This is something new I’m trying. Every week or two I’ll try and post a list of “Five things” on a specific topic. This initial “5 things” post is a list of five things I’ve learned whilst traveling and wish I’d known earlier. I’d love feedback or suggestions on other lists of “5 things” you’d be interested in learning.
1. The Importance of Languages
I know this one seems like a no-brainer, but I grew up in a very rural area in the American public education system. We only had one foreign language offered at my high school and nothing offered prior. The more I travel the more I wish I knew more languages (something I’m working on). Being able to speak the language of the country and culture you are exploring is important; it opens up a whole new dimension of the culture thus providing an entirely different experience.
2. Pack Lightly
This is something I still get wrong. Often my travel is initiated by a conference or internship; this is great because I’m able to experience both the workplace environment as and intern or researcher, but also as a traveler. This requires I pack both professional and casual outfits. In addition to the weight of carrying the “necessities” of both an academic and traveler, it is not uncommon to find an out of order escalator or elevator thus requiring one to climb up several flights of stairs with far too much luggage. About a year and a half ago I made a very smart purchase; I bought a rolling suitcase with backpack straps, it doesn’t make the load lighter, but it does make it easier to carry.
3. Sense of Humour
Sometimes you will be in circumstances, which you have absolutely no control. I’ve known since my first adventure abroad that it’s important to submit and expect the unexpected. As a former control freak, however, this was a problem for me. I wanted so badly to control what was happening around me, that any fork in my plans would lead to stress and frustration. Three years ago while in Egypt, however, everything changed. No matter how cautious I was whilst traveling in that country, it didn’t seemed to matter, something would inevitably always go wrong (that’s for another post). Egypt taught me a lot about… everything, really; most importantly, I learned to let go and enjoy the ride. There will be times in life, love, and travel when you have absolutely no control on what is going on around you. The only thing you can control is how you react to what is happening around you. I’ve been a changed woman ever since.
4. It can be lonely
I have always traveled on my own, I’m not quite sure why, it’s just the way things have worked out. Successfully navigating foreign lands by myself has boosted my confidence and made me realize how self-sufficient I am. There are times, however, when I wish I had someone to share my experiences with. The human experience is all about sharing. You can travel to the most remote island just to see its world famous sunset, but it’s not the same if you don’t experience it with someone else. I’m not saying it won’t still be awesome, it just won’t be the same.
5. Be Open
Be open to new things (within reason). I’m not saying you should jump in the ocean if you can’t swim, but don’t be afraid to get your toes wet. In order to get the most out of your travel (and any other life experience, really), you need to be open to trying new things. It sounds cliché, but live in the moment. Try the local grub, meet new people, dance if you’re asked, and don’t be afraid to fall in love- be it with a charming place, culture or person. You only live once, and you never know when you’ll be able to visit a place or see a person, again.