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You Won’t Believe the 16 Lessons I Learned During a Year of World Travel

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By Alessia Barranca

Frugal Feature

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Whether you take a gap year from college or embark on an adventure before you look for graduate jobs, travelling the world can be a life-changing experience. Outside of getting a good tan and a collection of fridge magnets, here are 16 unexpected lessons learned from a year of travelling the world. 

It is OK to Come Out of Your Comfort Zone 

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Visiting different countries can be overwhelming as you have to navigate language barriers and cultural norms of the place you are visiting. Some countries may feel more intimidating to you than others but the discomfort that you have to overcome pushes you out of your comfort zone and challenges you to explore different parts of the world. The initial discomfort of being in a new place pushes you to grow, adapt, and become more resourceful.

Language Isn’t a Barrier

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While speaking to people in different languages can be difficult, it doesn’t have to be a disaster. Fear of saying the wrong thing can often stop you from communicating with people in other countries, but a smile, a gesture, or a genuine attempt to communicate can bridge any gap.

The Best Souvenirs: The Stories

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Souvenirs and trinkets hold a certain charm, and having back key rings and cups from places we have visited is standard. However, the most valuable souvenirs are the stories you collect on your travels. From heartwarming encounters with locals to hilarious mishaps with the friends you meet along the way, memories become priceless.

Less is More

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If your usual vacation means packing five pairs of shoes and enough underwear to dress the entire country you visit, travelling will soon teach you to pack light. You’ll quickly learn that you need far less than you think when you have to pack and unpack everything on each leg of your journey. Travelling light allows for more flexibility, more effortless movement, and less stress on your shoulders.

Home is a Feeling, Not a Place

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Homesickness might be present in the early days of traveling, but you will soon learn to find comfort in the connections you make with people along the way. Traveling can also offer unique places of comfort that allow you to focus on the present rather than always wonder how things are back home. 

The World Doesn’t Revolve Around You

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When you are a guest in another culture, you soon learn the power of humility and respect. As you move from place to place, you’ll learn to appreciate different perspectives and ways of life, which will help you understand that it doesn’t always have to be your way.

Flexibility is Key

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Things rarely go according to plan while traveling so, while you may have devised a full itinerary, be prepared to let some plans slide. Learning to adapt to unexpected delays, changes, and detours is an essential skill when travelling and these skills will pass into other areas of your life. 

The Kindness of Strangers is Real

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Travelling won’t be all fairytales, but you will find kindness wherever you go. When you return home, you’ll encounter generosity and helpfulness from strangers in the most unexpected places, which will make you a better person. 

You’re More Capable Than You Think

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Travelling forces you to navigate unfamiliar situations, solve problems independently, and build resilience you never knew you possessed. From sleeping in a tent in the wild to booking complicated train tickets in busy cities, you will discover that you can do things independently.

The Planet Fragile 

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Witnessing the world’s beauty will open your eyes to how fragile the environment is. You will come across devastated areas and hear stories of how our living standards impact the world. 

Travel Isn’t Always Perfect

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You will undoubtedly have many unique experiences when you travel, but there will be times when you wish for the comfort of your bed. There will be long journeys, uncomfortable encounters, and the odd stomach bug. These challenges make the journey worthwhile, so don’t let them put you off.

Connection Can Happen Anywhere

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When you travel, you will meet people from all walks of life and forge friendships along the way. Sharing experiences while travelling and getting insight into different cultures creates powerful bonds, sometimes for life.

Happiness Isn’t a Destination; It’s a Journey

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Travelling teaches you to appreciate the present moment and the small joys. You can visit as many sightseeing hotspots as you want, but sometimes sitting in a square with locals allows you to value the beauty of being present in a new place.

How to Be Alone

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While travelling, you will have plenty of opportunities to meet people and make friends and learn how to be alone. Travelling for a year is a journey that will take you to all the places you have wanted to go, and the sense of achievement you will get will make you forget that you are going it alone.

The Wanderlust Never Truly Fades

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Once you embrace the travel bug, it stays with you for life. You may not be able to take another year to travel the world, but you will treat each vacation as a classroom as you seek new experiences and opportunities. 

Money Isn’t Everything

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When you travel the world on a budget, you will soon learn that it doesn’t matter that you cannot afford luxuries, as the experiences you have beat anything money can buy. When you get home from traveling, you will inevitably indulge in luxury items again but will value them more than you did before.