7 Lessons I Learned Through Travel

By Marina Krivonossova on March 1, 2021

We are brought up to believe that the best place we can learn is school, and the best lessons are the ones taught by our teachers. But as I get older, I realize that the best school can do is offer students the fundamentals to learn to think for themselves and learn to process information.

When it comes to genuine life lessons — the ones that will stick with us until we’re old and frail, and the ones we’ll pass along as words of wisdom to our grandchildren — are learned outside of the classroom. In fact, they’re learned outside of our houses,  hometowns, and comfort zones. The most valuable lessons I have learned so far in my life all came when I decided to pack my bag and embark on an adventure. If you’re curious to see what benefits following in my wanderlust-driven footsteps can bring you, check out the seven lessons I learned through travel, as detailed below!

Yekaterinburg, Russia (image via Marina Krivonossova)

1. Most people are good. Maybe you already knew this. Or maybe you don’t believe it. But traveling really proved to me that most people are well-intentioned and will go out of their way to help others, even if those others are nothing but strangers. I have found myself in so many compromising situations while traveling. I’ve gotten hit by a motorcycle in Morocco. I rode an ATV off a cliff in Mexico. I found myself briefly homeless in the Netherlands. And that’s just the beginning! And every time, there was a local who saw my situation and did everything within their power to help me, even though they most definitely didn’t have to. Traveling and interacting with people all over the world really helped restore my faith in humanity.

2. Making even a small effort goes a long way. Yep, that’s right — you don’t have to go out of your way and learn a country’s entire history and language to be perceived as well-intentioned by the locals. All that matters is that you’re making some effort to understand and appreciate their culture, their language, and their uniqueness. Before I went to France, some Americans told me that the French were snobby and rude to foreigners. But after I returned from my trip, I realized that the people who told me this clearly expected the French to be understanding of American culture, language, and customs, when it was the Americans who should have made an effort to be more understanding of the country which they were visiting. So, if you’re traveling outside of your hometown, do some research on the place you’re visiting and make an effort to relate to the locals!

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico (image via Marina Krivonossova)

3. Experiences are worth more than tangible things. Though I do on occasion like to get myself a little souvenir from the places I visit, the keychain or shirt I acquire usually disappears into the depths of my closet quickly, never to be seen again. Meanwhile, the memories I make on my adventures stay with me forever. When I had the choice of buying myself some silver jewelry in Morocco or spending that money on a camel ride through the desert, I went for the latter option without question. When again would I get the opportunity to have such a unique and exciting experience? Probably not as soon as I’d have the chance to get some nice jewelry.

4. Getting lost can help you find yourself. Yes, I know — getting lost sounds absolutely awful. Especially if you’re getting lost in a place where you have no Internet, can’t read the street signs, and don’t speak the local language at all. But getting lost can also help you get to know yourself better. How do you react under pressure? What do your instincts tell you when you’re feeling trapped? How well can you think on your feet? You’ll learn this and so much more about yourself when you find yourself lost in a place you’ve never been before.

Budapest, Hungary (image via Marina Krivonossova)

5. Your comfort zone is boring. Yes, it feels safe. Yes, you’re (probably) less likely to get physically and emotionally hurt if you never leave. But your comfort zone is also incredibly dull. It holds no room for growth or discovery. And if you never leave, you’ll never witness everything that the world holds for you just outside that comfort zone’s bounds. By traveling, you leave not only your home, but also the comfort zone you’ve grown so fond of. You learn new things, experience new feelings, and grow beyond what’s possible when you’re trapped in your own little bubble.

6. Paying extra for safety and comfort is worth it. I’m all for traveling light and saving extra money where possible. However, what I’ll never sacrifice during my travels is safety and comfort. I’m not saying travel should be perfect and comfortable all the time — that will be hard to ensure. That said, you shouldn’t be staying in crowded and questionable hostels just because they’re cheap, if you don’t feel safe and comfortable doing so. You shouldn’t be sleeping on park benches, crashing on the couch of strangers from a bar, or hitchhiking your way through the city with the sole purpose of saving money. It’s not worth putting yourself in questionable and dangerous situations, just to avoid spending a little more on safety and comfort.

Barcelona, Spain (image via Marina Krivonossova)

7. Don’t let others interfere with your travel dreams. Does your college boyfriend not support your adventurous lifestyle? Do your parents tell you that traveling is the most dangerous and pointless thing you could be doing? Are your coworkers telling you to calm down with your wanderlust and wait a few years before going on that big trip you keep talking about? The worst thing you can do is let these people and others interfere with your travel dreams. Because at the end of the day, you only get one life, and it’s 100% yours to live. Live it with passion and purpose, taking care to make yourself happy. Don’t let others tell you what you should and shouldn’t be doing. Because when you look back on your life in a few decades, you’ll regret letting others control your destiny.

Are there any lessons you learned through travel that I failed to mention on my list? Share some of your own impressions and experiences in the comments below!

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