On the Huffington Post recently, there was an article entitled 6 Lessons Travel Teaches You that College Never Will.
I took a look at the list and thought I would share a few of my experiences that taught me these lessons.
You are capable of more than you’ve ever imagined
If you use some common sense and learn to be attuned to your surroundings the world becomes less dangerous
I was riding down the east coast of Taiwan on my scooter. It was a great smooth fun ride on a scooter I just rented and I enjoyed the scenery. On the way back, with 2/3 tank of gas, I decided to drive through the mountains.
That’s when disaster struck.
My scooter had a loose light bulb and the jarring ride on the mountains somehow dislodged the bulb. I was riding around the mountains in the dark, driving through some of the tunnels in pitch dark conditions, praying that there wasn’t some car that came along where the driver wasn’t paying attention.
In the tunnels, I would have been run over by just about any car that came by too fast. On the open winding roads, there was no guard rail on the side. Any bump would have sent me hurtling down the mountain.
To top things off, the extra power needed to climb the mountains meant I was burning gas faster going back than I did getting there, I was dangerously low on gas without a gas station in sight.
During the whole ride home, I had some doubts that I would make it alive. Yet I did.
And that taught me that I was capable of surviving under some sketchy circumstances. If you use some common sense and learn to be attuned to your surroundings the world becomes less dangerous.
The world is not a dangerous place
In many places, [locals] are willing to go out of their way to help foreigners
When coming to Asia, I was told all the horror stories of bags being snatched, watch out for pickpockets, beware of people slashing your bags. It even got the the point where I ended up buying a PacSafe Bag.
That was such a mistake.
I feel much safer in Asia than I do in North America. I could be the victim of a random mugging in Toronto, but out here in Asia, it feels as though I would only be assaulted if there was some previous grievance between both parties.
Of course, exercising due diligence and common sense also goes a long way to ensuring you’re safe and your belongings stay with you.
Furthermore most of the Asian population is polite and respectful. In many places, they are willing to go out of their way to help foreigners.
People are fundamentally good
Most people calmly go about their lives, earning an honest living with pride and dignity
Generally speaking, all societies have their bad apples which amount to a small percentage.
For the most part, most people calmly go about their lives, earning an honest living with pride and dignity. They far outnumber the few who choose to make the easy buck by taking advantage of others.
Even when it was so easy for street side vendors to pocket the extra money when I used a similarly coloured but higher valued currency, they politely point out my mistake and allow me to switch to the correct amount and currency.
The honest and friendly people who might not have what you have in the “western world” still smile on and go out of their way to help you.
Stereotypes are ridiculous
Everyone lives their lives in their own way
The media often portrays tourists from China in poor light – pushy, uncouth, spitting everywhere. If you were to believe only the media, then you would never ever spend time with them.
However, I have met and spent some extended time with five groups of tourists from China, as well as encountered others along the way and I have never encountered anything other than polite, friendly, generous people.
If I subscribed to stereotypes, I would never have had such a fun time diving in Langkawi, chasing after durian ice cream, huddled together under a raging thunderstorm and hunting all the amazing food in Melaka.
Everyone lives their lives in their own way. It’s part of the human struggle. During my journey, I’ve hung out with people young, old, gay, straight, and from the most “serious” to the most “relaxed” cultures of the planet. They have all been quite fun and entertaining.
You are but a tiny blip on a giant radar
I am inspired by their motivation and determination to survive
Any time I encounter any natural formation – caves, mountains, forests – I’m humbled by the scale of these structures. The live longer and are way bigger than we are.
When I see how some of the people have to live, carrying loads of gear to set up and take down every night just to make a living, I am inspired by their motivation and determination to survive.
One person can make a difference
You should take the opportunity to connect with people around you
And to these people, I feel like I should put a smile on their faces. So I always learn to at least say hello, thank you and how are you in their language.
I find conversing to them in their language helps to build a rapport with them and put a much needed smile in their faces from all their hard work.
Also when you are travelling, you aren’t really in a rush to get from one point to another (as long as you aren’t trying to catch your plane or train ride). So I feel that you should take the opportunity to connect with people around you.
What have you learned from your travels?