Since I haven’t been able to travel as much anymore(last year I was saving for our wedding so I didn’t travel over the holidays, and this year we have Miss Rona ruining all of our plans), I’ve been feeling very inspired, to inspire as much people as I can to start(or continue) their travelling journey, once the world starts to stabilize(because this too, shall pass). I have never been more grateful for my travels than I have in the last 2 months while I’ve been self isolating at home, looking back on my travel journals and seeing how far I’ve come in the last 5 years as a person, and I can thank travel for that. Travel is such an incredible teacher, and you don’t really realize how it changes you and it molds you, until a couple of years pass and you stand back and look at the bigger picture. Here are the 10 biggest lessons(because there have been more!) that travel has taught me.
Experience over things, always
I love things. I love designer shoes, expensive make up and nice jewelry, and up until I took my first proper trip at the age of 24, I was happy spending my money on material things (not going to lie, I still do but it’s different now). There is nothing wrong with loving things, but after my first year of travel in 2015, things shifted for me. I clearly remember the moment that I saw the Eiffel Tower for the first time- my heart skipped a beat. I took a trip to Paris with my mom in 2015, and that trip changed the course of my life for the next 5 years because the memories that we made on that trip, were worth so much more than new shoes. We had French Onion soup after strolling through the Moulin Rouge, bought cherries and cheese that we ate at Champs De Mars, and shopped up a storm on Champs De Elysees. From then on I chose to spend my money on travel, and while I could have bought many pairs of Christian Louboutins shoes with all that money, I simply can’t explain how eating gelatto in Mykonos, visiting the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and strolling along the Brooklyn Bridge in New York has made me feel.
It’s never too late to start your travel adventure
As mentioned above, I didn’t start travelling until I was 24. Before that I had only been to Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Romania and Turkey- countries where I lived and grew up in, with the exception of Turkey being for a holiday. It wasn’t that I wasn’t saving(see point 1 above!) it just didn’t interest me at that stage of my life- I was studying and being teenager in clubs, not even knowing that things like La Sagrada Familia even exist. Lots of my friends and fellow students traveled during varsity, doing Contiki tours but it wasn’t where my head was at, at that stage. However once I started I couldn’t stop so it’s never too late to start, I promise you that!
You have to let go of trying to control everything.
As much as you can perfectly plan your trip, research your destination and set up your itinerary, travelling really teaches you that there are things out of your control! My biggest lesson is with flying- those that know me, know that I am a TERRIBLE flyer. I cannot handle turbulence, and if the plane is shaking, I start losing my cool and start having a panic attack. However, it doesn’t stop me from travelling! I get un-easy because a pilot flying a plane is not something that I can control, and now I’ve just learnt to live with it and carry on with my travels 🙂 You can’t control things that you can’t control, so you might as well do what you want to anyway.
Have an open mind- every destination and experience has something to offer, and it might surprise you.
In 2017 I did something that I never pictured myself doing- I took a Contiki Island Hopper trip to Bali. That might not be shocking to many people, but by 2017 I learnt my travel style, and travelling with a whole lot of people wasn’t it. However the trip came on by chance, when my friend won a Contiki voucher and offered to split it with me so we could go to Bali together. Never one to pass up a deal, I booked my Contiki trip and it ended up being one of the best trips of my life. The Contiki experience (travelling with a group of people by bus and by boat) was exactly what I needed at that point in my life, and I loved coming out of my shell on the trip. I wouldn’t do it again, but I’m so glad that I kept an open mind and I tried it once (maybe I will do it again, who knows? :))
Travelling in your own country is a must!
This was something I also only started doing a couple of years ago properly, and wow, what an eye opener! I know that we often complain that travelling in South Africa is expensive for the locals- it’s true, I can’t deny that. What I’ve had to do is find ways around it like look out for specials, book things in advance and take advantage of the low peak seasons. Travelling in your own country is such a must, not only are you helping your own economy, but it builds a new appreciation for the country that you live it. My favorite place in South Africa (and the world!) is Cape Town but I also love visiting the Kruger National Park, and the North Coast of Kwa-Zulu Natal!
Parents, friends, colleagues and people back home may never understand.
I experienced this quite early into my travel adventures, even from my own parents. They couldn’t understand why I wanted to go travelling so badly, and just couldn’t wait until I was much older to travel (they only started travelling well into their 40s). Colleagues at work couldn’t understand how I took all of my leave through the year, which meant that every festive season I was working up until the 24th of December, alone in the office. This will happen a lot, and you eventually get used to it. What matters the most is that you get why you’re doing it, and that’s all there is to it.
There is always something new to learn and discover
Learning never stops when it comes to travelling, but something that I have also learnt is that you can’t visit every place and every country, and that’s okay! Focus on your top picks, and discover those first, adjusting your bucket list as you go along. I’ve still got so many things that I want to do, so I can’t wait for travel to start up again so I can start exploring!
Getting lost is inevitable
One of my favorite memories from my travels, is the day that my friends and I got lost in Santorini. We arrived to our hotel not looking picture perfect as it did online (again, it’s bound to happen and something that you can’t control) so we decided to go in search of a new place rather. However before we booked blindly again, we decided to rather check the place out, as we were in Santorini already. We were in Oia, and in the caldera there are no street names, no house numbers and no one (well barely) that speaks English. We were looking for a place based solely on a photo of its exterior, and we got so lost, walking up and down the stairs that the caldera is made out of. We were so frustrated for a couple of hours, but then we took a moment to stop and take in the view that was unfolding in front of us- a sunset in the gorgeous caldera of Oia. We were lost, but with a view! Embrace it and get lost in a city (during daylight of course, and only when it’s safe!) and enjoy the views that will unfold on front of you as you peak turn a corner.
Travel is a gift, and never a guaranteed
Case in point here is the current COVID-19 situation, which just proves that nothing is ever guaranteed and every experience and trip is a gift. That’s why you should do things NOW (well, as soon as you can after corona ;)) and not put off any trips if you can! Travel while you can, because it could all be taken away from you, in a way you never thought possible (like your country closing all borders because there is a crazy pandemic going on in the world).
Who I am
Sounds so cheesy right? It’s not that I didn’t know who I was before I started travelling at 24, but travelling has definitely shaped who I am as a person in the last 5 years. It’s taught me respect- for other cultures and other countries. It’s taught me patience- when you’re stuck on a day layover because something went wrong, you just have to wait it out. It’s taught me to have an open mind- a countries past is not always its future, and sometimes you need to look past that. And it’s taught me that I am resilient, incredibly curios and willing to learn new things each and every day. In fact, when I am not learning I am miserable, so I cannot wait to get travelling again and hear the words “Your boarding pass and passport please!”