A Year in Review: 5 Lessons I Learned from Traveling

I’ll admit, 2018 started off a bit rocky. I had just gotten out of a long-term relationship and I was feeling lost. For the last two years, all of my energy had been focused on pleasing someone else, and in doing so, I put my own needs on the back burner. Self-love is a real thing and for me, it was practically non-existent. I needed to make a change. I thought to myself, “what is something I am passionate about? What makes me happy?” The first thing that came to mind was traveling.

I love experiencing new cities and embracing the nuances of different cultures. I decided to make a resolution to myself to travel more. But how would I hold myself accountable? Last year I downloaded an app called Been which helps you keep track of the countries and US states you have visited. After visiting England and Amsterdam last year, I decided my goal for 2018 would be focused on domestic travel: visit 5 new states. So that’s what I did. Not only did I get to explore new places with some of the best travel companions, but I learned a lot about myself too.

A number of things I learned from traveling can also be used in everyday life, and these are five lessons I share with you:

1.​ Travel teaches you to be more patient.

Self-admittedly, I am one of the most impatient people I know. Waiting for anything – food at a restaurant, lines for the restroom, even waiting for someone to email me back at work – drives me crazy. Unfortunately, travel can be unpredictable at times; flights can get delayed, you can get on the wrong train and sometimes bad weather can damper your plans. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned through my travels is that it’s okay if things don’t go exactly to plan. Be patient, and accept the journey as it is.

I remember visiting Chicago two years ago intending to visit the Willis Tower. However, on the day we planned to see the skyline, the sky was clouded by fog. It was so bad that when we got to the tower, the security guard told us not to waste our money and come back the next day. At first, we were really bummed out. But then, my brother suggested that we wait until he got out of work and we’d go to the John Hancock Tower instead. I am so happy we waited. The views of Chicago’s skyline were incredible from the John Hancock Tower later that night.

What I learned is that patience is a virtue and you learn to tackle circumstances as they come. If things always went to plan, the adventure wouldn’t exist.

2. The best pictures you will take ​are actually stored as memories in your mind.

This one was hard for me to accept. Anyone that knows me knows that I regularly “do it for the gram,” but the truth is, most of the photos we see on Instagram are staged. Hell, half of my photo ideas are strategically planned well before they happen. And while travel photos on Instagram are entertaining to look at, it’s important not to compare your own experiences with those of travel bloggers. Let’s face it. They probably have a team of photographers following them wherever they go. ​

There was ​a time when I was so ​fixated on increasing my follower count ​that I spent more time getting the most perfect shot walking down a beach in Hawaii then actually appreciating the view. There is so much beauty in this world that should be admired with our eyes and not our cameras. I won’t lie; I haven’t quit Instagram or stopped taking pictures, but I have committed to being more present.

When I visited Kentucky in September, I had a vision of taking a photo at the Bourbon and Beyond festival, with my new whiskey-inspired tee shirt and the stage behind me. When I got there, however, it was down-pouring. In some way, the weather forced me to stay present and just enjoy a fun day of incredible music with my friend. We ended up having a blast and I’d like to think it was because we were both living in the moment.

3. Great travel companions can open your eyes to new experiences.

Not everyone has the same approach to travel. Some people need to have every minute of vacation planned, while others prefer to fly by the seat of their own pants​. No way is the “right” way but it’s important to recognize what kind of travel companion will make your trip most enjoyable.

I was so fortunate this year to be able to travel with a bunch of different people – each with their own unique style of exploring. I tend to be a planner. I like to come prepared with a list of things to see and new restaurants to try. But sometimes, letting someone else take the reigns can open your eyes to new experiences. Earlier this year, I visited one of my close friends in Washington expecting to stay around Seattle. When we got there, he surprised us with a day excursion to Victoria, British Columbia. Even though we almost missed our ferry – twice – it ended up being one of my favorite trips of the year. It’s exhilarating to leave your comfort zone and expand your horizons.

4. Appreciate life’s simple pleasures.

We all know the famous saying, “the best things in life are free,” but I don’t think that saying really resonates until you’re surrounded by Mother Nature in all of her stunning glory. After seeing the incredible beaches of Hawaii and the gorgeous vistas of the Rocky Mountains, I’d have to agree that some of the most beautiful things in life are found by taking a stroll down the beach or a hike up a mountain.

Life can be complicated and messy sometimes and I think it’s very easy to get wrapped up in negative behaviors. Traveling has taught me to be grateful for what I’ve had the opportunity to experience and to appreciate the people who have accompanied me on my countless adventures.

5. Travel playlists are the best form of nostalgia.

Two years ago, my friends and I spent a week driving around the Ring Road in Iceland. Seven days is a lot of time to be in the car, so to pass the time, we took turns playing music from each other’s iPhones. To add diversity to our Iceland soundtrack, I decided to go through every letter of the alphabet and play one song from an artist of the corresponding letter. For example, A was A-ha’s Take on Me, B was Billy Joel’s Piano Man, C was Counting Crows’ Mr. Jones, etc. We had so much fun singing along to the songs of the Ring Road, so I decided to compile all the songs we played into a playlist. Whenever I’m feeling nostalgic, I play our Ring Road playlist and it brings me back to our amazing trip to the land of fire and ice.

I had a similar experience this spring traveling to Port Angeles from Seattle. To pass the time during our two and a half-hour long car drive to the mountain, my good friend and I took turns playing songs to sing along to in the car. Now when I listen to Owl City or The Grease soundtrack, I am reminded of the beautiful views of the Pacific Northwest.​


What lessons have you learned from traveling?


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