I just hit my one-year anniversary with Budapest, which means I’ve been living abroad/on the road for two-and-a-half years now! Here are some things I’ve learned along the way.
(This is also the year I turn 30 (!!) so the number is on my mind and feeling significant!)
30 Lessons from 30 Months Abroad
- You can never go back. Not just home, but anywhere. Not only will a certain place be physically different from the last time you were there–but you will be different, too.
- When in doubt, smile. It’s the universal language.
- That being said, learning a few words in the native language will go a long way.
- Wear sunscreen. If I could offer you just one tip for the rest of your life, it would be to wear sunscreen. Advice just as true now as it was in 1999.
- Let go of expectations. This might be the hardest lesson for me, one that I will never stop learning.
- Just because you haven’t heard of it, doesn’t mean it’s not worth visiting.
- On the other side of the coin, don’t dismiss a place because it’s too touristy.
- Walking is the best form of exercise–and the best way to explore.
- You really can’t run away from your problems–no matter how far you go. Still, a change of scenery can give you a break/perspective.
- Travel is a privilege, not a right. In the current climate of travel blogging, I’ve seen hundreds of posts urging people to quit their job and travel the world. If this is possible for you, it means you are privileged. It means you are lucky.
- But if you want to travel, and can, do it. I can 85% guarantee it will change your life. You don’t have infinite time to do the things you really want. That new car and that new shirt and that cup of coffee will be waiting for you when you get back.
- Traveling with your significant other is the best–but will also test you both in new, not-so-fun ways.
- Missing big events will always, always suck.
- Give it time.
- America is far from perfect…but neither is anywhere else.
- Never underestimate the power of deep breathing–and a drink of water.
- Gratitude is everything.
- Hold the judgment. No matter where you live, how far you go, what you do, you will always meet people whose lives are different from yours. You don’t know these people’s stories or their background or why they are the way they are. The history and psyche of a country, or a person, is always more complicated than their surface comments.
- You hardly ever regret saying yes to a new experience.
- You can never see it all. So stop trying before you give yourself an ulcer.
- You’re better at this than you think.
- Go where you want to go.
- Count your change (and learn the currency).
- Bring medicine. I get made fun of a lot for being a walking pharmacy–but I am always grateful to have something when I have an insanely itchy bug bite, or to have Imodium in a foreign country, or to have cold medicine when I can’t breathe, or aspirin after drinking too much crappy wine. You can’t be prepared for every possibility (trust me, I’ve tried) but you might just make a new friend or two when you’re passing out Dramamine on the crazy night bus.
- People watch. Get your head out of your phone (or in my case, more often a book) and look around you.
- Learn to listen.
- Some places–like some people–will stick with you more than others.
- You don’t have to be in love with everywhere. It doesn’t mean the trip isn’t worthwhile.
- The people can make the trip. As much as I love traveling with just E, this past year especially I’ve learned how much fun it is to travel with other people, too. Whether it’s meeting friends somewhere new, showing family around, or making connections with locals, one of the best things about travel is the people, not always the place.
- There’s no shame in going back to your room and crying a little bit out of frustration–as long as, at some point, you wipe away your tears and get back out there.
What lessons have you gleaned from your travels?
Linking up with Wanderlust Wednesday.