I have been more than one year on the road, traveling full-time, and it has been such a blessing. It is time to look back a bit and see what lessons it taught me. Of course, the list stretches further away than just this blog post, but I wanted to share my feelings. So here is what I learned in one year of traveling full-time.
1. Getting to know new cultures is such an eye-opening experience
Before traveling full-time, I had traveled around Europe for a bit, and to the Middle East (just in Dubai). I knew in my mind how beautiful it would be to meet different cultures. I imagined how great it would be to be able to smell and taste each place, through food, markets, fields, streets, spices. But I never knew how extraordinary it is.
Every single place and every single person taught me something. It changed something in me, and if it didn’t in that moment, it did way after, looking back. They gave me feelings, empathy, they taught me how surprising life is. They also taught me that some people have less than us and still find the strength to put beauty and laughter in their lives.
I will never forget these kids when we did a Givebackgiveaway project, in Tanzania. The girls, they were so cute and beautiful, with their big eyes, big smile and broken English. The way they hugged me, and how they said my name, how they made me a bracelet, with al their love and kindess, it was priceless. I didn’t feel like I did too much for them but maybe I did offer them something, who knows.
It taught me that life has so many layers and that we sometimes get caught up in the rush, in the day to day routine. Life is so precious and the simple fact that we’re standing, here, today, means everything. Let’s give it our all.
2. I am a really big foodie
Ok, so I’m totally a pizza and wine girl, simple, nothing too complicated. Oh, and let’s not forget the daily chocolate dose I need to have. But traveling places made me realise I am such a big foodie. From the perfect poached eggs in Bali, to the papaya salad in Thailand, to the ramen in Japan, I realise that I like trying out different things everywhere I go.
I guess living in Bali for a while also made me a bit more fancy about food. That’s because the quality and freshness here of the meals are on another level, but all in all, I love discovering a place through its food. I think some flavours can stay in your mind forever and when you think of that place, it all comes back to you.
3. I am more open minded
When you travel briefly for work, or just rarely on holidays, you may not get the time you need in order to get to know more about the place. You might not meet locals, sit with them, or just take it all in.
When you travel full-time, that world is constantly there, you are always surrounded with people, there is something new happening every day. In one year of traveling full-time I like to think that I became more open minded, to whatever was around me.
4. I am always going to miss my friends and family
Maybe some full-time travelers are fine with missing birthdays, celebrations, weddings, baptisms and others, but I always missed my friends and family. No matter where I was in the world, I was sad each time I saw the photos and I wasn’t there.
I am really connected to my roots, to the people who were always there for me unconditionally. Me not doing the same, even though they understood me, it still left a bit of a sigh in my heart. I know it’s not possible (unless you have loads of money and time) to get to each event while you’re traveling full-time, but it would be nice to at least some of them.
5. I sometimes felt lonely
Working from home, not being in contact with many people daily, can end up taking a toll on you. After so long, I started missing people, having people to randomly talk to during the day. I was starting to feel a bit lonely, and I couldn’t help it.
Even when we were working from a cafe, or from a villa, or from a beach bar with a view, or even from coworking spaces, I still felt like I needed those connections. I missed them and I think we do need a balance in our work lives, working on our own, but as well as interacting with people so that we don’t get to feel loneliness.
6. I became more aware of the environment
This is a bit of a long story, but it all started in the Philippines. It was my first time snorkeling, and I was anyways panicked, since I am not a good swimmer and I am afraid of water. Once I plucked up my courage to go down and look at the reef, I was startled to see that it was empty, ruined, grey, dead. I went back up at the surface, confused and sad, anxious.
I felt deep sadness to see that the reef was gone and so along with it all the fish. The good side of it was that in the next places we went, the coral looked healthy. In Bali, which was our base for a while (now I’m traveling solo), from the first days of coming there and seeing the amount of plastic being washed up on the beaches, I began to realise more the impact plastic has on our planet.
Whenever I posted something, I made sure to tell the story and I chose to avoid places that were merely a money making machine. For exameple, where they caged animals, or places that simply should not be advertised in any way as fun or tourist things to do. I also started sharing what is behind the photos, the reality of the trash around in a lot of different places. I started reading more about waste, I started picking up more trash, and I tried to spread the word around me. Being aware of your own environment will make you protect it more and I think we should take care of it, as we live in it.
7. I realised that experiences are worth a lifetime
Moments, experiences, and not things, not stuff you buy or own, is what will make your life glow when you look back at it. Be it good or bad, adventurous or simply breathtaking, experiences cannot be replaced by anything. I close my eyes sometimes and I relive some of the moments I got the chance to live, throughout the world, and I still can’t believe they happened. I remember vividly everything, and the feeling that each gave me.
When I was in my first years at University, earning quite a good income, I was spending it a lot on nights out, drinks and shopping. I felt really good when I was buying something new, and allowing myself to be spoilt. I knew there was something missing. The adventure of it all.
When I started traveling, suddenly, I wanted everything of the place, and not objects., not something I could buy. Except that I wanted a souvenir from each country I visited so that I would have it in my house one day, something like a world collection. Something like a mini album of special moments.
Moments, experiences, and not things, are the most precious in our lives. And I think when you have someone to share it with, that is just perfect. I am not the kind of traveler I guess that finds it the same when I travel alone, and that’s the truth. That’s how I feel. When you share something, I think it makes it even more interesting.
8. Adjusting to a nomadic life sometimes wasn’t easy
When you look at all the pretty photos, you might think it’s easy. But it’s not always the case. For me, adjusting to a nomadic life sometimes wasn’t easy. I felt like it was hard carrying a huge backpack all the time, I felt like the money I was earning were barely enough to get by sometimes. I got frustrated, I was working harder but not more efficient, I was tired.
Besides switching places daily, carrying your luggage everywhere, which was sometimes a hassle, adjusting to not having a steady income was stressful. I cried, I stood up nights thinking about what I’m doing wrong and right. Posting what can do good, thinking about the impressions it will get on social media, all that anxiety, it wasn’t good.
I also felt I always needed to learn but time wasn’t enough because I had to work freelance to get some income coming in. So it can all be overwhelming at times. That’s why one of the things I learned from one year of traveling full-time was that I need to take my time in what I’m doing.
9. I realised that I want to see it all
Once I started traveling full-time, one of the things I quickly learned was that I want to see it all, all of it, this whole Earth. I was in awe so many times, and being in a new place each week, discovering new destinations, hidden or not, it opened my eyes to what a beautiful world we live in and how much there is to explore. Collecting stamps was a new found passion, that I never thought I had in me so strongly.
And stamps are not just a symbol on a piece of paper, but a reminder of the fact that you were there, a reminder of what you felt and experienced there. It’s like a journal with no words that you will look back on and smile at. What I learned in one year of traveling full-time was also that there is so much out there, that I think it’s impossible to go to each and every single corner of the Earth. And I mean, really, each corner, not just every country. (I know, crazy right?)
Once you get it, the travel bug doesn’t leave you, and even if you transition to a day job, and you have a base, you will always want to go to new places. I think we are lucky, each of us, if we get to travel to a new country. Some people don’t and might never leave their home. I have met along the way so many people telling me how they dream of seeing the world, and of traveling. I could see it in their eyes, the sadness of not being able to leave their home.
So I think we should be grateful for each place we get to visit, each place we find ourselves into. It is a blessing and being able to travel so much is rewarding.
But I am also fine with having a base and traveling from there, I think I love the confort of having my own bed, and knowing that my things, my photographs on the wall, my food, everything’s going to be in the exact same places as I left them. And I think that one feeling of “home” is something that is dearly connected to your heart.
10. I got to see what I’m made of
Ok, this sounds a bit weird, but yes, I think I got to see what I’m made of beacuse I took on challenges without blinking that taught me what I am good at, what I enjoy doing, what I don’t enjoy doing, and what I love.
I realised that my asthm came back while climbing up Kilimanjaro, that I don’t enjoy the pain to summit a mountain that high, that I find pleasure in taking my time up a mountain, watching sunrises and sunsets, I learned that I may not be the type of person who always knows how to communicate everything, and more.
I learned more about myself in one year than I did in previous years. So I would say traveling full-time does change you, in a lot of ways. I think it makes you crave for the world, for the beauty of it and it shows you more of who you are.
11. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone
Only when you go outside of your comfort zone, you can learn more about yourself and also open up to new experiences. Pushing myself to do things I was afraid of, such as swimming, being in water, or climbing mountains, has helped me a lot. It is a journey of self discovery that we are all on, but traveling pushes it faster. I am a lot of the times so afraid of doing something terrifying for me, that I stamp my feet and say I won’t do it. But then I go ahead and do it, just to remind myself that it’s ok, it’s going to be ok. And at the end of it, I will be triumphant that I tried and that I conquered my fears.
Hope you enjoyed this long post, I’ve been meaning to put it together for a while now. Let me know what you think and if you are a full-time traveler yourself, let me know if you’ve ever felt one of the things I mentioned. Make sure to check my Travel section for more inspiration.