26 Things Travel Has Taught Me

Last updated on:
Some posts on this site contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, I may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you!). Read the full disclosure policy here.

Today is my 26th birthday. Today, I leave my “early 20s” and cross over into my “late 20s.” It's weird, in a way, because I feel like I barely got used to telling people I was 25, and now suddenly I'm a year older. Time certainly does fly when you're having fun — and I've definitely had my fair share of fun this past year!

Since I'm turning over another year today, I thought it would be a good time to take a look back at my life and travel and the things I've learned. I haven't been traveling for 26 years, but I'll still share 26 things travel has taught me thus far.

26 things travel has taught me

1. The world is not as scary as the media would lead you to believe

If you're like most people and get your opinion of the world from the news and movies, you probably view it as a dangerous, scary place. A place where terrorism is widespread, people kidnap tourists, and the likelihood of being robbed, maimed, or otherwise harmed is high.

The reality, of course, is that the world is not actually that scary, so long as you keep your wits about you.

Viscri, Romania

2. A country's past should not decide its future

Certain parts of the world have particularly dark pasts — war, genocide, communism, terrorism… But the truth is, NO country can boast a completely peaceful history. Instead of judging a place by its past (and perhaps avoiding it because of that past), it's better to look at a country as it is right now.

Don't write a destination off just because of something that happened there 10, 20, 50 years ago. You aren't the same person you were 10 years ago — so why shouldn't it be true of destinations, too?

3. We are not so different

At the end of the day, things like language, skin color, religion, and culture differentiate us much less than we think. No matter where you go in the world, people still strive for the same things: to care for their families. To be successful. To be happy.

Keep this in mind whenever you start thinking “us” and “them” thoughts. Because, at the end of the day, our dreams and goals are not that different.


4. I am incredibly lucky to have the passport that I do

There's no doubt about it: my American passport is a very, very valuable thing. With it, I am able to travel virtually anywhere in the world; there are very few barriers for me to overcome. I realize how lucky I am to have been born in the United States and have all the rights and freedoms associated with my citizenship.

5. Being an American does not have to be a negative thing

I know some Americans who are ashamed of where they come from — especially when they travel. They say they're Canadian, or simply don't say where they're from at all. This is silly. Most people I've encountered around the world love Americans. They don't necessarily love our government or world policies, but they love us and are open to learning more about us.

Apalachicola, Florida

6. Having an open mind will take you far

Other people keep open minds when meeting me; it's only fair that I do the same. Traveling with an open mind will allow you to have amazing, unforgettable experiences. Forget what you think you know, and life will be much more rewarding.

7. You cannot judge a culture that you know nothing about

Having an open mind will help you realize that stereotypes never represent everyone. You cannot judge a culture if you do not understand it — and basing your understanding on a stereotype does not equal understanding.

Before you pass judgment on traditions or beliefs, take some time to get to know the culture you are judging first.

Blue Mosque, Turkey

8. I'm more capable of solo travel that I once thought

I used to think that solo travel wasn't for me. I didn't think I could enjoy it. I didn't think I could handle it, to be honest. But I underestimated myself. Now, it's hard to imagine traveling any way other than on my own.

9. The world is big, and I will never see it all

With each new country I visit, I become acutely aware of how many there are left for me to see. The world is a big, amazing place, and I will likely never run out of places that I want to explore.

It's like Socrates said: “The more you know, the more you realize you know nothing.” This is true of travel, too — the more you see, the more you realize you've seen nothing.


10. It's OK to keep returning to a place you love

Even though the world is huge with endless places to discover, I've realized that some places will keep pulling you back. You will leave bits of your heart in different corners of the globe, and those places will call to you periodically. And this is OK. You don't have to always go somewhere different to be a “traveler.”

11. My own country is incredible

I love traveling abroad, don't get me wrong. But I've learned that my own country is pretty damn special, too. It's huge and diverse and very, very beautiful. From New York City to the Florida Everglades to the Southwest to San Francisco, this country has SO much to offer. And so much to love.

Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park

12. No one cares about my eating/drinking habits

I've never been a very adventurous eater, and I don't drink alcohol. I always figured people would judge me for this. But I've learned over the past few years that trying weird new foods can be fun. And I've learned that most people accept that I don't drink, and don't try to guilt me into it.

13. Your travel style shouldn't be compared to anyone else's

Don't listen to anyone who tells you that they know the “right” way to travel. There is no “right way.” There's only the way that works for YOU. Whether you're a budget backpacker or a luxury seeker, just travel the way that you want to and ignore everyone else. In the end, you will be a much happier traveler.


14. A travel style can change

Just as there's no one travel style that works for everyone, there may not even be one travel style that works for you all the time. As you grow and age and gain travel experience, your style may well change. And there's nothing wrong with that. A backpacker can stay in a luxury hotel, just as a comfort-seeking traveler can rough it in the bush.

15. Hostels are a great invention, even if I don't love them

I've never been the biggest fan of hostels (though they definitely are growing on me), but I have come to acknowledge how brilliant an invention they are. They are affordable, usually centrally located, and allow you to easily meet other travelers wherever you are. Forget what you know about them from the movies — they are actually great.

Noah's Ark, Greymouth, NZ

16. Technology has changed the way we travel

As I've traveled around the world and grown this blog from the ground up, I've become very aware of the effect technology has had on all of it. These days, I can book a hotel, a plane ticket, and a car all in a few clicks. I can get great travel tips from strangers on Twitter. I can instantly share photos with my friends on Facebook in real-time. And I can keep in touch with just about anyone, no matter where they are in the world. Technology has made the world smaller.

17. Being able to read a map is crucial

Despite smartphones and Google Maps and all that, being able to read an old-fashioned paper map is still a great skill to have. I've learned that I am actually a pretty good navigator once I get a real map in my hands.

Arches National Park, Utah

18. Getting lost can sometimes be a blessing in disguise

Sometimes, though, losing the map and just allowing yourself to get lost can be a great thing. As long as you don't find yourself lost in a bad neighborhood or otherwise dangerous situation, being lost can help you discover a place in a unique way that you just can't do by following a map or a guidebook's suggestions.

You'll stumble across tucked-away restaurants, funny street art, and scenes most people probably don't see. You may even be forced to talk to some locals!

19. You really can make lifelong friends while traveling

Yes, it's true that traveling long-term often means having to say a lot of goodbyes. Frequently. But it also allows you to meet a ton of amazing people who love traveling just as much as you do. Occasionally, you'll form bonds so strong that things like distance and time won't matter. With technology today, maintaining international friendships is easy. And having friends all over the world is never a bad thing.

Pakiri Beach, New Zealand

20. You and your excuses are the only things holding you back

I can't tell you how often people tell me that they wish they could do what I'm doing. Well guess what? They can. So can you. If you want to travel but currently aren't, it might be because you're hiding behind excuses. Time. Money. Responsibility. Fear. In many cases, YOU are the only thing truly holding yourself back. You can make time by prioritizing and planning ahead. You can save money by staying in hostels and flying budget airlines.ย You can manage the responsibility smartly. And you can overcome the fear.

21. Being nervous is natural

Fear and being nervous are natural when it comes to traveling. I'm not any braver than you are (no matter what you tell me). There have been several times when I've seriously considered canceling a trip at the last minute because I was scared. Scared of the unknown, mostly, because travel is full of unknowns. It's pushing through this fear and nervousness that really make you brave.

Twin Peaks, San Francisco

22. When the universe sends you signs, pay attention

Over the past few months, I feel like I've been getting a lot of signs from the Universe, pointing me down this path of travel. And, finally, I'm starting to pay attention. Whether it's related to travel or not, if Fate or God or the Universe or whatever is sending you signs, you'd better be listening.

23. Every destination has something to offer — you just have to find it

Maybe I'm just an overly positive person, but it's my belief that every destination — no matter where — has something interesting to discover about it. I try my best to uncover these redeeming qualities wherever I travel, and I think it helps me enjoy the whole travel process more.

Reykjavik, Iceland

24. It's OK to not love a place

#23 being said, of course, you don't have to love every place you travel. Destinations are like potential partners, I think — sometimes you just don't mesh well together, and the relationship doesn't work out. This is OK. As positive as I am about new places, there have still been destinations that just haven't wowed me. Like this one. And this one.

25. People back home may never understand

As much as I've tried to convince myself otherwise, the reality is that, sometimes, you are the only one who can truly appreciate your travels. When you return home from a trip and have all these amazing memories and experiences buzzing around in your head, chances are your friends and family back home won't be nearly as interested to hear about your adventures as you'd like them to be.

While you were off traversing the world, they were carrying on with their normal lives. They might be jealous of you. Or they just may have no sense of how amazing traveling is. They may never understand, and I've learned that you just have to come to terms with this.

Keystone, Colorado

26. Travel WILL change your life

Lastly, I've learned that travel — no matter how, where, or how often you do it — truly can change your life. Maybe travel will inspire a huge change, like convincing you to quit your job or move abroad. Maybe it will just inspire a little change, like opening your mind up to new foods and cultures. But I have no doubt that travel IS life-changing.

I know it sure has changed mine.

Do you agree with these lessons? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

Join the ADB Community!
Sign up here to get exclusive travel tips, deals, and other inspiring goodies delivered to your inbox.

124 Comments on “26 Things Travel Has Taught Me

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. Love this! Travel teaches us so many things…and sometimes even those things contradict each other (like you do in # 23 and 24)

    Happy birthday ๐Ÿ™‚

      It’s very true! So many lessons to be learned – I know I have a lot more on the way!

    What a great list of lessons learned! It is always nice to reflect in a general sense. To know that you’ve grown and gained at least a little wisdom over the years. Heres to 26 MORE years of lessons through travelling! And Happy Birthday too!

      Thanks, Chrystal! And yes, it’s good to just reflect sometimes. I definitely have grown and learned a lot, especially in recent years – but I know I have a lot more growing and learning to do!

    All great lessons. I especially like the getting lost one because you never know what you are going to find. I love wandering around and find the most interesting things when I do.

      Exactly! That’s what I love about getting lost, too.

    I’m 26 too, I found turning 25 a lot harder though! 26 will be the year that I start travelling, thanks for your tips!

      Yay for 26 being the year of travel! I’m hoping it will be for me, too.

    Great post, Amanda. I agree with all of these!

    Happy Birthday ๐Ÿ™‚

    So, re #12, I shouldn’t have forced you to drink that Radler in Slovenia?? Haha! Great list Amanda, and a happy happy 26th to you!

      Haha, did you force me to drink something? I don’t remember that!

      Thanks for the birthday wishes!

    What a wonderful list. I started serious solo travel too late in life. Then I decided if I had to wait for somebody to go with me I’d never get anywhere. Just go. I found a great travel company that caters to singles. But I know I can navigate most places now alone, so don’t sit around and dream about travel, just pick a place and go (but do some homework first).

      That’s always awesome to hear, Mike! And you’re so right – if you wait around for someone to travel with, you’ll never go anywhere!

    I love posts like these. It’s always the right time to think back on what we’ve done or experienced and what we’ve learned that will shape where we are going. I particularly like #3–we are not so different. So true. And thank you for not being ashamed that you’re American! Beautiful Yosemite shot, btw.

      Thanks, Jenna! And no, I’m not ashamed at all to be American. I come from a beautiful country. Yes, we have issues – but all countries do! Nothing to be ashamed of.

    A lot of great points. I can particularly confirm the validity of points 1 and 5 after just coming back from Egypt. Before I headed out there two and a half weeks ago, friends and family urged me not to go because it was too dangerous for an American (let alone one of Jewish heritage). In the days prior to my departure, there were anti-American demonstrations going on at the U.S. embassy in Cairo. And I have to admit, some of the footage I was seeing on the TV news looked pretty frightening. But when I got to Egypt, it quickly became apparent that the perils were overblown and overhyped. The protests fizzled out within a few days and had always been very minor (involving only a few hundred people in a city with a population of something like 18 million), and I never felt in any danger when I was in Cairo or anywhere else in Egypt. To the contrary, all the locals I met were friendly and hospitable. What’s more, to the extent the subject of my nationality came up, the people I met uniformly had good things to say about America. That made me very glad that I didn’t act ashamed of where I was from or pretend to be from Canada (as one of my Facebook friends had actually suggested I do — not that I would have ever considered putting a maple leaf on my daypack). Anywhere I go, even in my home city of New York, I just have to exercise common sense and appropriate caution. Egypt turned out to be no different in this regard.

    I had the most amazing time in Egypt, and I am so glad I went and didn’t listen to the fear-mongers who tried to get me to cancel the trip.

    I also wanted to comment on point no. 10, because that’s something I’m constantly thinking about. For the last few years, when I decide on travel destinations, I’ve been focused mainly on continuing to plot adventures in countries that I haven’t visited before. It’s not so much that I feel the need to prove that I’m a “traveler”; rather, I just want to see as many places as possible. At that same time, I’ve recognized the tension between that goal and my desire to return to my favourite locales (such as London, which I’ve been to seven times so far). But in recent years, I’ve been comfortable in mostly resolving that dilemma in favour of seeing new corners of the world.

    Oh, and I liked point 16 too. It was awesome posting photos of pyramids, temples, etc., and getting instant feedback on them from my friends, often within hours of seeing all those wonders. And I never use travel agents because it’s so easy to make all my own travel arrangements online.

      Thanks so much for sharing that about Egypt – that’s EXACTLY what I’m talking about!

    From a 47 year old who has been a traveler (and writer) most of my life, may I say bravo. You captured it. Your words and photos combined to capture why we travel. Well done.

      Thank you so much, Carole. What a lovely comment. There are plenty of other great reasons to travel and lessons to learn from it, I think, but these are the most important ones to me.

    I totally agree that countries shouldn’t be judged based on their history nor on how they’re perceived by the media. At times in my trip, my parents would call or email to ask if I was alright or safe…. I had no idea there were riots or strikes or whatever it is that makes parents worry. The media portrayed certain places as dangerous, but if you are actually there, you can’t find what they’re talking about…. so read the news with caution.

      Yup, you are exactly right, Amy. There were a couple places I went this summer that my mom especially was worried about just because of things she’s seen/read in the news recently. But the reality was that those places were absolutely FINE!

    Awesome post, Amanda! As I read each one, I was thinking ‘heck yeah!’ you’ve done a great job articulating things that I’d thought haha

    I hear ya on the ‘late 20’s’ as well, as I turn 27 in 2 months, and am having trouble comprehending its proximity to 30 lol oh dear, just a number!

      Just a number indeed. I think age is most felt on the inside anyway!

      I’m glad you liked the post and could relate to most of my points!

    Happy Birthday, Amanda! I have so enjoyed following your travels. I started living overseas at a young age, and I absolutely agree with all of your Travel Lessons. I especially agree with #23 (every place has something to offer– you just have to find it) and I think that applies to so many things, and especially people. Wishing you a wonderful year.

      Thanks, Ariana! And yes, #23 can definitely apply to people, too!

    I’m working on a similar post for my upcoming 25th birthday, so don’t be angry if I do publish it haha! But I agree with most of the items you listed. Travel IS a life changer.

      Hahaha, go for it! These sorts of posts are always fun to read – they are a good insight into the writer!

    Awww love this! Hope you had a very happy birthday!

    Number 4, Having the Right Passport,.. BANG ON! I became a British Citizen earlier this year and boy was it a sea change! Being able to work anywhere in Europe, travel freely across most of the known world.. amazing! Really, really lucky there.

      The passport you hold is a bigger deal than most people realize, I think!

    Happy birthday Amanda from etramping.com! That’s a lot list and it looks like you have learnt a lot on the road. You are right, people don’t care what you eat and drink, they respect your religion, skin colour and many habits. During my travels, I have also learnt that your smiley face and positive attitude can make a huge difference and impossible is nothing. Happy travels Amanda!

      Spot on with the smile and positive attitude, Agness! Being friendly will take you far, no matter where you are in the world!

    I wholeheartedly agree with the fact that the world isn’t as bad as the media makes it out to be!

    It is crazy all the negative stories on the news and it truly does make you think the worst about places around the world.

      You just have to remind yourself that the media focuses mostly on the negatives, but that there are a lot of positives out there, too!

    Happy Birthday, Amanda!!!
    #1 drives the point home – the world is actually a wonderful place, full of nooks and crannies waiting to be discovered with glee! =) Also, #4 is SO DARN TRUE! Finally having a Canadian passport is a bliss I never knew existed! It never felt SO, SO good to have to say good-bye to visa requirements and interrogating looks from customs officers (not that they don’t interrogate me now, but I feel as if they’re more lenient).

      Glad you could relate to some of these, Pauline! Congrats on that Canadian passport! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Terrific insight, Amanda. Those are lessons that some people will never learn, much less someone who is 26. Happy birthday. Enjoy…38 (my age) will be here before you know it.

      The years certainly do fly by, don’t they? Thanks for the kind words!

    Love all of it! Especially the Socrates analogy to travel; it’s so true. I haven’t yet made peace with going back to the places I’ve loved, because there are always so many new things to do, but I think the time has come to start revisiting places that I really crave for.

    Happy birthday Amanda, cheers to a year full of travel and great surprises ๐Ÿ™‚

      The Socrates analogy is so true though! The more I travel, the longer my “to-see” list becomes.

      I know a lot of people who never go back to places because they always want to see someplace new, or they’re afraid of making comparisons. But I actually like to re-visit places after a few years to see how they’ve changed, and to do/see things I missed the first time around.

    Happy Birthday!
    My favorite is point #23. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Thanks Juliann! I like #23, too. It basically defines my attitude and travel style!

    A bit late but Happy Birthday. This is all great advice, and I honestly can’t say I disagree with any one of your points, but number 20 stands out to me – when it comes to not living our dreams (travel or otherwise) we are worst enemy. That and your last point, because I wouldn’t be who am I and I wouldn’t have made the decision to change my life for the better if I didn’t travel.

      I think it’s true of a lot of things in life – we really are the only things holding ourselves back. And it’s especially true of chasing dreams and goals.

      And the last point is the most important one for me, too!

    Great birthday post! I can agree with nearly everything on here, you’re so insightful and clever! I didn’t realize we were only a week apart in age either!

      Aww, I dunno if I’m really all THAT insightful and clever… but thanks! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Belated birthday greetings Amanda. Make 27 ‘travel gives you wisdom.’

    Great lessons you’ve learned. My favourites are #3, we ARE all the same, all anybody wants is to be happy. And #7 to judge anybody based solely on stereotypes is a lot easier than trying to understand them but you would be missing out on so much.
    Happy birthday wise woman.

      The world has a lot to teach, so long as we’re willing to listen. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Very insightful ๐Ÿ™‚ Especially like #3. That I have realised many many times. Tons of differences on the surface, but there’s the basic and fundamental stuff that makes us all the same.

    As a B&B owner at Wayanad in Kerala, India i roger your observations and thoughts. And as you mentioned it is the openness and the curiosity to understand other cultures that will help travel more interesting. This is a lovely post indeed.


      Those things definitely do make travel more interesting. And I think travel, in turn, helps us to be more open and curious!

    I’ve learned a lot of these things as well over my past couple of years traveling and living as an expat. I must say, I find Americans who tell people they are Canadians (or sew Canadian flags onto their packs) are one of my biggest pet peeves! Be a good representative for this country! Great post ๐Ÿ™‚

      Yeah, I really hate it when Americans fake their nationalities abroad, too! I mean, if it was a life or death situation or something, I might do it. But otherwise, I’m not going to lie about where I’m from!

    Yeah I like this post a lot! I feel the same way about everything here including the parts for American travelers… I’m a Canadian who’s usually assumed to be American and I get treated very well by nearly everyone when I travel. People may dislike America for various political reasons but I think most people like those who travel no matter where they’re from.

      In some places, I feel like I’ve actually been treated BETTER once people found out I was American. It’s great to go places and find people who are actually interested in me and my culture, rather than what my government is up to.

    Seems like one is a traveler, or not. And the journey can only bring change and understanding.

    Happy Birthday to you. May you continue to follow your passion.

      Yes, I don’t think it’s possible to travel and not return a little bit wiser…

    Absolutely loved reading it!! Inspiring it really was. I must start soon.

    Good luck for your travels! I am a hooked reader now!

      Thanks, Naina! Really glad to hear you enjoyed the post.

    Reading this makes me feel like having a journey to my own heart. Thank you, Amanda. So many points here I never able to say so eloquently.
    Sending you a warm hug from Lopburi Thailand, where the monkeys are plenty and fun to watch.

      Aww thanks so much Dina! I’ve wanted to write a post like this for a long time, and finally was able to translate my thoughts into words. I’m glad so many others are able to identify with them!

    And oh, Happy Birthday!!

    I never tire of these posts either, it’s so nice to see how travel can really change a person. Happy Birthday!

      Thanks, Ayngelina! It’s good to know these types of posts are always popular, and that people can connect with them so much.

    Exactly! That is why i love travelling!!!