This week I turned 35 and I’d love to say that I had wisdom to pass on simply from being on the earth for three and a half decades but the truth is that I learned all of the significant things in the last 2-3 years while traveling in Latin America.
I have met some amazing people, some very kind and others not at all but I learned from each of them.
When I wrote the 25 things I learned from traveling in Central America, most of them were observations about the world but here I realize most of the observations are about me. Which is why this quote from Anais Nin is so true:
We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are.
1. I have seen many people argue they weren’t running away from life but toward something else. I was running away… from the stress of not knowing what I wanted to do with my life and the inability to figure it out in the confines of my life. I still have no clue but I don’t feel the stress to define I’m more comfortable not knowing.
2. Corporate life is not for me. I don’t mind being a visitor with contract work but I don’t have the ambition to rise the corporate ladder just because I can.
3. Maybe I’m not as unfriendly as I thought or maybe I learned to shed it on the road as excess baggage.
4. If you can’t decide if someone is awesome or obnoxious. Chances are they are a douche bag.
5. Mean people are unhappy. Happy people won’t try to make you feel bad about yourself. The next time someone is mean to you feel sorry for them because something is so wrong with them they need to make you feel bad about yourself.
6. Some skills are important but you won’t learn them in school – like how to pee without touching the toilet seat while wearing a 45L backpack.
7. I thought I’d be happier on the road but while I was there I longed for my old relationship and job. Changing your location doesn’t change the issues. Just as you can be happy anywhere you can also be unhappy in paradise.
8. Art is important.
9. We eat far too much meat and the Earth is suffering because of our gluttony.
10. I need to talk less listen more.
11. Sometimes love lasts a lifetime, sometimes only a night. Cherish whatever you have at that moment.
12. We take clean water for granted. Being able to drink from the tap is a privilege.
13. Do not drink the water in Mexico. You will get sick.
14. iPhones are great. iPhones at the dinner table are not. Just because there is a lull in conversation doesn’t mean you need to check your emails – everyone you need is in front of you.
15. Being heartbroken is okay and you shouldn’t have to hide it. It’s better to hurt than never taking a chance.
16. Crying is okay. Crying in public is okay. Crying on a bus is also okay even if you do it all the time.
17. Age really doesn’t matter. It’s better to have friends with a common interest than a common age.
18. You can’t have everything. There is always a sacrifice and not everyone will understand you had to give up something to get what you wanted.
19. I can live with less.
20. I need to work harder at not interrupting people, especially when I’m so excited about what they are saying that I need to add to it.
21. If I don’t step outside my comfort zone in some manner I get bored.
22. We are poisoning the world with cheap, processed food.
23. Taking risks always pays off but not always in ways that you expect.
24. Even people who are mean to you leave you better off because you will be kinder to others.
25. A genuine smile can change someone’s day.
26. We think science will help us cure everything but if we listened more to the indigenous people we would find some things don’t need to be invented, they are already there.
27. Mindset is everything! Being on a crowded chicken bus in Guatemala is amusing as a memory but a crowded bus in Toronto is annoying.
28. I am addicted to the internet.
29. If you want to make a good impression on someone stop talking about what makes you so great and listen to the person like they are the most fascinating you have met. That person will only have good things to say about you.
30. My way may be right, but it isn’t the only right way.
31. The best meal you’ve ever eaten will always pale in comparison to mediocre food with people you care about.
32. Friendships change; instead of being resentful or wishing for the old days try to embrace the new ones.
33. It’s better to be alone than feel lonely while with someone.
34. You cannot change to make someone love you.
35. Everyone feels lonely and unhappy and wonder why no one else feels the way. If everyone were more honest about their insecurities everyone would feel less lonely.
I’m still learning, tell me your best piece of advice.
Never arrive at an opportunity and think, “I’ll do it tomorrow”…Today is tomorrow – don’t wish away your time, it’s a lot more precious than you think
That’s a very good one.
I really like number 29. I’m finding that the more cool stuff I do, the more inclined I am to waffle on about myself, and I need to take a breather and ask more questions. That’s what happens when you travel though. You’re desperate to share all your incredible experiences with everyone you meet!
Oh this one will be important when you are in South America as everyone wants to tell you how great they are. Spend time with the locals and just listen to how wonderful they are because they have the stories that are worth listening to.
Do you know spanish fluently? I don’t know any and I am afraid I will have a big communication barrier there.
Oh not at all. When I first arrived in Mexico I didn’t know more than 3 words. I did take lessons along the way because I knew I would be spending a lot of time there but there are tons of travelers that know nothing and travel quite well. How long do you plan to go?
Everything happens for a reason; good or bad, that’s what put you on the road and made you see what you really wanted.
Enjoy the day! it’ll bring other great things into your life!
I agree with you, everything really does happen for a reason even if you don’t understand it at the time.
Love this! #7 = so true.
Sadly I just learned that one.
You’re so right. Mean people ARE unhappy and should be pitied. Crying is totally acceptable. Walking down the street, on a bus, wherever. iPhones at the table are disrespectful. I am the queen of interupting people and also need to work on that.
I had a fortune cookie once that read: “It takes the sun and the rain to make a rainbow.” So accept the good and the bad because its all part of the journey…
It’s also nice to have friends that realize when you interrupt them it’s not because you don’t care about what they are saying but you really just want to share something special with them.
the number one thing i learned from travelling in Latin America was that you truly do not need “things” to be happy. Great company is enough
So true, you can be in the worst place with the best people and love it.
10, 20, 29 are all things I’m trying to work on myself right now. Listening to others and giving valid advice without being distracted is something I need get better at doing. Something I’ve learned is that I don’t need to worry about trying to do everything nor see every place – I’m satisfied and blessed by what I can do and see each day.
They are my worst too!
These where the ones that stood out to me also.
I was just thinking the other day how Venezuelans have taught me to live – in the sense that my life is much more balanced. I used to let the simplest inconvenience upset me – even though I knew it was trivial, but now I just can’t do it. Not even if I tried. I hope you’re able to continue using these lessons because my biggest fear is that I’ll get sucked back into the useless stress once I move back to the US.
I should have listed that too! I learned that the little inconveniences really aren’t worth getting upset over.
Crazy that I was reading many of these I was thinking yes yes oh yes right on. I think travel really does teach you so many things about you that you never even knew you needed to learn.
And all of the things that are so much more important in life than say – geometry.
Great post! I love #4 hehe. This kind of self-awareness really is the kind of thing that comes with growing up and seeing the world, isn’t it? Thanks for sharing! 🙂
I learned that one only a short while ago.
#6 made me smile, but I really like number #35 the most. Everyone needs that tattooed on their heads.
Understanding #35 has changed my life and how I approach the site. It’s tough to write personal things about my own insecurities but I want people to know they are not alone.
This is an amazing post on life in general! I love love love it. And #6: THIGHS OF STEEL! And hopefully something to cram your elbows into.
Great words of wisdom, my favourites are #13 and #31.
And so important too.
Great round up. I agreed with most of the things you wrote! I liked your birthday tribute post as well. I can relate a lot of those.
Congratulations on your special birthday! Cherish the moment, and embrace the consequences is the important thing we have to remember. And everyone deserves to be happy, in every different form. 🙂
Thanks so much Juno, it’s definitely an important birthday.
Such a great post, I’m about the same age as you, and have many of the same conversations and revelations with myself. My only addition to this list for my own use is the best quote from The Shawshank Redemption: “Get busy living, or get busy dying.”
That is a pretty good one, life is all about choice.
#24..I know someone that is always mean to other people and is very hard to be around,but I never thought that it would make me kinder.I think you are right!!!I must keep this in mind the next time I have to be around him!!!Thanks Ayngelina for all your insights!!You are always interesting!!!
It’s the only way you can deal with mean people – treat them with pity…well after a few choice words under your breath.
Great post. It’s great that you’re feeling ok with the unknown. Makes life a lot easy to live. BTW I think you’re super friendly! Maybe because I met you post-travel;)
My tip? Spend more time in nature, especially when you live in a big city.
It’s definitely because you met me post-travel, and I’m happy for that.
I would add that not everyone will like you and that’s okay. Some people will have stupid reasons for not liking you or will judge you immediately. We aren’t destined to be friends with everyone we meet.
Love this post! And Happy Birthday!
That is a really tough one, I know it’s true but in my heart I have not learned it yet.
A good bunch of brilliant lines here, some of them I felt really reflected! By the way I’m 36… 🙂
So you are wiser than me!
Insightful, honest list that’s as true for non-travelers as it is for travelers. My personal fave? #6…
It’s an important skill in life.
“The next time someone is mean to you feel sorry for them.”
I’d also agree that all experiences, good & bad, make you a better person. It’s hard to have a bad day when you fully accept this as fact. 🙂
Even the worst experiences brought me where I am today, and for that I am thankful.
Love this post! It’s intensely personal but has truths we all recognize. You’ve picked up some amazing lessons and experiences on your journey;thanks for sharing them. Here’s to the next 35 years and beyond!
Thanks so much Anis and I’m so happy that I have met you along the way.
Mwahaha. #4 is awesome.
And I also totally have a problem with #20.
From what I’m hearing it’s a universal problem.
Love this post, Ayngelina! Similar-ish to my latest one, as you pointed out 🙂
Great tips about life and handling people here. I particularly like your point on deciding whether or not a person is awesome or obnoxious. They’re ALWAYS a douchebag if you have to try and figure it out!
So true but seriously I just learned that one. I always like to give people a chance, and I should not.
Oooh, splendid; I need to do such a list -unfortunately I’m full of good advice but can only painfully slowly integrate it in my actual life (while I can change, and actually feel very good about that fact, there’s always a strong resistance to the actual changing, and I tend to not be persistent enough), but I dig your learned lessons, and I’m happy that you thought it was important to mention food (less meat, less processed, etc.) and that science is sometimes used to create very complicated solutions for problems that could be solved quite simply by ‘simple’ people. Less is more, it really is!!
I find the older I get the more I realize simpler really is better.
Any list I’ve ever read on your blog is always spot on! Loved this
I don’t usually do lists but when I do I try to make them worthwhile.
Love this post. There are so many that got me, I can’t even list them all.
Suffice it to say, I think reading this was the perfect way to start my day.
Besitos de Latin America 🙂
Thanks Leigh, it was really so wonderful meeting you. I hope to get back down soon and spend more than an afternoon with your family – well if you’ll have me!
All great advice! My favorite advice lately is to fear less and challenge yourself more. I believe we are all capable of the extraordinary once we let go of our trepidation that we can’t do it.
That’s a great one too, anything I have risked has always come at great reward.
Love this! Your honesty is always so refreshing and inspiring. I agree with all of these points, especially #35 – we should all be more honest with our feelings – I know I make a point of being 100% open on my blog, and it has enriched my life beyond measure. Thanks for always putting your truth out there 🙂
The blog really helped me come out of my shell, in a lot of ways I feel like I owe it to people to be as honest as I can.
Love #s 6 & 27 – especially if the TTC bus is non air-conditioned and is driven by someone who doesn’t know how to use the brake system… hellish commute!
I feel the same way, the TTC seems awful but go ride on a chicken bus for 8 hours and it’s somehow amuses us!
These are all spot on! Laughed out load at the peeing skills we girls all seem to gain. One thing I have learned at least to try to do is take a lesson from every difficulty. It’s working about half the time so far 🙂
I should make that more of a habit.
Great lessons! #19 is something I remember every time I travel, and forget the longer I stay in one place. And #20 is a problem for me, too.
I have a ridiculously tiny apartment now so it prohibits me from accumulating too much stuff but it’s difficult to say no.
Very keen observations! Travel is the best education out there, and you’ve proven it.
It really has the power to change people for the better.
Bahahaha I am a bus crier. Totally OK with that.
Glad to know I’m not the only one.
So many truths here, and you’re so right about people being honest–if people could just be honest about feeling lonely, break-ups, etc., we would all be happier. I would add that every time we think we know a certain culture or group of people, we find out we are wrong. And TV is useless 99.5% of the time.
Of course, let’s face it we’re not all history channel fanatics, when I have access to it I watch the trashiest shows – which is why I do not allow myself to have cable.
#6 sounds difficult. I have yet to try that one and hope I never have to.
Never? I am surprised.
If only everyone would read these then maybe the world would be a better place! Love them all. 35 hits the nail on the head for a lot of people too.
Thanks so much Cole.
I love this list! As I was reading, I thought yep, yep, yep…
#6 may be the most important survival skill I learned in Latin America.
Great list and very wise advice in your 35 years. Some of these made me think about my own life. I agree with a lot of these. I could comment on most of these but I will say that #14, 7, and 27 are spot on!
I wish my friends would learn #14.
“12. We take clean water for granted. Being able to drink from the tap is a privilege.
13. Do not drink the water in Mexico. You will get sick.” – Ain’t it the truth!
“34. You cannot change to make someone love you.” – I only discovered this recently. 🙂
This is such a wonderful list. Really reflective and so inspiring.
I only learned 34 recently too…
Sometimes being too on guard is your worst enemy. The world is full of wonderful people and very few bad guys. Be safe but be open to opportunity.
I also liked you comment about age not mattering. Before I started traveling full time I kind of ran in homogeneous group of friends. Now that I am out there I find common interests bind me to others far more than age or even economic situation.
I’ve met some incredibly perceptive people in their early 20s and young spirits in their 60s – age really just is a tree ring.
Love this list and enjoying your blog
Thanks for sharing all these lessons. It is incredible all the things Latin America can show us. Everytime I travel around the region, I learned new things even if I visit the same places.
It’s really difficult for me to go anywhere else when there is so much more I need to learn.
I like No. 6, because at the end of the day, all travel is education, and not just for those random but really useful skills you pick up! I’ve long thought of travel as my substitute for grad school–and I’m happy with my decision to see the world rather than study something I wasn’t all that passionate or sure about.
I think everyone should travel before they go to university, it would help people realize what they want to do.
Love this list and I definitely agree and identify with many many points on here.
So good to hear Cheryl.
#18 is really speaking to me right now. It takes so much confidence to know what is worth risking in order to reach a long term goal.
It always feels like such a risk but once you make the decision everything starts to fall into place.
You’ve taken so many of these directly out of my head, especially number 5 about mean people. When I encounter mean people I have to remind myself that they’re probably unhappy. I know I’ve been mean when I’m not happy. Often I cut them some slack. Other times I just dub them an asshole and move on about my business. This comes along with a broken give-a-damn. 🙂
Sometimes I see myself making mean or snarky comments and have to put it all back into check.
This is a great list…so many avid points I don’t know where to start. I particularly like number 1 but can totally connect with just about every other point on the list. Thanks 🙂
Good to hear I got you from the start!
Such beautiful advice. I think there are a lot of things in here for most people.
My favourite is number 11: “Sometimes love lasts a lifetime, sometimes only a night. Cherish whatever you have at that moment.”
Regardless of the kind of love you’re talking about, once you accept this, the world becomes a much happier place.
It also makes you appreciate it in the moment because it may not last.
Great list! Wonderful words of wisdom, even if we sometimes have a hard time remembering things like this in the moment.
Even I have a hard time remembering them, I’ve been keeping this list for months as a reminder.
Happy Belated Birthday!
Loved this post, and #4 made me laugh. It’s absolutely true though!
We all want to give people a chance but sometimes it’s just better to walk away.
Love this post! This rings true: “If you can’t decide if someone is awesome or obnoxious. Chances are they are a douche bag.” LOL
That was a recent add, after I realized he was indeed a douchebag. Never again.
For once I’m going to be serious. There is a lot here that hits home. Some of it kinda like a slap in the face with things I’ve been battling.
I’m going to print it off and hang it on my wall as a reminder.
Hogga you are always so nice when it comes to these things. And if you ever need another face slap you knew who to call.
Fabulous advice! Going off number 18, I think my tip would have to be that it’s worth making friends all over the world even though it’s sometimes sad that you can’t be with them as often as you’d like. Missing out on get togethers and big moments sucks, but the reunions are always well worth it.
That’s a good one Emily and honestly with Facebook it’s so much easier now.
4. iPhones are great. iPhones at the dinner table are not. Just because there is a lull in conversation doesn’t mean you need to check your emails – everyone you need is in front of you.
::cough:: CAILIN ONEIL! hahaha
17. Age really doesn’t matter. It’s better to have friends with a common interest than a common age.
I only think about our age gap when someone actually mentions it. We are a decade apart and I adore you. Hanging out with you is always fantastic, whether we are being ridiculous or having a heart to heart.
Yeah I know I always forget there’s a decade but I think you meet me half way – you are mature and well…we both know I’m not.
I love this, Ayngelina. Especially the bit about the crying. It IS OK, and it’s healing, and cathartic, and does much to wash away any preconceived notions of needing to have it all together all the time. 🙂
People think crying is a sign of weakness but it’s just a way to deal with pain so we shouldn’t judge people for it.
Amazing how much you can learn in such a short space of time. Travel is such a wonderful way of opening up your eyes. Number 4 is so true…mean = unhappy. And yes, it’s totally ok to cry 🙂
I’m sure there will be a lot more tears!
#19 is the mantra that keeps me going each and every day.
Soon, I’ll be able to pack my entire life into the back of a small pickup truck and move on…
Where are you going?
Travel can unleash your true self…never hide that!
It’s a good one to remind myself of now that I am at home.
Wow. Quite the list. Number 1 sums up my life perfectly. I used to joke that I’d give myself until 30 to figure things out. I’m knocking on its door and still don’t have an honest answer!
As for number 13, I’ll admit that I’ve made a similar mistake. If you travel long enough, you’ll always assume that your stomach can handle something it cant!
I have a bad habit about being too cocky about food and drink, and then locals give me a strange look when I tell them I drank the water because they don’t!
Latin America is a place that fascinates me. Can’t wait to get there one day.
It’s a really special place, each country is so different and has it’s own reason to love it. People ask me my favourite country but I could never choose.
#19 “I can live with less.” I have also learnt this and think many budget kind of travelers do too. And it is a very important and valuable lesson actually! Now all I own is inside my backpack and feel that I have “more than ever”! Less stuff means more freedom!
It can get addictive, I keep trying to get a smaller and smaller bag. Today I’m heading to Portland and decided not to take my DSLR or laptop so I could do a very small bag. Although I won’t be tech-less I still have my iPhone.
This is beautiful and perfect. Thanks for giving me comfort in the fact that I’m not the only one out there with a list like this. #26 really touched me. Here’s to listening more and talking less.
I need to remind myself of that one every day.
This is the BEST 140 characters ever written.. for me at least.
“You can’t have everything. There is always a sacrifice and not everyone will understand you had to give up something to get what you wanted.”
I stumbled here, and this is exactly what I needed to hear today! I just moved (last night) almost 6 hours away from all my friend, my son, my girlfriend, and the ONLY city I have ever lived in for an opportunity to provide a better life for myself and the people I love most. I was really starting to wonder if I made the right decision, and this has made me feel 1000% better about my decision.
Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us all. I can’t even express how you have made me feel using words. I wish I could meet you and give you a huge hug! You are awesome!
God bless you and I wish you good luck in everything you do!
Wow that gives me chills, I am so happy you found that message when you needed it. I hope it stays with you.
Number 30 really touched me. My way may be right, but it isn’t the only right way. We’ve all made bad decisions before.
I think it’s important to make bad decisions, I have some doozies that got me where I am today.
I fell in love with you just now. Maybe its the pictures, or what I just read but probably both. Marry me?
This is truely inspiring!
Thank you for putting a few things into perspective!
#27 is my favorite on the list! So true, the little things in travel are what can make it great, but if you aren’t looking for it or not in the mood will also destroy your day. Fun (and deep) list!
Awesome list not only for travling in Latin America but also traveling in other places.
#6 makes me smile when I am reading.
36. I learned to actually respect Latinos as real, people with real livesk as important to them as those of white N. Americans and Europeans are to that cohort. I learned to stop using sniggering derogatory terms such as “chicken bus”, almost on a par with “ni@@er bus” and use the local term, chiva, instead. Not to just pretend to respect people because its socially more acceptable, while secretly full of contempt.
36. I learned to actually respect Latinos as real, people with real livesk as important to them as those of white N. Americans and Europeans are to that cohort. I learned to stop using sniggering derogatory terms such as “chicken bus”, almost on a par with “ni@@er bus” and use the local term, chiva, instead. Not to just pretend to respect people because its socially more acceptable, while secretly full of contempt. Not to make blase comments like ” everyone should travel before gong to university”, realizing this choice is only mostly available to white people from rich countries, not to the majority o people in the countries in whixh I like to travel. I have seen the ghetto es of Colombia and Mexico. Is travel and uni really an option for most of s these people? And ive ridden on chivas and never actually seen a chicken on one.
Important points Kevin – also to know that Latin America isn’t one homogenous place so the experience will change from country to country and even city to city. Chicken buses are technically not in South America but countries in Central America and the term chiva is used in Colombia and Ecuador but it’s not universal throughout Latin America.
And while not everyone has the opportunity to travel before university, after university or to be fortunate like me to take a career break to travel I don’t think we should discourage people who can do it. The first step toward respecting people is understanding them and there’s no better way to do that than to travel and meet them.
I realized that Latin America is not actually just a big amusement park, not a sort of grand scale Disney World put there to entertain rich spoiled pampered white people from North America, Europe and Australasia, to educate them and help them find themselves when they feel lost. RATHER it’s a real place with real people leading real lives, those lives no less worthy than mine because they may have been born into relative poverty.
Thanks Ayngelina. Well they do say chiva at least in Guatemala also. I’m pretty sure the local people who live there and ride them do not use the term chicken bus..or bus de pollo. That seems to be a condescending term that tourists use. And really they dont even have them in many countries of latinoamerica. Or use them very little. I don’t know why it’s the one thing tourists to Latinoamerica always focus on and chuckle about and feel superior about. Haha, they use old school buses. Haha, aren’t we superior.
in fact most countries of latinoamerica have better intercity public transportation and certainly better ground transportation than Canada does. Or even the mighty USA. I have ridden on buses in Argentina, Colombia, etc, far superior in quality to anything we have in Canada. Also in countries considered even poorer such as Honduras, el Salvador, and Guatemala. People seem to like to push this image that the only public transit is old school buses. No tourist has to take this, they do it ona lark or as a joke , or to save a few bucks aftr dropping 100 on booze or dope
Oh I totally agree, the bus rapid transit system in Cali is incredible. And I actually love riding the bus in Ecuador, where else can you just show up to a bus station and know that you probably won’t have to wait more than 10 minutes to catch a bus.
If you want to see an incredible documentary check out LA CAMIONETA: The Journey of One American School Bus. So many amazing stories wrapped into one bus.
Hi Ayngelina: I love the theme of your blog, as I’m travelling the world in search of the best chocolate, so we have much in common.
I also love your list. At the young age of 35, it looks like you’ve already learned much about life. Congrats on passing the other ones by — especially the ones who are resentful. I think you are SO right in saying that the mean ones are generally those who are unhappy. Knowing that has helped me tolerate their unkind behaviour. Happy travels!
Great post I like 2,5, and 19.
El que no oye consejo, no llega viejo
One who doesn’t listen to advice won’t make it to old age.
We eventually find our path. It is called destiny. I always believe that nothing is coincidental. Everything happens for a reason.
Just found your website while I was looking for a spa in San Pedro and read the above article. Love it, everyday we learn!
I’ve going through your blog and I’ve really enjoyed it. I love your style of writing and I’m always interested!
I find that, although everyone has their own story and adventure, the lessons we learn while travelling are similar. I mean, they come in all different shapes, sizes, colours and emotions but the core of every thing we learn while travelling is shared with many others.
Reading your blog is like seeing my experiences through different eyes and it’s been lovely to read.
Couple of things I have learnt:
The world is full of wonderful, caring people who are willing to help and share their world. Be one of them.
Do some thing you have always wanted to do, dispite what people think of you. Shame is a shackle, free yourself.
If you spend your whole life eating apples, how do you know you like oranges?
I’m the one with the problem.
Thanks again, reading blogs always gets me pumped for my next big one. South America for me!
haha been on a ‘chicken bus’ in Guatemala too – certainly made London tubes easier. Nice post!
These are all great, traveling abroad teaches you soo much and appreciate being present and accepting all these wonderful things that you can change in your life
We DO eat way too much meat. We just learnt how bad it really is for us and have cut it out our diet along with most animal products. I think a part of u always misses home while we are away
Thanks for this article 😀 So much lessons to ponder.
I really liked your blog. Thank you for such a long list of things to consider …
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