Travel will teach you many things. Things that you’ll only learn by first-hand experience and getting out into the world. What you can learn (and I have learned) from traveling?
Stress Management –
Travel is stress, both good and bad, and long-term travel teaches you how to deal with both. You’ll quickly learn how to differentiate things that you should stressed you out, (like having a racist-caused mob fight suddenly break out around you) from those that you can’t control (like missing the bus). With the later there is no use fretting because it won’t help or change your situation. Travel helps you learn how to calmly roll with the punches.
Adaptation Skills –
If everything goes to plan on your RTW trip, you’re probably doing something wrong. Missed connections, delays by hours (or days), getting lost, your seaside hotel being 3 miles inland and guarded by a palm sized spider named Fred – all these things change your plans, and you have to learn how to adapt to them. The ability to adapt to change, and learning to manage stress go hand in hand – and once you learn to let go and stop trying to micromanage every last detail, you are able to sit back, slow down, and enjoy your travels more.
We are all born with different natural abilities to find our way around. Some people will never really be able to just ‘figure out’ where they are in relation to their hotel, and some people, like me, can find the awesome 24 hour medianoche stand in Miami after not being there for 4 years…but put me in a department store and I’m lost for hours (no joke). Navigation is more than sense of direction. It’s the ability to make use of your environment and common sense to get where you need to go. This includes reading maps and compases, ability to communicate with others, (especially when you lack common language), and knowing shortcuts (like carrying a business card, or downloading translation apps) to navigate your way around.
Communication Skills –
This doesn’t necessarily mean a new language (although language acquisition is also another common skill), it means you learn how to communicate with different people, with different cultures, all around the world, especially through nonverbal means. Yes verbal is important, but we all know how the same sentence can take on different meaning depending on the tone of one’s voice, the way they stand or place their arms, and the look on their face as they speak. When you travel you learn to become not only aware of your non-verbal language (because sometimes that is all you have to work with) you also learn to pick up on cultural nuances and small cues that mean the difference between being polite and being a rude jerk or untrustworthy character.
Project Planning and Organization –
Yes. Planning a RTW trip is no easy feat, and you will be surprised at how good you get at planning and organizing. You are juggling airline, train & bus schedules, time zones, currencies, activities, relaxation, contacts, and family. You keep records of and plan what to see where, keep track of important documents, and for some of us, learning how to organize working from the road with actually seeing things (something which my current trip makes me realize i’m still getting the hang of). It’s akin to planning a giant community event or non-profit fundraiser – you have to learn to juggle multiple tasks and pick which to focus on, in order, to best serve your needs. Once you finish your RTW trip, you’ll realize how much of a breeze planning anything from corporate functions to family outings are, compared to before your journey.
Other Random Things I’ve Picked Up Traveling:
- The ability to convert multiple currencies on the spot. Or at least the basic conversions of multiple currencies (and how to download a calculator app).
- Budgeting & Finance – I’ve always been pretty good at budgeting, but when you only have so much money, you suddenly get acutely aware of , and great at, making, planning, and sticking to a budget – even if you mess up a few times.
- Always have an ice cream budget. This is very important.
- New Travel Lingo: I find myself saying things like “It’s only an 8 hour layover” (my layover last week was 14 hours), using the appropriate local word for the public transport (unless I’m really tired and then all bets are off).
- You pick up other languages. Or at least words. You will very likely at least pick up the word for ‘please, thank you, bathroom, train, and beer.’ And if you’re me: ‘coffee’. I randomly think of things I want in the local language too. It’s weird to go to a store and in my head be like “Ok, I need pan and leche and carrots and sopa stuff”.
- The ability to memorize and retain multiple public transit maps in my head.
- Talking about cities like everyone just knows where they are. Then getting really good at apologizing because you aren’t trying to make other people feel stupid. Really.
- Writing cities by airport code. Which is fine until you are tweeting to non-travel friends & family, assuming they’ll know MDE is Medellin, and that Medellin is in Colombia in South America.
- Raw cacao is pretty gross.
- Jeopardy. At least on the geography categories, as long as they aren’t in your home country. When you travel, you learn about places by being there, which makes a lasting impression that a book can’t. I knew Freetown is the capital of Sierra Leone and Simon Bolivar is the South American revolutionary before Alex Trebek finished saying the questions. Travel makes you feel really, really Jeopardy smart (until a 7 year old smashes you on the 17th Century Literature category).
- Becoming very polarized on the ‘using a money-belt’ and ‘traveling with jeans’ debates. (‘No they are a stupid waste of money’ and ‘Yes.’)
Travel teaches you many things, much more than this. And how much you learn is in proportion to what you put into it. You can travel specifically to study and gain new skills, or you can travel to adventure and passively learn along the way. But no matter what, you will learn through long-term travel.
About Dani Blanchette
I am a freelance travel and music photographer and creator of GoingNomadic.com.
I love music, food, and exploring cities without guidebooks. I’ve flown a helicopter, hitchhiked down the east coast USA, and once snuck into the back of a zoo (in Serbia) and pet a lion.
I am always up for an adventure, and sometimes I videotape them.