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8 Valuable Lessons I Learned From Traveling

8 Valuable Lessons I Learned From Traveling

I grew up in small town America, so I had never traveled outside the country until recently. I took an amazing trip to Costa Rica a few years ago to meet up with my college-aged daughter, who was finishing up a foreign study program.

Here’s a look at some of the lessons I came home with, after my initiation into the hectic world of traveling, as I wandered around in a foreign country for 10 days of sightseeing with my daughter. I admit that my experience was somewhat idealistic because I went to an American friendly country.

If you are planning a trip, be prepared for a new and exciting, yet unpredictable experience.

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Here are 8 valuable lessons I learned from traveling:

1. Expect the unexpected

The first and most important thing I learned from my experience was to expect the unexpected. You never know what is going to happen when you are traveling. When you are an inexperienced traveler, you are immediately thrown into a situation where you do not always know what to do. It’s easy to become anxious when you don’t know what is coming up next, but I learned to just be patient and let things unfold. For instance, you can be sure that things will never go as you planned them. Flights will be delayed, some of your luggage might get confiscated, or you might not know where your next meal is coming from. Be prepared financially for unexpected things, because you will probably spend more money than you planned on.

2. Relax and Have Fun

Experienced travelers learn very quickly to adapt to new situations and new environments. It may be easy to forget that you are there to relax and enjoy yourself.  Relaxation is one of the top benefits of travel.  Be sure to make time each day to just sit, take in the view and unwind from all your sightseeing activities. It can be exciting exploring new places and taking it all in.  I also recommend talking to as many people as you can, because you are thrown together with them (usually in the close quarters of a plane, train or bus). Just enjoy wherever you are, and take things in as they happen. Be open to meeting new people and having new experiences wherever you go. You will learn unexpected things that way. So, you might as well relax wherever you are, and have a good time, especially when things do not go as planned, like if you become stranded at a large airport for hours on end with nothing to do but wait.

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3. Learn to be spontaneous

Being spontaneous is an art that must be acquired. Not everyone can do it, so traveling is a good way to learn the skill. You will find yourself in new and changing situations with no predictable outcome. You will see things in other countries that you do not expect. Some things you will enjoy and others will make you uncomfortable. That is because you are thrown outside of your normal routine, so you are naturally out of your comfort zone, and completely away from all the people (or most) of the people you know and talk to everyday. When circumstances force you to change your plans, the best thing is just to go with the flow and do whatever seems logical. I guarantee that most days will be different than anything you can image ahead of time.

4. Enjoy new people

Being in new countries and around strangers all the time can be stressful and it will make you feel like you are on another planet. It can make you uncomfortable because you don’t know anyone. And, there might be barriers to communication, like when everyone around you speaks another language, that you do not know.

Here is where you must simply trust in people. Have faith that most people you meet will be pleasant to deal with. If you are in a country where Americans are treated well, you should be ok going anywhere. Your attitude is the most important thing when you meet new people. You may not be able to understand them, but there are ways to communicate that don’t require words. You will gain the most if you just show them respect as human beings. Learn how to enjoy being around new people and don’t be afraid to talk to them.

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    5. Live in the moment

    Most people are used to doing the same routine in their lives, day in and day out. We get used to our jobs, our friends, and our usual places that we go for fun. Traveling takes you away from all that. It throws you up on a beach like a fish out of water. But, this is a good thing. Why? Because it makes you feel more alive. You learn to trust your instincts in a new situation and allow yourself to just appreciate each moment for what it is. You take a deep breath by the sea, you walk barefoot on the beach, you see things you have never seen before and it wakes you up, as if the rest of your life was a dream. When you learn to be in the moment of right now, you are more aware of everything going on around you. You are more observant. You see and experience the newness of each day.

    6. Respect other cultures

    When you travel outside of your world and go to another country, you will notice right away the cultural differences. People might dress differently. They may do everyday things that you don’t expect. They might communicate in a language you don’t know and their lives may appear to be so unfamiliar to you. Here you learn to respect who people are. You see them and acknowledge that they live in a world apart from you, and you learn to be non-judgemental about them. You see them and it changes you on the inside. It makes you think about the world on a bigger scale. It makes you more aware of some of the ways that other people struggle in their lives.

    7. There is beauty in everything

    Traveling is fun. You see beauty in the most unexpected places. You never know what you will see next. This is exciting, and it changes you, making you more observant of everything going on around you. Here is where you gain so many valuable memories. You want to enjoy your trip, so you naturally do all you can do to make it a good experience. You take photographs of all the things you want to remember. It becomes almost an obsession to capture as much as you can about the places you visit. This is one of the most enjoyable things about traveling. You may even find that the way food is prepared and presented can be beautiful as well.

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      8. Appreciate the life you have

      One of the biggest lessons I learned from traveling is simply to appreciate the simple things about the life I have. I appreciate all the things I used to take for granted before I traveled. I know now how fortunate I am.

      I appreciate my loved ones more than ever. I appreciate modern conveniences, like driving a nice car, living in a comfortable house, having a cold drink, and a warm bed. I appreciate being able to buy anything I want and get any type of food I want at just about any time of day. I appreciate all the laws of my country and all the public officials that make them. And I appreciate the cleanliness of my city and most public places that I go to every day. I have a great life just where I’m at, and I appreciate everything about it because I went away.

      Coming home

      One of the best things about traveling is returning home to your life again. You come home to the people who love you and count on you. But you are richer because of the great memories you made. You have learned a few things. You have seen new places and you know how to expect the unexpected, relax and have fun, to be spontaneous, enjoy new people, and live in the moment. You can respect other cultures, see beauty in everything and appreciate more fully the life that you have.

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      Last Updated on July 10, 2020

      How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

      How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

      We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

      We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

      So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

      Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

      What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

      Boundaries are limits

      —they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

      Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

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      Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

      Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

      Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

      How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

      Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

      1. Self-Awareness Comes First

      Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

      You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

      To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

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      You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

      • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
      • When do you feel disrespected?
      • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
      • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
      • When do you want to be alone?
      • How much space do you need?

      You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

      2. Clear Communication Is Essential

      Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

      Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

      3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

      Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

      That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

      Sample language:

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      • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
      • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
      • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
      • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
      • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
      • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
      • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

      Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

      4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

      Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

      Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

      Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

      We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

      It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

      It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

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      Final Thoughts

      Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

      Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

      Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

      The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

      Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

      Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

      They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

      Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

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