I am not a seasoned traveler. In fact, I have only been to three countries outside of my own. However, I believe that provides evidence to the fact that traveling changes you very quickly. After cruising through New Zealand for the past five months, I have come to realize that I am not completely the same girl who got dropped off by her parents at the airport 131 days ago. I’ve also come to find that I really like that.
Dealing with it.
Sure, I dealt with bad situations in college. That was most of college anyhow wasn’t it? Dealing with people and situations that you really didn’t want to. As far as I was concerned, I had mastered that skill long ago. Nope. Smashing a new car I had purchased with two companions a 16-hour plane ride from home showed me I had much to learn. Life problems greatly contrast with college problems. While I’m sure there’s an appropriate reaction to wrecking a car you had bought simply a handful days before, repeatedly slamming my hands against the steering wheel and screaming seemed an adequate response at the time.
The worst part was that, I didn’t just wreck my car; I had wrecked OUR car. Two people had invested as much into that old, weathered pathfinder as I had. This presented a second problem for not only did I have to deal with a broken vehicle, I had to face my friends. There was no rewind button. There was no “I’m sorry” that would magically remedy the situation. All there was was simply three Americans, a wrecked car, and an insurance company who was not interested in helping us. Situations like this and countless others teach you abruptly how to “deal with it” simply because you have to. We were stuck. We had to fix it. Acquiring this quality is both long and painful. But if you want to travel, you’re going to learn it whether you want to or not.
Limitations, because you are not invincible.
Everyone has his or her own limitations. Traveling has certainly helped me learn mine. I am not invincible as I previously enjoyed to believe. Sometimes, things aren’t going to just turn out okay. Traveling has helped me figure out more about what I can and cannot. For example, I quickly discovered that I cannot paddle out into a massive swell as a novice surfer or swim through a ripping sea current with a heavy backpack on my back.
You also shouldn’t let others’ limitations limit you. There have been times when I assumed I couldn’t do something because a friend stated that it was too hard, it was impossible, and it could not be done. How I should have interpreted was that THEY could not do it. That did not mean that I could not. Second hand information and opinions are never accurate ways to assess given situations. Keeping their information in mind, I will always check things out for myself.
Picking friends carefully makes a trip more worth it.
The time I have at each place I travel is short and limited. Because of that, I have become more choosy with who I befriend and spend my time with. If someone is not having a positive impact on my experience at a given place, I am not going to invest heaps of time into them, simply because I want to enjoy my time there to the absolute fullest.
Optimizing time is a daily thing.
Everyone has more time on their hands than they realize. You may work today, but there is before and after work. (Unless you work twelve hours everyday- if you do that seriously, why?) Working fulltime while living abroad has showed me that if I want to do everything on my list, I can’t just wait for the weekend. There is no “let’s surf tomorrow” or “I’ll go see the waterfall next week”. Let’s go now!
Planning ahead makes full use of your time.
I am not my parent’s child. Neat and organized to a fault, my parents know exactly where they’ll be and who they’ll be with a month ahead of time. I consider it a success if I plan two days ahead. While being spontaneous is extremely fun and could be part of more people’s lives; sometimes planning ahead doesn’t hurt. If I had originally planned the main activities I wanted to do before I had come, I probably would have gotten them all in. However, now that I am running out of time and money at my current destination, I most likely will not. Needless to say, I will be doing a lot more planning from now on.
Budgeting is key.
Oh how I love to spend money. Living, food, gas, and fun things all add up very quickly. I’m extremely talented at mapping out a detailed budgeting plan and then NOT FOLLOWING IT. Not budgeting and spending on the fly may work in the moment, but not so much for long term. If you haven’t budgeted and you’re ready to leave; your bank account is going to ruthlessly tell you no.
Expectations are party poopers.
They are fun thieves. My advice to everyone is to go into every new place without ANY expectations. It is your mind twisting places into what you hope they will be instead of allowing you to enjoy them for what they truly are. The fact is that every single place has something good to offer. But if those good things become overshadowed by the disappointment of not receiving what you expected, it could ruin some potentially fun trips.