In Your 20s? 7 Powerful Life Lessons You Have to Learn on Your Own

Sophie Miura

As the wheels lifted off the tarmac and the plane soared into the sky, I felt like an electric current surged through my veins. People say the best part of a trip is checking into a luxe hotel or lounging by a pool without a care, but I disagree. For me, it’s the moment of anticipation before the adventure begins when it feels as if the entire trip stretches out ahead. You know some of the best memories and moments of your life are just about to unfold, but you don’t know what they’ll be.

Even though my six-month backpacking trip started with this sense of optimism, I wasn’t always so sure of my choice to leave my career, boyfriend, and life behind. One month prior, I’d been faced with a decision that made me want to throw up with nerves. A company I’d followed for years approached me with a job offer—one that made me want to cancel my ticket and retreat back to routine.

I felt sick with angst, but a piece of advice from a friend’s parents swayed my decision: “You’ll regret the things you didn’t do more than the things you did.” I knew with certainty that if I chose to continue my life at its current pace—working long hours, seeing the same friends on weekends, going to the same bars—I’d always look back and wonder what could have been.

So I made myself a promise. If I was going to upend my life and make a potentially reckless and regrettable decision, I vowed to throw myself into the experience. I had to do things that made me uncomfortable. I had to seek out people who challenged my world view. And most of all, I had to try and learn as much from the experience as possible. 

Was it all worthwhile? Six months and over 30 countries later, these are the most powerful lessons I learned. 

Wonderful Things Happen When You Stop Living Passively

I’m the girl who looks at her phone in the elevator, who feels a bit awkward if the person on the plane wants to chat the whole flight, and who would rather email than call. Traveling taught me that this passive approach will make you miss out on amazing experiences. 

A few weeks into my travels, I noticed the shift in the way I engaged with people. As I hiked through the jagged landscape of Rose Valley, Turkey, I struck a conversation with a shy elderly man who was tending his crops. He couldn’t speak much English, and I certainly couldn’t speak Turkish, but he invited me and my friends to have tea with him at a local farm. He led us through an incredible locals-only cave passageway and poured us homemade apple tea. It’s crazy to think that if I kept my gaze down as I hiked through the valley, this incredible moment would have passed me by. 

This lesson hasn’t just changed the way I travel; it’s made me realize the value in being truly present wherever you are. You’ll be surprised by how many unexpected experiences unfold when you genuinely engage with every person you meet. 

Have you been traveling for a prolonged period? What did you learn from the experience?

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