Previously, I wrote the post things that travelling in South East Asia taught me.
Now, I have been at home for two months, after travelling for a year and a half. So I think it’s time for another reflection. Travelling for such a long time, and spending a year living and working in Australia, has no doubt taught me a lot. In a year and a half, we can grow a lot. Especially when we’ve spent that year and a half travelling, saving, moving, struggling, pushing boundaries, and living out of a backpack. If I hadn’t learnt anything from the last year and a half or hadn’t experienced any growth or self-development, I honestly think every opportunity I had would have been a waste. But I’m glad to say that I believe the lessons travel has instilled in me has changed me for the better. Here is why.
1. I’m less materialistic.
Before I went travelling, I was a material girl. This isn’t to say I was shallow, but I definitely placed more importance on material goods. I loved make-up, shopping for clothes, having things in general. This is evident from my first ever post on this blog about New York.
Now, I’m more likely to spend my money on experiences, whether thats travelling to a new country or ski lessons or even just going to a gig or a rave, than I am on things like clothes. I value these things more because they create lasting feelings of joy and happiness. They increase our quality of life and make memories. I feel like I’m getting more value for money.
This isn’t to say I now don’t spend money on materialistic goods. Of course I do! I still like buying clothes I like or make up. I still like having the latest iPhone. But now when I spend my money, it’s more of a conscious decision. I buy something because I really like it and I think I will use it for a long time, or I think it’s great value for money. More thought goes in to it, whereas in the past I would have just spent my money in a mindless way – as ‘retail therapy’, or to try to fit in with the latest trends. Things seemed a lot more disposable and I didn’t value things as much.
I think the reason travel has made me less materialistic is due to a few things. First of all, it’s hard to gain much of an attachment when you have to fit your life in a backpack. You can only have a select few items, and sometimes you have to be ruthless and get rid of things (anything I got rid of would usually go to charity or to fellow backpackers). You have to reuse what you do have again and again. I also think it’s due to having to be much more careful with my money. Whilst travelling I was either skint or I was saving my money for the next part of the adventure, therefore I couldn’t always justify spending my money on certain things. I had to put thought into what I would spend my money on, and anything I did spend my money on became a conscious decision.
Overall though, I think travel has just made me realise whats truly important in life. Relationships, honesty, laughter, happiness, nature. These things have taken priority over any materialistic goods. I have come to realise what a wasteful culture we live in, and I no longer want to be a part of that. Therefore any decision I make with my money is much more conscious.
2. I’m more open
I believe travelling has made me a much more open and honest person. Before, I was open and honest with my friends and family, but with a lot of other people I put my guard up. Since travelling, I’ve allowed myself to open up and show my vulnerable side more, and I have noticed that when I do, a beautiful thing happens. Perfect strangers become your best friends, your partners in crime. I used to hide stuff because I felt like baring my soul to people who don’t really know me was inappropriate. Now I realise we’re all human and we’re all trying to figure it out. After meeting so many people from all different walks of life whilst travelling, I’ve realised it’s good to be open, to be trusting. When we have our guards up all the time and close ourselves off, it’s a lot harder to see the beauty in the world and in life. It’s a lot harder to see the magic. It’s a lot harder to be happy.
This doesn’t mean I’m open and vulnerable and trusting with everyone I meet. That would be naive. I still take care of myself. I follow my gut instinct and will avoid people I don’t trust. But I also allow myself to smile more, to not be so cold and avoidant of new people. This sort of attitude has honestly opened a whole new world for me.
3. I’m better at budgeting.
As I mentioned above, one of the reasons I’m less materialistic has come from having to be wiser with my money. Because I had to be wiser with my money, I’m now much better at budgeting. Travel taught me what three years of uni failed to do in terms of my personal finances. I guess when I was at uni, I still got my loan every semester. And even though I do have to pay that back, at the time it just felt like free money. I was still a teen and I was less responsible. But nothing will quite teach you about financial responsibility like working on a raspberry farm for next to no money, wasting nearly $500 on a tour from hell, or just generally planning out trips and how you’re going to make your money stretch. I’m now much more sensible with my money. Sure, I still probably spend too much money at the bar once I’ve had a glass or two of wine, but I’m getting there.
4. I’ve come to realise what’s important in life.
Like I said above, I value things like meaningful connections with people and getting in touch with nature more now than I do having a new dress from Topshop. But honestly, it goes deeper than that. Like most other people, I used to get stressed about the little things. I used to allow arguments and fall outs to happen over inconsequential matters. I used to get upset over the most pathetic things. But as Mary Anne Radmacher said ‘I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world’. How can I get so worked up over inconsequential things when I’ve seen a million glittering stars from an island in Australia entirely made of sand? How can I argue with someone about the TV remote when I’ve fed and bathed rehabilitated elephants who have lost limbs from land mines? Travel gave my life a new meaning, and I’m so grateful I got to experience that new meaning at such a young age, when so so many people will never have that. It’s made me value what I deem to be truly important.
Of course, I’m still human. A human being living in a crazy, fucked up world full of greed, power, war and destruction. A human being living a hyper-real, vapid, self-absorbed culture. And I’m still learning. Sometimes I still get worked up over the little things. But I will never, ever, allow it to take over my life. I will always recognise it and take a step back.
5. I appreciate Mother Earth more.
I’ve always been a bit of an environmentalist and have always been interested in environmental and ethical issues. I stopped eating meat at 14. I would go around school asking people to sign petitions to send to KFC on their treatment of chickens. I’ve long been interested in the theory of interconnectedness when it comes to earth and nature. Before I left home, my boyfriend bought me books on the Gaia Hypothesis by James Lovelock. But, travel made me see it a bit more. When I travelled, I saw both a sad destruction and mistreatment of our planet, and I also saw the most intense beauty and display of nature. In places like Vietnam, an incredible amount of litter was strewn across cities, jungles and beaches alike. It made me feel extremely sad to see such mistreatment of the planet, and also powerless. By the same merit, witnessing all the natural beauty I did see, from the Southern Alps in New Zealand to the Jungles of Northern Queenstown, made me truly realise how amazing our planet is. Walking barefoot through tropical islands, hiking over mountains through the clouds, has made me a lot more in touch with nature and has allowed me to recognise me own place within nature. It’s all connected. I not only appreciate mother nature a lot more and everything she has provided, but it’s made me more determined to take care of her. I don’t want to pollute the same waterways I’ve swam in. I don’t want to poison the same animals I’ve admired from a distance. I believe travel has made me a better person, a more conscious and compassionate person overall.
6. I’m less high-maintenance.
I don’t think I was ever really I totally high-maintenance person. I was never a Kim Kardashian or acted like an entitled princess lets put it that way! But travel has definitely humbled me a lot. One example is that – as can be seen from this very early blog post – it was once unimaginable that I would enjoy camping, let alone live in a van for two months. I used to only like camping if it was at festivals, but even though I enjoyed the occasional hike, I wasn’t really an outdoorsy type. I preferred shopping to outdoor pursuits. Nowadays, I love the great outdoors! I like camping and being at one with nature. I can’t believe there was a time I hated it.
All in all, In every respect, I’ve become a much more ‘just get on with it’ sort of person. I’ve had to lug a heavy backpack in 35+ degree heat. I’ve had to wake up at 5am to work on a farm fruit picking. I’ve lived in hostels, in vans, in tents. I’ve slept on buses, trains, ferries. How can anyone be high-maintenance after doing these things?
7. I’m braver.
Yep, I’m a big girl now. Now that I’ve travelled, I’m much more likely to take risks. I’m more likely to surrender to life even when it’s scary. Things that used to terrify me don’t even phase me anymore. For example, I used to be so scared of spiders. Now, while I definitely would not enjoy seeing a huntsman or a red-back, seeing spiders in general no longer phases me.
Before I went travelling, people would often try to challenge the fact I was going travelling with some good intentioned but misguided speculative fear mongering. People would often begin sentences with the words ‘but what if?’. What if you get robbed or scammed? What if you get eaten alive by a dingo? Or a Great White? What if you run out of money? What if you get drugged in a bar? What if you get lost? What if you get left behind? WHAT IF YOU DIE?
Ok some of these questions are exaggerated, but you get the point.
And what if…. what if I never went travelling? What if I subscribed to a life of mundanity and fear? If you ask me, that’s the real killer.
Now I’ve been out into the ‘world’. The world that so many think is dangerous, and it’s not all that bad. But when the going has got tough, I’ve had to be braver. And now, nothing can phase me.
Whilst travel has definitely taught me some important skills, like budgeting and packing light, ultimately, it’s taught me to surrender. Travel has not made me stress-free, but it’s made me stress out a lot less. It’s taught me to take life at a slower pace. Travel has made me into a much more laid-back, open-minded and open-hearted individual. I feel a lot less hate, anger, stress and worry. Like I said, I still have my slip ups. But I think overall, travel has provided a way for me to see and appreciate what is really beautiful and important in life.
I hope that this post has provided some insight for you into how travel can change you as a person in a positive way.
How has travel changed you? What has travel taught you?