July 3, 2015. Four years ago today, I left my hometown and comfort zone of Nashville, TN to set out on the trip that would change my life forever. Technically I was wheels up on my first-ever flight on July 4th, but I consider July 3rd the first day I started traveling because I left my hometown for Atlanta, where I would stay overnight and fly to Costa Rica the following morning. Since then, I’ve been to 14 countries, returned to a few of them, and I’ve acquired an unquenchable thirst for travel. Here are 4 lessons I’ve learned from 4 years of travel!
1 // buy the plane ticket
Stop hesitating. If you have disposable income or savings, then buy the plane ticket, or adventure, or experience. Even if it’s ziplining or skydiving near home, do it! I have the biggest buyer’s regret, but travel is one expense that always makes me richer. It has taught me to spend my money on experiences, not stuff. Experiences leave you memories, teach you lifelong lessons, and make you a better person. Find an experience that interests you, and invest in yourself. Save money with it in mind, and go for it!
2 // stop eating out!
This. Is. So. Hard. But if we saved all that money we spend on eating out at restaurants, we’d realize how much money we actually have! This is especially true for travel and other enriching opportunities. If the average meal out costs $10 to $15, that racks up quickly. Saving that money instead could pay for that trip to Greece you’ve been fantasizing about forever. And don’t get me started on how overpriced drinking is…I could buy a whole six pack of Guinness that will last me months for the price of one glass at your average bar. That is travel money I actually have, and wouldn’t see if I spent it at home on things like this.
Similarly, travel expenses get sky-high when you eat out all the time on your trips. One of my favorite cultural experiences is going to the grocery store in other countries. While you’re there, grab some ingredients and make a meal in your Airbnb instead of eating dinner out tonight. In most places, lunch is cheaper than dinner automatically. This is such an easy way to save!
3 // bad things happen everywhere
As enjoyable as it is, travel is a high-stakes situation. You are in an unfamiliar environment, where you may not speak the language or understand the customs. If you very obviously stick out, you could be a target for crimes such as pickpocketing. Bad things can happen to anyone, anywhere. You can be targeted in your own hometown, too. Don’t let that negative experience overshadow the positives if you want to give travel a try. I know it’s difficult. I even touched on my personal experiences in my post about the hard parts of travel. Had I allowed those negative days overtake me, I wouldn’t be going backpacking for two months this fall and I wouldn’t challenge myself to travel smarter. Watch your back and trust your instincts. Let those experiences make you wiser, and know that those people who wronged you carry that injustice on their shoulders. Don’t carry it for them as if you did something wrong.
4 // it’s okay if you want to go home
This rarely happens to me, but travel isn’t necessarily this magical thing that makes you want to stay gone forever. There’s even this pressure to stay on the road for as long as possible when we see famous full-time travelers that only go home for Christmas. But that’s not everyone’s story. If it’s not yours, then that’s okay. Even for people like me that love travel more than most, I’ve had moments where I’ve wanted to go back to Nashville. I’ve regretted some trips, and wished they’d gone differently. The first time I felt this, I was supposed to be volunteering in the Dominican Republic. When everything with that nonprofit fell apart, I realized that, for the first time, I wanted to be at home more than I wanted to be there. It’s okay to be traveling and suddenly realize that home is where you need to be. Sometimes, travel even helps us not only appreciate what the world has to offer, but also what our homes mean to us.
There you have it, folks! Four big lessons that 4 years of travel has taught me. I can only imagine how the next four will look, and how much more there is to learn. If you’ve always been curious about seeing the world, life is happening now! Don’t let it pass you by when you could be on the experience of your dreams. It’s never too late. Let that experience help you become the person you were always meant to be.
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