10 Things travelling teaches you that school doesn’t
When I was in Thailand on my first solo trip, I met a Canadian guy named Arlen who had been travelling around Asia and Australia for a year or so. I thought this was an insane concept as I was on a two week vacation (which I thought at the time was a bold move in itself).
He said to me ‘Lauren I’ve learnt more from the past year of travelling that I have in my whole school education. Not only that, what I’ve learnt from travelling has been the most useful knowledge for my life now’.
At the time I thought this was a bit of a stretch, but now after having spent 12 of the past 15 months travelling, I couldn’t agree more.
Now we’ve all experienced the following situation from one or both sides.
You have been on your first big holiday and come back slightly different. You experienced so much and met so many people. You came home with different opinions and perspectives on certain parts of your life, and you can’t imagine thinking the same as before you left.
Or, your friend has just come back from a big holiday and won’t shut up about these random snippets of nights out and stories that have no context nor make sense. They are way more laid back than before and are ‘wiser’. You think they’re a total tosser because nothing has changed at home and you don’t know what they’re talking about.
To those who have experienced the latter this is confusing and it annoys you. But you must understand that when you travel you learn A LOT about things you never even thought about. Being exposed to new countries, languages, food, traditions, personalities and more is bound to open your eyes and teach you some lessons that stick.
1. You can actually make important decisions by yourself
We grow up in school with teachers and parents making a lot of decisions for us. We get force fed information that we must learn, we have to attend events without a thought, we have to go where and when we are told and generally don’t question a whole lot.
In the real world this doesn’t happen- if there’s an everyday problem only you can figure it out; there are no teachers or parents for you to palm it off to.
This happens countless of times when you’re travelling when things don’t work as smoothly as you thought. Maybe you booked the wrong train time, missed your flight, got lost in a city, ran out of money or suspect you’re getting ripped off. All of these things can happen and when they do, you’re the one that has to make a decision quickly, fix it and carry on.
This teaches you how to be more laid back, adaptable to unexpected change and that everything really will work out. When you come home and the same sort of things happen, you don’t feel the need to let anyone else handle it- it’s really no big deal any more.
2. The world doesn’t revolve around you
It can be easy to be caught up in your impressive achievements in school, sports and family, but when you travel you meet the most random, intelligent, courageous and adventerous people you never knew existed. Suddenly that school captain position you worked so hard for for years doesn’t look so important in comparison. You suddenly become more interested in what others are doing, because frankly you can learn a lot from them. Don’t take yourself so seriously!
3. You learn new languages
Now we all took a language (or multiple if you’re not Australian) in school for roughly 12 years, and at least for the people I know, about 5% of it was retained and the rest has been forgotten. This is a crazy waste and we have no idea nor do we really care at the time because we’re not interested.
When you’re in another country you are immersed in another language. Even if you don’t understand it, you can usually read some street signs and menus with a bit of context. Most of us learn the stock standard vocabulary like ‘Hello’, ‘Please’, ‘Thank you’ and most importantly ‘Cheers’ which is extremely helpful in foreign countries. As a tourist this in itself goes a long way in creating a nice relationship with local traders. It’s also super fun when you pronounce something totally wrong and you share a little chuckle as they correct you.
You can learn this in a day overseas, and most people I know who learnt a language in school couldn’t say a whole lot more than those words despite learning it for 12 years. If you’re in a place like Europe, you can be visiting anywhere from 1-15 countries in one trip and end up with a plethora of new foreign words. You also tend to learn what languages are similar to one another (for example the word for thank you ‘Takk’ is the same in Icelandic, Norwegian, Swedish, Denmark and Poland) which is really interesting.
4. You increase your navigation skills like crazy
Most of the time when you’re travelling you don’t have data on your phone. If you’ve figured it out you can still have your GPS on but this doesn’t help all the time when you’re trying to find a specific place or street.
Hostels always have free maps and they often have all the sight seeing listed on them, so you have to put the phone down and learn how to read a map and keep track of your directions when on the go.
There are always times when you are without any form of navigation and are completely lost, but when this happens you slowly learn to recognise areas, ask people and then it’s no problem. These days when I go home I find my way around the suburbs and city so much easier because I’m used to doing it on my own!
5. You learn that being alone doesn’t make you a loner
If you’re in school and you see a classmate eating lunch by themselves, they’re a total loser right? Of course! However that’s not the case in real life. When you’re travelling there will be many times where you end up by yourself for sometime; you either have a grab a meal by yourself or do a day of sightseeing.
After being nervous the first time you realise it’s totally awesome and very relaxing! The majority of travellers I’ve met have been by themselves and they are usually the most interesting and craziest personalities of them all.
6. You learn A LOT of world history
Every time you go to a country you always learn about their history, whether it be directly through museums or indirectly through speaking with locals in passing or reading small snippets of information around town.
The amount of times I’ve been around other travellers and have no idea what conflict or country they’re talking about is humiliating and it’s made me realise how much I wasn’t taught at my school and how far removed we can be in Australia.
7. You learn all different customs, sayings and traditions
When you’re travelling you tend to meet a whole mixed bag of other backpackers from all over the world. From this you learn so much, whether it be the Swedish chewing tobacco fad or the Canadian phrase ‘black out’ meaning wasted, it’s all new and interesting. This happens even just in general conversation of them telling you where they live and describing their home cities.
You also can be lucky enough to be in a city when its celebrating a public holiday or is hosting a festival- this has happened about 1/3 of the places I’ve been. Whether it was Norwegian sailing ship festivals, Sinter Klaus Christmas celebrations in the Netherlands, or Tet NYE in Vietnam, they are different traditions you will always remember about that country that you otherwise may never have seen or heard about.
8. You learn what kind of friends you want to have
When you grow up you often have groups of friends associated with different stages of life: Primary school, High school, University and part time jobs. It’s not that common to go out and make a whole bunch of new mates when you’re out, because you already have a lot.
When you travel you can talk to whoever you want and if you like them, you talk to them some more, if you don’t then you simply don’t have to. You can make incredible friendships with people travelling; you hang out all day and share new experiences together, then party all night together. This is more time than you usually spend with most friends from home so this isn’t surprising!
9. Judging people and being clichy is actually not cool at all
We grow up learning a lot of stereotypes about different races and minorities without ever having met someone like that. When you do, you’ll always be surprised and feel stupid that you ever thought otherwise. The world goes way beyond what we see in the media!
Also, being exclusive is definitely not cool. If you do this in a hostel or travelling setting, YOU will be the outsider. The people with the most friends have great attitudes, smiles and are always happy to meet and listen to you.
10. People are generally really nice
We are so used to assuming the worst in strangers, that the idea of meeting a group of them and hanging out together non stop for days seems idiotic. However that is what travelling is! I have never in my life approached someone travelling and received a response of ‘Don’t talk to us’. It’s more likely ‘Hey!! Where are you from!!! Let’s hang!!’. People are in a good mood and open themselves up to the opportunity of meeting great new people.
On your travels you will make friends with loads of strangers and you will learn that people are generally super nice and generous in every country you visit. If you adapt this mentality at home you will surprisingly find out that people in your home town are also just as nice, we’re just less inclined to start up conversations with strangers because we’re on a schedule and don’t feel like it.
Never underestimate what travel can teach you!