14 Lessons Learned Traveling

Traveling always gives me time to reflect and sheds a new perspective on life at home. With this in mind, here are some lessons learned and general thoughts from traveling.
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Woman traveling by boat at sunset among the islands.
Woman traveling by boat at sunset among the islands.

Over the last few years in particular I've been lucky enough to travel to some pretty amazing locations.

Meeting a partner that has the travel bug (and has awoken it in me) means that travel is a priority in our life. The more we do, the more we want to do.

Traveling always gives me time to reflect and sheds a new perspective on life at home. With this in mind, here are some lessons learned and general thoughts from traveling.

1) Don't Over Plan
For most of our trips we do some research and have a long list of ideas of what we think we want to do before going. However, some of this is must do and some of it is it might be nice to do. This leads to a degree of flexibility where we don't feel tied to a set schedule.

Personally I don't like my trips to be like military operations so a little planning is fine but not too much.

2) Explore
Part of the allure of travel is exploring and stumbling upon some interesting finds. Having a guidebook along for the ride is fine but it is a guidebook not necessarily a "I must tick off everything in the book and not go anywhere not mentioned" book.

3) Walk, Walk and Walk Some More
Closely aligned to number two is walking. It's our preferred mode of transport when possible and we'll often spend days walking and exploring various parts of where we are.

Walking can lead to some interesting discoveries along the way. An example would be stumbling into an incredible tea and coffee house in Hoi An, Vietnam (Reaching Out Teahouse) that is run and staffed by hearing and speech impaired employees. It was the most amazing, tranquil place to have a coffee and just sit for a while.

How much we walk really hits home when others with us mention how much walking they've done in a particular day or complain of sore feet. It's also probably a reason why we love New York so much as a destination that we return to often.

4) Pack Light
I must admit, we don't always! We could quite comfortably leave some of what we take at home and pack more selectively. A few of my packed clothes never saw the light of day on our latest trip!

The lesson, you don't need as much as you think so pack lighter. I know I will be trying to next time.

5) We Have a Lot to be Thankful For
Traveling, especially in less developed parts of the world, helps give us fresh perspective on how truly blessed we are in many areas of our lives. It's easy to lose sight of this at times (I know I do).

If you know where your next meal is coming from and that you have a roof over your head for the night that is considered rich in some parts of the world! It's a sobering thought.

Life could and would be a lot tougher had we been born in a different part of the world.

6) Less Can Be More
It might sound clichéd but there's a whole lot we think we need that we really don't.

Traveling to some parts of the world highlights how hard life is for some. However, it also highlights how people in these countries focus completely on the important (food, shelter, time to sit with family and friends, being of service to those around and the community).

These people do not have the luxury of too much time on their hands being able to distract themselves with stuff that doesn't matter. They understand what is important to them and just focus on that.

Life after all is not all about having the latest 3D TV in your living room or latest smartphone.

7) Cultural Differences
What you think is displaying good manners is not necessarily in some parts of the world. Equally, what you perceive to be rudeness might not be considered so where you are.

We are the ones traveling so it would be a little redundant expecting everyone to behave in a way we are used to.

This area is definitely worth a little groundwork pre-trip depending on where you plan to go.

8) Eating Well Doesn't Have to be Expensive
The local and street food on offer on our travels is often pretty amazing and diverse. Some of the very best meals we have on the road are either home cooked or from basic restaurants offering amazing food at very affordable prices.

Examples would be the most amazing vegetable curries served on banana leaf in Kuala Lumpur or food from the many market stalls on a Friday night in Bhoput, Koh Sumui. Inexpensive and all very tasty.

9) Pack Healthy Snacks for Long Flights
I am not a fan of food on planes. My solution is to now request fruit platter meals for the flight itself and pack a few healthy snacks (unsalted nuts and/or some sort of bars full of quality, natural, pressed ingredients). Occasionally I'll also just water fast.

I feel a lot better for this change post flight and I'm sure you will as well if you give it a go.

10) A Few Key Phrases Can Serve You Well
At the bare minimum, being able to say hello, please and thank you with a smile on your face in the local language can serve you well and mean others are more receptive to helping you.

This is where your guidebook can help.

11) Get Your Exercise In
During our trips we use a combination of hotel gyms, playground bars (for chin ups), beach sprints, long walks, swimming and some mobility and stretching drills along the way.

Exercise doesn't all have to be done in the gym or require extra equipment (your body is after all a walking dumbbell).

If you're on the move you can still get some quality work done and it doesn't need to eat into your day. Make it part of the day.

12) It's Nice to Come Home
I often feel I could spend a bit or a lot longer wherever I am. Wanting to spend longer or wanting to return is the sign of a good trip after all.

However, there is also a part of me that enjoys coming back home to family, friends and the many creature comforts of home life. Even the routine of home life can be missed after a while.

13) Travel Broadens the Mind
Travel gives us fresh perspective on our own lives, goals, hopes and ambitions. It can refresh tired thinking.

14) It's Nice To Plan the Next Trip
The more you travel the more you want to travel. That's certainly my experience.

There's a long list of places on our travel wish list that keep getting added to after we return from a trip or have travelled somewhere new.

Planning or just thinking about the next adventure is all part of the fun.

Note: This is a reworked and refreshed version of a much earlier post on my site Frictionless Living

Carl is the proud owner of Frictionless Living which is focused on helping readers live a simpler and more personally satisfying life. He is also the author of several books including A Short Guide to Living Well, 22 Ways to Simpler Living and Frictionless Email. To read more and/or contact him go to his site.

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