The 5 Hardest Lessons You'll Learn While Traveling Abroad
You booked a trip to get away from the “real world.” But as it turns out, things get pretty real when you’re out there. Traveling overseas is more than just an opportunity to reset and recharge: It also provides a tremendous learning experience to those who fully embrace it. After all, the world is your classroom. To prepare you for the journey ahead, here are the five hardest lessons you learn while you traverse the globe.
There is nothing worse than finally arriving at that location of your dreams, and realizing it doesn’t live up to your expectations. But the fact is, you aren’t going to like every place in the world. My husband and I simply could not wait to get to Morocco. We first arrived by boat to Tangier, anticipating an exotic paradise of stunningly lit shisha dens and seductive belly dancers. Alas, our actual experience was nothing like that. It’s a tough pill to swallow after investing so much time, money and thought into the destination. Luckily, no trip is wasted. You learn things and gain a new perspective from every stop around the world, even those that aren’t your favorite.
Traveling, especially long-term, takes work. Between researching where to go, finding places to stay, figuring out transportation, lugging heavy packs around, deciding what to see and do, and overcoming language barriers, the logistics can be overwhelming. I’ve had moments after being on the road for too long where I would have given anything just to crawl into my own bed and order take-out. The thing is, it’s overcoming the many obstacles that makes travel such a powerful growing experience. You will come home braver, stronger, and more aware than when you left. So step up to the challenge, roll with the punches, and savor your successes over a poolside cocktail.
After spending a significant amount of time abroad, especially in a developing country, your return home can be a shock to the system. We live in a culture of such abundance, and that fact is only magnified through the lens of recent travel. The modern conveniences and myriad of luxuries we typically take for granted can seem absurd after witnessing such simpler lives. I recall standing in my grocery store after a trip to Cambodia, baffled by the fact that we have an entire aisle dedicated to cheese! The good news is that this shifted perspective can positively affect the way you live your own life, inspire you to give back, and remind you to count your many blessings.
Flights are missed. Stuff gets stolen. You will, most definitely, get lost. The one thing you can truly count on while traveling is that very little actually goes as planned. This can seem catastrophic when all you want is the perfect holiday…. until you realize, there is no such thing. When my husband and I were flying to Cape Town for the World Cup, we were turned away at the check-in counter because I didn’t have enough blank visa pages in my passport. It took three days in Buenos Aires before we were able to get back on the move. But that unexpected time there ended up being some of the most fun and memorable of our trip. Acknowledge at the start that your schedule is little more than a suggestion, and enjoy the unexpected twists and turns along the way.
The incredible thing about traveling is that it only begets more traveling. You learn about places you never knew existed. Other travelers share amazing experiences they’ve had. Your great big world starts to feel smaller, and a whole lot more accessible. My mom thought that after traveling around the world for a year, my husband and I must have seen all there is to see out there. But instead, it had only given us a peek into all the places we had yet to visit. Every time you check something new off your bucket list, it only gets longer.
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The Fault Line: Traveling the Other Europe, From Finland to Ukraine by Paolo Rumiz ($20)
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What big lessons have you learned on your travels? Tell us in the comments below.