5 Things Travel Has Taught Me

This week in honor of Twenty-Something Travel’s 5 year anniversary all members of the staff are writing about 5 things they’ve learned from travel. Here’s Steph’s take:

When I assigned this topic to Kay and Jessica, I thought it would be an easy one to write. After all this blog itself is a testament to all the things travel has taught me. Distilling all that down to 5 reasons without sounds incredibly sappy though, is harder than it sounds.

Nothing Ever Goes As Planned. Ever.

In China, in the rain.

This is one of those lessons that I have to just keep learning, over and over. I thought I was going to backpack around the world solo, then I didn’t. I thought finding an apartment in Mexico would be easy, then it wasn’t . Around this time last year I was sure I would be living in Italy right now, and I am clearly not.

In a way, travel is specifically an exercise in making plans, then having them totally blow up in your face. This happens on both a large and small scale, and the outcome really depends on how you choose to deal with that upheaval. You can fight it, and end up disappointed and cranky, which I have certainly done on more than one occasion. OR, you can embrace the uncertainty. It’s not always easy, but it is what makes life such an interesting adventure.

Wear Comfortable Shoes

No matter where you are going, travel invariably involves a lot of time spent on your feet. Fancy shoes might look good in pictures but man, you will pay for it later with blisters and more. Life is too short, and travel is too exciting to be distracted by foot pain.

Being a Picky Eater is a Waste of Time and Food

I would never have eaten this beet carpaccio 5 years ago.

One of the greatest gifts travel has given me, was that it broke me of my deeply-ingrained picky eating habits. I met up with some friends from college last month, and they were shocked to hear that I now eat exotic foods like “vegetables” and “shrimp.”

I’ve always liked to eat but travel awakened a deep love for food. From the complex stir frys of China to Argentine asado to Vietnamese banh mi, I don’t want to miss a single amazing culinary experience this world has to offer. In truth, I will now eat, or at least sample, most anything. Even if I don’t know what it is! My life is so much more interesting and exciting this way.

95% of Bad Moods Stem from being Hungry, Stressed or Tired

Beer can help too

Early in our relationship Mike and I spent two months backpacking through Thailand and Vietnam. It was a true trial by fire situation, and we got to know each other so intimately, so quickly. I won’t lie: we argued. A LOT. So much that I started to worry that maybe things weren’t going to work out with us.

It took awhile, but finally we cracked the problem. Mike gets extremely cranky when he’s hungry. I get extremely cranky when I’m stressed out. We both get cranky when we’re tired. Unfortunately, travel tends to lead to these situations quite frequently. Now when we start snapping at each other, we run down the checklist. So many absolutely inane arguments can be diffused with either a snack, a nap, or a hug.

Sheer Willpower Can Get you Really, Really Far


It never ceases to amaze me. I was a 23 year old office worker bored with her job, and now I’m a travel writer, who has been to dozens of countries. I created this change through sheer willpower, nothing else. Nobody offered me a change of lifestyle, I didn’t win the lottery, I just decided this is what I wanted to do, and then I did it.

Willpower is so powerful, and so necessary when it comes to traveling. Whether it’s lugging your backpack an extra mile, talking yourself out of debilitating homesickness or yes, creating a top 20 travel blog, the challenge is completely mental. This last lesson is my favorite, because if you can effect that kind of change just by putting your mind to it, what else can you do? The possibilities are endless.

And that is probably the best thing of all that travel has taught me: the world is full of incredible people, amazing adventures and endless possibilities. It’s just a question of getting out there.

What has travel taught you?

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26 thoughts on “5 Things Travel Has Taught Me”

  1. The last one, a thousand times yes! It’s mind boggling what we can convince ourselves to do when we need to. Walking a couple of extra kilometres with a heavy backpack or withstanding the cold when we need to. Sheer willpower is amazing!

    Also number one hits it right on the head. I’ve given up making anything more than tentative plans because something will come up and, chances are, it’s better than what I had planned anyways. Going with the flow has become more and more how I operate. 🙂

  2. Great blog! The shoes thing is so important. I have had a few sightseeing days scuppered by bag shoes and learnt my lesson. Then again even if you wear comfy shoes, some places can just be brutal on the feet. I think mine to a week to recover walking everywhere in Moscow, even in the comfiest shoes I own…

  3. I agree with your first statement. Nothing goes as planned. Whether right or wrong, you are never disappointed with all the surprises that travel can bring to you. This is always a mindset opening experience.

    More than shoes, you need to pay attention to your feets. They are probably the stronger asset of a traveller 🙂

  4. Congratulations on 5 years! Love this series. Definitely agree with the comfy shoes thing! I always wear inappropriate shoes and then moan that my feet are killing me! I also like the being a picky eater. Travel definitely makes you more open to new foods! 🙂

  5. Loved this one Steph. I can’t emphasize #2 enough. Seriously. I’ll take a comfy pair of shoes over a 5-star meal or a business class ticket.

    Also, congrats on the 5 year anniversary. Looking forward to five more!

  6. I live by #1 & #2. It’s definitely made me more comfortable with change… although I still dream of some day having a schedule that I can plan for and that sticks. And omg- these days whether traveling or going out to a nice restaurant, my feet immediately seek comfortable shoes and nothing else. Unfortunately, comfortable shoes aren’t always fashion friendly.

  7. The part about wearing comfortable shoes is SO true. I had to recently buy a new pair of shoes during my most recent trip (shame on me, you would have thought I would have learned by this point). I am no longer cute in my shoes but I am comfortable!

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