventure doesn’t have to be on the road either – you’ll be inspired to seek more adventure at home. Sitting on the couch and playing video games will be less exciting. Living in a virtual world on your TV, computer, or phone will be less exciting. Having experienced real, vibrant, life, you’ll be compelled to seek adventure; even in your own backyard. Whether you start hiking more and want to find all of the best hikes in Southern California or whether you want to take up new hobbies like yoga, surfing, sports, etc., you’re going to be fueled by adventure. If you’re anything like us, you’ll be hooked on the adrenaline and in constant search of adventure.
Maybe you’ll skydive, or maybe you’ll learn to love a stranger. Maybe you’ll no longer fear small bugs, or maybe you’ll be comfortable walking down an urban street alone at night. Fears come in many different shapes and sizes, but they all tend to stem from ignorance or innate survival instincts. We generally fear because we are ignorant of reality. Some fears are completely justified, but others are baseless. We are so constantly surrounded by fear because the media loves to fear monger in order to garner ratings and to make you think they are the oracle of truth. The world is NOT a dangerous, scary, place filled with mean people who want to hurt you. It is filled with loving, caring, benevolent people who want to meet you and be your friend. The kindest and most benevolent people we have met in our lives are the poorest and most destitute in 3rd world countries. When you have nothing else, you put your value in what matters – family, love, happiness, smiling, friendship. At the end of the day, everyone wants the same thing. Hate is a simply a derivative of fear. Understand that and you can reverse engineer both fear and hate.
Delayed flights, canceled trains, communication challenges, slower pace of life…
It is easy to spot someone who hasn’t traveled extensively. Travel rookies usually look angry, confused, and discontent. We get so accustomed to a particular way of life at home and we are so trained to think that anything that challenges that way of life is simply wrong. Travel far enough and long enough and you’ll encounter enough “frustrating” situations that they’ll no longer be frustrating. You’ll deal with canceled trains and delayed flights. You’ll get lost. You’ll fail to communicate with locals. You’ll have something stolen. You’ll get hurt. You’ll experience all of these things and then learn to let go. You’ll realize that 90% of what happens to you is out of your control, and you’ll become patient.
We travel so frequently and have moved so many times that we hardly have any furniture or decorations in our home. There are MAYBE 4 things on our walls (in the entire apartment). The only thing on our walls in the living room is a National Geographic push pin map that shows all of the countries we have traveled to and our TV. We don’t have cable. We don’t have a lot of the unnecessary decor items that most people “need” in their homes. We have the basics. We have what we need (and honestly even more than we need). Even in our minimal-ish state, there is work to be done. Next time we move, we are going to do some cleaning and get rid of even more of the stuff that just sits in the closets waiting for that arbitrary day where it “might get used.”
Travel with heavy suitcases full of shit you don’t need a few times and you’ll find yourself stuffing everything into a backpack. It is far easier to stay in an Airbnb with a washer and dryer or to visit a local laundromat than to lug around 40 KG of clothes you’re not going to wear. Keep it simple. Bring 1 pair of pants, 1 pair of shorts, and then a bunch of shirts.
It is VERY easy to forget how big this world truly is. We live in bubbles. Until you travel around this beautiful planet, it is hard to feel connected with it. We get it. When you’re stuck in that bubble at home, it’s hard to care about what is happening on the other side of the world. When you’re safe, it is hard to care that others live in danger. When you have food, you easily neglect those who are hungry. When you don’t see the environmental impact of say, your plastic straws, it is easier to make poor environmental decisions.
But when you pop the bubble and venture into the world, you realize that we are one big family. Earth is one giant, living, body, and everything is connected. Sure, you should be patriotic and proud of your city, state, country, continent, etc. but more importantly, you should consider yourself of the world. Travel will teach you that we aren’t enemies, we are family members in a dysfunctional family. We just need to understand one another better and practice love.
Travel, especially solo travel, will teach almost FORCE you to be social. When you’re halfway around the world (and alone) you’re going to need some form of human interaction. We thrive on making new friends, talking to strangers, and using opportunities like this to learn and to understand what someone else’s life and world are truly like. Travel will break down your walls, eliminate your shyness, and make you extremely extroverted.
Wait…what? “You guys just said travel would make us extroverted….” Yes, we did. But travel will also make you introverted. Things like 14-hour flights, quiet hotel rooms (when you travel solo), countries that don’t speak your language, and 13-hour layovers will make you introverted. If you don’t already love reading, you will begin to. If you don’t love the company you keep when you’re alone, you’ll learn to love yourself. Travel has a way of forcing one to be dually equipped for situations that require both extroversions as well as introversion.
It doesn’t matter how many books you read – you’ll never learn the history of the world in a book like you’ll learn it from traveling. Travel is the ultimate educator. Sure, a book can tell you the history of the Michelangelo, but it can’t tell you what it feels like to stand in the Vatican and creak your neck as you lose yourself in the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. You can probably learn every fact there is to learn about Florence’s history in the leather trade, but no book can tell you what it smells like in the Florence leather market.
Intelligence is powerful, but wisdom is the proper application of that intelligence. Memorizing dates and historical facts doesn’t make one a historian. Travel gives you an opportunity to learn the history of the world through museums, local people, food, culture, and all of the intangible things that have survived the test of time.
If you enjoyed this blog, check out our blog on why couples should travel together before marriage.