Some say an education is the best thing you can do for yourself. While I agree and education is a great stepping stone and experience, I believe traveling is the bigger teacher here. Not only are you put into real-life situations immediately, you have to adapt to unfamiliar environments on your own. It’s a great test for the couples too! I believe the brilliant Bill Murray once said that “if you ever want to marry someone, travel the world with them first.” Traveling isn’t just about seeing the sights and having a relaxing time by the pool with your own private waiter. It’s about personal growth, expanding your mind and indulging in new experiences. Pool time can be included in that! But as life is one big lesson itself, there are plenty of lesson plans travelling provides that are not in the textbook.
Here are my 4 things you’ll learn on the travel trail:
1. Stereotypes ruin everything.
I can say from first-hand experience as an American that stereotypes are awful. Many times on my travels I was classified as a ‘gun-totin,’ McDonald’s-eatin’ greedy jerk’ before I even got one sentence out. And it really hurt. The more it happened, the less I wanted to waste my time explaining over and over that not all Americans are like that. But this goes for anyone in any country. Stereotypes ruin potential connections and plans, and for some, stereotyping keeps them from actually experiencing somewhere great. This happened to me when I chose to go to Rio de Janeiro and every single person told me it was ‘dangerous’ and no place for a young woman. Those who were saying this, had never been. Rio ended up being magical and full of incredible people, all willing to guide my friend and I in the right direction.
2. Tourist traps can still be fun.
Some places are overrun by tourists (Paris, anybody?) for a reason; they’re beautiful, inspiring and unique. Don’t rule out a popular destination because of it’s popularity. There are some unbelievable sights to be seen, even if you’re going to be seeing them with thousands of others. Places like Amsterdam, Barcelona and Italy are crawling with tourists ready to experience what everyone else tells them about. These places offer something special.
3. Make friends with the locals.
Meeting the residents of your travel destination make your trip infinitely better. They know the cheaper (and majority of the time better) restaurants, the less-crowded hiking trails, and the best local wines. They know everything! The hospitality I’ve received abroad has been astounding. From invites to stay at theirs, BBQs, free kayak trips and new-found friendship, locals really do show you the best side of a place.
4. Keep an attitude full of gratitude.
Being grateful for your ability to travel and see new places makes your experiences that much more valuable. There were countless moments in my travels that I paused to say thank you for the experiences I was having. I feel being grateful only brings more positivity to your life and when you’re on the road, it maximises itself. When you visit places that seem less fortunate than your own, you get a grasp of what reality can and does look like. You’ll be grateful for clean water, air, electricity, warm showers and more.