17 Ways Travel has been my Greatest Teacher in Life

Lions at Sunrise - South Africa

The greatest education in life is the one taught outside the classroom. And travel has been my greatest teacher.

Having the opportunity, freedom and desire to travel has provided my greatest education in life: the one taught outside the classroom.

My decision to enjoy a lifestyle dominated by travel over the past five years is not only motivated by a restless soul that finds solace in long term travel. It is driven by the lessons I keep learning – about the world, about other people and about myself.

Travel has been my greatest and most influential teacher.

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17 Lessons Learned from Travel:

1. The Most Valuable Commodity in Life is Time

As human beings we often spend most of our time regretting the past and worrying about the future. Travel has forced me to embrace the moment through experiences that create sensory overloads that don’t leave time for anything else.

It reminds me that life will pass me by if I don’t open my eyes and a lifetime of great experiences and memories is more rewarding that being the richest corpse in the cemetery.

2. Embrace Diversity and Exercise Tolerance

One of the things I love most about travelling, is the opportunity to learn more about other cultures and meet people with different lifestyles, backgrounds and beliefs. It helps me embrace diversity instead of fearing it. It teaches me to exercise tolerance instead of judgement. And best of all, it brings interesting and enriching people into my life.

3. There is More than One Way to Live Life

Life is a collection of chapters and it’s never too late to start a new one. The world is full of people enjoying different lifestyles. Some are following well-trodden paths, others have turned off the beaten track and the adventurous ones are even paving their own road. Travel has introduced me to these people and shown me it is possible to make detours, change direction and plan your own route. It has taught me that you have no control over where you were born but you do have control over where you end up.

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4. Education is Key

Whilst the best education is the one taught outside the classroom, there is no greater start in life than the one taught in it. It provides the opportunity to learn both practical and social skills, creates confidence, increases future employment prospects and teaches students to ask questions and challenge the status quo. Travel has taken me to destinations that benefit from education being a right and to places suffering because education is perceived as a privilege. It has taught me that education is a key enabler of change.

5. Freedom is a Gift

Exploring the world beyond my own sheltered backyard has helped me appreciate the one thing I’ve always taken for granted: my freedom.

Blood is constantly shed throughout the world by people who are fighting for the basic human right of freedom that I was lucky enough to be born with. I am free to make my own choices in life, I’m free to express my own beliefs, I’m free to wear what I want, I’m free to date who I want and I am free to travel. Freedom is a gift and travel reminds me not only to appreciate it but to make the most of the opportunities it provides. Not everyone has this luxury.

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6. Self-Discovery

There is no journey more rewarding than one of self-discovery and one of the most over-used clichés about travel is that it helps you ‘find yourself’. It’s over-used because it is true. Taking the time to break routine, escape from familiar surroundings and stepping away from people who have a pre-conceived perception of me has helped me identify who I really am, what makes me happy and what I want out of life.

7. Change is Energising

Travel helps me identify opportunities and the need for change in my life. It has taught me there is a fine line between feeling lost and free. It has put me on the right path before I’ve known I was lost. It has given me answers to questions I’ve not thought to ask. And not only has travel introduced me to new interests and hobbies, it gives me the time to indulge them. All of this provides me with renewed energy, goals and enthusiasm and prevents me from flat-lining through daily life.

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8. Simplification

Travel encouraged me to simplify my belongings, my approach to life and my lifestyle. It began with packing my belongings for a year-long round-the-world adventure into one backpack. It continued in locations that didn’t have the same creature comforts I enjoyed at home. It grew into moments when a simple conversation, landscape or experience had a profound impact on me. And it evolved into a lifestyle when I returned home and reaped the benefits of de-cluttering and slowing down.

9. Most People are Good – and We Want the Same Things

The leaders that represent their country’s people are not always a reflection of them. Leaving my pre-conceptions at home and ignoring stereotypes portrayed by the media has shown me that most people in the world have good hearts, are friendly, will help you if you need it and are not out to rip you off or hurt you. It has also connected me with people all over the world who may have different lifestyles, backgrounds and beliefs to mine, but fundamentally want the same things in life: health, companionship and happiness. Understanding that we all laugh, cry, eat, sleep, dream and die is a key step in breaking down stereotypes, cultural barriers and learning to peacefully co-exist.

10. Independence

As someone who has always craved and valued my independence, travel has simply enhanced it. It has forced me to stand on my own two feet from a practical point of view – making my own plans, coping with unexpected changes or challenges, replacing lost passports whilst on the road, navigating unfamiliar transport systems and dining alone in non-English speaking countries. But it has also strengthened my emotional independence, particular being comfortable in my own skin and with my own company.

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11. Gender Equality has a Long Way to Go

Travel constantly reminds me how lucky I am to have been born in Australia, especially as a female in this era. I have had the opportunity to finish high school, complete further education, travel, work and live abroad, choose my partners and make my own choices in life. I can’t imagine living in a society where my path is mapped out for me, where decisions are not my own and where the dream of change is inconceivable. Yet I’ve seen various degrees of this first-hand, in a number of countries I’ve travelled to. It’s a sombre reminder of the birth-place lottery that influences the opportunities and challenges we face in life. And it motivates me to make the most of the opportunities I’ve been given.

12. Who You Are is More Important Than What You Do

One of the most refreshing aspects of meeting other long term travellers is that no one cares what I do for a living. They are only interested in my travel experiences, my travel plans and my personality. The labels society places on us are ripped off when travelling, as are the pre-conceptions they create. I’ve learned that being completely comfortable within my own skin is more important than what I do for a living.

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13. The Most Memorable Things Happen When Things Don’t Go to Plan

I have lost count of the great experiences I have had as a result of something going wrong: delayed flights that result in a conversation in the waiting lounge with a new friend, blocked roads that create an unplanned visit to a location that becomes a highlight of your trip, fully booked hotels that direct you to a guesthouse owned by colourful and entertaining characters, or moments of kindness that enhance your experience of a country.

14. It’s Important to Disconnect to Reconnect

There is no doubt that the digital revolution has changed the way we live, interact with each other and the way we travel. The internet, smart phones and other lightweight devices help plan our adventures, stay connected whilst on the road and provide a forum for sharing our stories and photographs. But visiting locations like Antarctica, where a lack of mobile and internet coverage has forced me to turn my devices off, has taught me how important it is to disconnect from the cyber world to reconnect to the real world – and to myself.

Neko Harbour, Antarctica

15. Everyone has Something to Learn – and Everyone has Something to Teach

Travel has exposed me to many different cultures, lifestyles, values and beliefs. And if there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that none of us have it figured out. If we did, we’d be living in a very different world. Travelling with an open and curious mind is a great opportunity to learn from other cultures and share something in return.

16. The World is Ours to Protect

Travel has taken me to some of the most beautiful natural places in the world. Some locations are so overwhelming that they remind me how insignificant we are as a human race but how important our role in protecting our planet is. We live in a world of conflicted values, with conservation, tourism and development driving opposing agenda. But it’s impossible to sail through the unspoiled landscape of Antarctica without feeling passionate that it should remain unspoiled. It’s difficult to comprehend the actions of poachers when you see a beautiful rhino in its natural environment. It’s hard to walk through a forest and imagine it being cut down or replaced with concrete buildings.

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17. Travel is a Privilege

Not only do we live in an age where travel is accessible and affordable, we live in a society where travel-dominated lifestyles are more common and more acceptable. It’s a privilege that drives the importance of responsible travel – to be safe, to represent your country and to treat other cultures and environments with respect. Every traveller is a guest in a foreign land, a visitor to natural landscapes that make their own rules and an outsider looking in on wildlife existing in its natural habitat.

 

Travel is the teacher who keeps on teaching!

 

What lessons has travel taught you?

 

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Kellie is a traveller and photographer who is most at home when exploring the world beyond it. Through the intersection of her travel, writing and photography passions, she shares her experiences to inspire others to create there own. The desire to live life instead of existing through it has introduced Kellie to inspirational locations throughout seven continents and from this a passion for landscape and wildlife photography has evolved. She feels a particular connection to the polar regions and Africa. You can see more of her photography at www.kellienetherwoodphotography.com

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