37 Tough Lessons I Learned From Travel

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Today is my 37th birthday and I can’t help but look back to the person I was 4.5 years ago when I bought a one way ticket to Mexico to find myself.

I was 32 and despite having what others deemed as a successful life, I had no idea what I was doing or what I wanted.

I left to travel and hoped there would be a lightbulb moment, I thought climbing mountains and galavanting on chicken buses and eating guinea pig would somehow unlock the secret to happiness.

That moment never came.

What did happen was that travel has made me a kinder, smarter and more compassionate person.

It didn’t happen overnight and only recently do I see how much I have changed.

In four years I’ve learned some tough lessons:

1. No decision is forever. If you make a life decision and you don’t like what happened just make another life decision.

2. In a disagreement it doesn’t really matter who is right and who is wrong. Like most wars, both sides are to blame.

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3. I wasted time in relationships because I feared being alone.

4. Learning a new language is humbling and English is probably the hardest language to learn.

5. Relationships across cultures is electrifying and exasperating. The exotic cultural differences that draw two people together usually contribute to the end the relationship.

6. Some people are jerks. Don’t spend energy talking about them.

7. Being robbed is not the worst thing in the world.

8. Do not miss out on the thrill of traveling solo. It will make you more appreciative of sharing it with someone.

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9. Live the life you want now. Don’t wait for the weekend. Your vacation. Retirement.

10. No one is perfect. You can either be pretty, smart, rich or have a sane family. Some people get a combination but no one gets everything.

11. Drunk texting never leads to anything good, no matter how badly you want to tell someone what you really think of them.

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12. It takes 9 failures for one minor success. If you don’t go out there and fail miserably you’ll never make it to success.

13. The traveler vs. tourist debate is annoying. Travel how you want to travel. There is no right way.

14. I’m addicted to the Internet. I don’t need to be on Facebook five times a day (let’s be serious it’s more like 10-15).

15. Some friendships aren’t made to last forever. People change and grow apart. Instead of being upset that I wasn’t as close to my old friends I made new ones.

16. Don’t define success by the balance in your bank account. It’s okay to put your life first and job second even if it means you won’t make as much money.

17. If people on your Facebook newsfeed annoy you then hide them. Who needs to waste time being annoyed by a Facebook status.

18. Comparing yourself to others only makes you feel terrible. There will always be people who achieve more than you, instead of beating yourself up, focus on what you could do better.

friends quote

19. If there are people in your life who make you feel bad about yourself then remove them from your life. Your friends and family should lift you up with support, not bring you down (sidenote: thanks Mom for your unconditional support).

20. Take pleasure in small things. A sunny day. Music. Cute dogs. Smile as much as you can.

21. Don’t wait for someone to complete you. In order to find love you need to be able to stand on your own.

22. If there’s something you don’t like: your weight, your job, your friends – change it now! It’s never too late. The only one who can make it better is you.

23. Feel sorry for people who are mean to you because it’s never about you. Happy people don’t try to make others feel bad.

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24. Weird people make the world interesting. Don’t discount people with strange ideas, even if 90% of what they say is crazy sometimes the 10% is really insightful. If not at least it’s entertaining.

25. Being alone is better than being with someone who doesn’t think you are amazing.

26. Someone will think you are amazing.

27. Don’t waste time being angry about things you can’t change. Life is unfair but wallowing in anger and self-pity won’t make it better.

28. You are only as old as you feel. At 37 I don’t feel older than I was ten years ago, only wiser.

29. Don’t be afraid to take risks, they bring the biggest rewards.

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30. If you love someone, ensure they know it every single day.

31. Apologize when you are wrong. Even when you don’t want to admit it, or when the other person is wrong too.

32. There are no overnight successes. Working hard is the only way to get what you want.

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33. Traveling solo takes you out of the familiar and makes you question who you are when there’s no one around to define you.

34. I’d rather live an interesting life full of mistakes than a safe life where I risked nothing.

35. Meeting someone who does think I’m the most amazing person in the world and realizing travel made me the person who could finally accept that kind of love.

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36. You won’t be perfect at everything in the beginning. Give yourself permission to learn and grow.

37. No one knows what they are doing in life. We are all so busy trying to pretend we’ve got it together but everyone has deep insecurities and doubts. Don’t be afraid to admit them, you’ll make others feel less alone.

And the biggest thing I’ve learned is that this is just the beginning.

Join the Conversation

  1. Alana - Paper Planes says:

    Happy birthday!

    And wonderful insight…

  2. Truth. Happy Birthday Ayngelina!

  3. Happy birthday! Some very wise words I wholeheartedly agree with but should probably be putting into practice a whole lot more!

  4. Wonderful post and so many truths. I’ve elated many of the same lessons!

    Happy birthday, hope you have a lovely day! X

  5. Zoe @ Tales from over the Horizon says:

    What a great post. I’ve learnt some of these. Others I might intellectually acknowledge, but I really need to learn them properly.

  6. Lisa - Wee Wanders says:

    I LOVE your list of travel lessons – I think a lot of people, both travellers and non-travellers, could learn from and appreciate your lessons.

    In a few days I leave for my first long-term backpacking trip around Southeast Asia after deciding to quit my job, so I can definitely relate to choosing the life you want and making a change.

    I’m looking forward to learning a few lessons of my own along the way πŸ™‚

  7. Happy birthday!! I really like the love and relationship lessons you’ve learned here because I’ve come to understand a lot of them recently too. But I definitely agree with #11 on drunk texting!!

  8. Wow, this is a great 37 Tough Lessons. I see you living so much of what you have talked about here. How you have changed over the last 4.5 years! And to think I thought you were crazy when you took your first step in this direction!

  9. Jane Vice says:

    Your comments are my thoughts exactly….Happy birthday Angelina…I met you in Ecuador a few years back .. We are still travelling having adventures….we only LIVE one life and this is not a trial run….have fun

  10. Stephanie - The Travel Chica says:

    Definitely another year wiser πŸ™‚

  11. Great list! πŸ™‚ I love #9, “Live the life you want now.” So much better than trying to fit into everyone else’s mold!

  12. Happy birthday. Thanks for sharing these beautiful and wise words.

  13. tammyonthemove says:

    Happy birthday! I agree on the traveller vs tourist debate. It is so patronising.

  14. Lovely post Ayngelina. Some of your advice really hit home today.
    Happy Birthday.

  15. drunk texting really is terrible isn’t it? I love your list, it makes me excited, I’m just starting to do things solo and I feel like its so stretching. It is strange that when you’re alone you’re different. Not what I expected but kinda cool. Happy Birthday!

  16. Happy B-day Ayngelina!

    I loved your life-tips..they made me think a lot..and I think I will hang all those life-lesson pictures! and try to look at them every single day πŸ˜‰

  17. Chanel | Cultural Xplorer says:

    I love this. Thanks for the wise words Ayngelina. I especially loved “Do not miss out on the thrill of traveling solo. It will make you more appreciative of sharing it with someone.” – traveling solo has definitely made me appreciate being able to share my experiences with someone πŸ˜€

    1. Chanel | Cultural Xplorer says:

      Oh yes, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY! πŸ˜€

  18. giselleandCody says:

    Happy birthday!!

    Such a great list and we definitely had a lot of them on our list πŸ™‚

  19. Melissa Cueto says:

    Happy birthday, and thanks for the insight. I’m almost the age you were when you bought that one-way ticket to Mexico, and I’m at a similar place, trying to decide what step to take next in my life. “Live the life you want now” has been the mantra playing in my head. Here’s to another four years full of adventure and life lessons for you. πŸ™‚

  20. Susan @ Travel Junkette says:

    Fantastic post, Ayngelina — and happy birthday! Hope to see you again soon πŸ™‚

  21. Katie @ The World on my Necklace says:

    Happy Birthday Ayngelina!Great list, some of those points I learnt myself as a result of travelling. I definitely feel wiser than before I started my travels and they have shaped me to become the person I am today. One of the biggest things for me is to be more accepting of other people and to appreciate the small things in life. Priceless lessons that mean more to me than money or accolades. Hope Chef Rouge spoilt you rotten πŸ™‚

  22. Happy birthday! I love this post and I couldn’t agree with you more. My husband and I have been nomads now for one year and it’s changed our lives. We’ll never go back to living the lives we previously did.

  23. I love this! These are so true, yet so hard to learn for many of us. I hope you had a wonderful birthday!

  24. What a great list, thanks for sharing it and happy birthday! #13 is one of my favs! We’re 6 months into our ‘Around the World’ trip and I hate finding blog posts that say we’re “doing it wrong”. Live the life you want to live and travel in a way that makes you happy!

  25. Linda Sanderman says:

    You are one amazing young woman. I love the 37 travel tips but cannot get it to go on either my FB page or into my email. This is definitely a keeper. Would you be so kind as to email it to me. I am an older woman and am still a bit technology challenged.Thank you very much. Linda

  26. Kevin @ Guess This City says:

    Awesome list. It took me awhile to realize that some people are just jerks. I learnt this the hard way as I am a very trusting person.

    Also that great advice on taking risks. The best times I have ever had were when I stepped out of my comfort zone.

  27. Christine @thetraveloguer says:

    Happy belated birthday! This is a great list! It is amazing how much travel teaches you and changes your perspective. πŸ™‚

  28. A Montrealer Abroad (@marievallieres) says:

    “36. You won’t be perfect at everything in the beginning. Give yourself permission to learn and grow.”

    Love this one. It’s something I have to keep telling myself every day, as I want to do everything perfectly but I know I still have so much to learn.

    Great post, Ayngelina!

  29. Martine @ Chompchomp says:

    This is wonderful advice. I have seen friend get scared of ageing but I agree, the later I get into my 30’s the more satisfied and happy I realise I am with life.

  30. As obvious as #6 should be, I find it hard to disengage from fighting them, despite it doing nothing but fuelling them. I need to make following that lesson my focus for the rest of this year…!

  31. Diana Edelman says:

    This is so well-done. I have learned a lot of the same lessons in the 4.5 years since I went traveling, too. And some of those lessons, I haven’t learned but feel good knowing that you can share them with us.

  32. So much wisdom in one short post! Number one is my favorite and I need to remind myself of it often. Happy birthday, Ayngelina!

  33. Emma @ Everyday Postcard says:

    “9. Live the life you want now. Don’t wait for the weekend. Your vacation. Retirement.”

    I love this one. I can never understand why people say they would love to do something but can’t for one reason or another… Most of the time it’s just excuses. Just do it!

  34. Kristin Addis says:

    Absolutely beautiful post. It was helpful for me to read because even as someone who has solo traveled it’s hard to always be conscious of these things. Thanks for lifting me up a bit today!

  35. I’m bookmarking this one to dip into again and again when I’m having a rough day. Great list!

  36. What an incredible post – I love these personal insightful pieces! So many fabulous lessons and many more to come, I’m certain πŸ™‚ I wish I could just take all your insights and apply them to my own life… (un)fortunately, we all have to learn certain things first hand! Anyway – thanks for an amazing post & HAPPY BIRTHDAY πŸ˜€

  37. Angie Away says:

    Bookmarking for a rainy day! Such great insights!

    Happy birthday =)

  38. There are some I can really relate to and some that are perhaps a little too specific to your experiences, but this is a great list! I’m heading to Mexico in 2 weeks! Very exciting! Happy birthday πŸ™‚

  39. The Together Traveler says:

    I really enjoyed this post! A lot of great things to think about! And happy birthday, hope you enjoyed it!!

  40. A wonderful article in which I kind of find my self, the “32 years old – who I am” part. I hope to be able to write something as insightful as this over 5 years πŸ™‚

  41. Love the realizations! It really pays to go wander your soul sometimes because you’ll end up discovering the inner you and gain a lot of life reflections and wisdom. Thanks for sharing this!

  42. Great article! It’s very inspiring to start the life we are dreaming about, it looks like leaving things behind that holds us up is the best decision in life. Thank you for sharing the lessons you have learned so far.

  43. Lots of great advice and quotes to live by. Especially when you are feeling a little stuck. Seeing some of these quotes and advice written down makes you realise you just need to do something now!

  44. This is my first time visiting your blog and this post caught my eye. I am hooked. Can’t wait to read more.

  45. clara johnson says:

    Nice one Ayngelina!Great list, some of those points I learnt myself as a result of travelling. I definitely feel wiser than before I started my travels and they have shaped me to become the person I am today. One of the biggest things for me is to be more accepting of other people and to appreciate the small things in life. Priceless lessons that mean more to me than money or accolades. Hope Chef Rouge spoilt you rotten.

  46. Absolutely beautiful post. It was helpful for me to read because even as someone who has solo traveled it’s hard to always be conscious of these things. Thanks for lifting me up a bit today!
    Kristin Addis recently posted

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