7 Things I've Learned From 5+ Years of Travel
How much can you learn after traveling to 18 countries over a span of five years?
It's hard to believe that it has been about 5 1/2 years since I traveled internationally for the first time, and my life has never been the same since.
I've gone through the years from saying YES to studying abroad in college in 2011, to where I am today having worked and traveled in 12+ countries, with some big lessons and takeaways from each year.
#1 It's worth the money
At age 19, with no international travel experience, I spent the majority of my savings on a 6-week study abroad program in Florence, Italy.
I knew I'd be back home that summer with a nanny job and would be able to build back up my income, and with this plan in place...I just did it.
Spending money on travel was one of the best decisions I've ever made.
My priority shifted from working so I could spend any extra money on designer clothes and handbags, to instead working so I could save money for travel.
Takeaway: Invest in experiences like travel. You'll leave with only Memories, but be enlightened and changed forever.
[2012: I was still in college in 2012 and I didn't travel at all that year. I can't imagine going a year without traveling now!]
#2 No matter how "big" of a trip it may seem, it'll be worth it
This was the year I took a big leap of faith and moved to Italy to work for a student travel company, after spending the summer working with international students in Washington, DC and New York City.
This was something I never imagined I'd ever do until senior year of college came around and I knew I had to travel. With little money in the bank, a backpacking trip was out of the question, so I turned my attention to applying for travel jobs.
The job I really wanted (and ended up landing!) started in August 2013, so I spent the summer in Washington, DC (a completely different vibe to my west coast roots) and I worked with staff and students from around the world.
When August came, I was based in Italy and got to travel on weekends for my job. I learned SO much from these experiences, like job skills (marketing, event planning, sales, leadership), what solo travel was, and international/intercultural communication.
Takeaway: Whether or not the timing is perfect (it hardly ever is), if you are presented with an amazing travel opportunity I highly recommend you consider it.
Especially if it's something you're extremely excited about and have been working towards.
If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try.
#3 Travel opens your mind
It's not like I was close-minded before traveling internationally, but the more cultures I was exposed to through travel, the more open-minded I became about the world.
I met people from different countries, lived with a bunch of roommates I had never met, and had the most unique experiences from traveling in 2013.
Also, my funds were dwindling pretty fast even while I was working and traveling. Check out this post to learn exactly how I budgeted working with only $1,400 to my name over six months.
Takeaway: "Take half the clothes and twice the money" could not be a truer statement when it comes to traveling. Always over-budget.
#4 Travel burnout is possible
Maybe this was a byproduct of being a little stressed financially, but after six months of travel and living abroad I was ready for a familiar fix of home.
I ended up quitting my travel job in Italy and moved back to the US in early 2014, working a short-term travel job in DC for a month before landing a full-time job.
Takeaway: if you plan to travel long-term try taking a break.
Try taking a few days in a city to completely relax, or going back home for a short time to recharge if you feel that's what you need to refuel.
Sometimes travel burnout causes lack of interest/excitement in travel, so taking a break can help invigorate that spark to see the world again.
#5 Once the travel bug bites, you'll be infected the rest of your life
It wasn't long after coming back to the US that I was itching to travel internationally again.
The more places you travel to, the more places you add to your bucket list.
Back in 2012, I knew I wanted to see more of Europe after my glimpse of international travel from my study abroad program.
When I worked with international students in DC that summer and then went back to Europe for my travel job in 2013, I was itching to get to see even more.
I was introduced to 1) amazing people & places I had to visit over EVERY continent, and 2) solo travel.
Those concepts were foreign to me prior to traveling in 2013.
As I started reading travel blogs, hearing someone say they're going to Cape Town, Dubai, Buenos Aires, or Ho Chi Minh City no longer seemed out of the ordinary.
After getting back from Europe in January and working in DC February-March, I needed to travel abroad again. I needed to see not just see more of Europe, but more of the world.
I met so many people working abroad that had all these travel goals and plans.
One guy had a goal to go to every single country in Europe.
Two others I met were going to move to Thailand and backpack around Southeast Asia.
One of the girls I worked with was moving to work in Australia and then continue onward to Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. #ThatTravelLineupTho
Takeaway: Recognize that the more you travel, the longer your travel bucket list becomes. and it's okay :)
I actually traveled quite a bit in 2015, with multiple trips around the US AND going to China!
I secured a 2-week work + travel trip to Beijing, Hangzhou, and Shanghai in July 2015 and it was amazing. Working with more international students while getting to Asia for the first time was definitely a highlight of this year.
#6 Make travel a priority
It wasn't easy to travel this much in 2015, considering I was working a full-time 8-5 corporate job. Since travel was one of my top priorities, however, I made it happen.
Read my post on how I took 8 trips in 2015 despite working full-time here.
Takeaway: Travel doesn't have to be the top priority in your life (I know we have family and jobs or school) but if you want to travel, it needs to be a priority.
You'll never travel if you don't make it one of your priorities in life.
2016 was a fun travel year because I got to go back and work in Europe over the summer and visit two new countries (Slovakia and Iceland) before moving to Southern California!
I also had planned trips to Africa and Southeast Asia during the second half of 2016...
...and they both fell through.
#7 Sometimes your travel plans fall through, and that's okay
I had planned to go to South Africa in July right after my work trip in Europe. Unfortunately, my work changed their mind about allowing me to be gone an extra week unpaid so I had to cancel it.
Since that didn't work out, I planned a trip to Southeast Asia - the Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia - and was supposed to go in October after moving to California. However, the move date kept getting pushed back and I had to cancel my plans for this one too.
Takeaway: Just because you don't hit your specific travel goal that year, doesn't mean it won't ever happen. Try not to get discouraged!
All the travel planning you've done? You're already way ahead of the process for when you go on the trip later! Think about how many hours you've saved.
Change your mindset - reframe the situation in your mind - and try to alleviate any disappointment or discouragement. You'll get there!
Since I had to cancel my Southeast Asia trip in October? Well, now I'm headed to Bali in February!
Since making the decision to travel five years ago, I've been to 18 countries and have met tons of people all over the world, made new friends, have had the time of my life, and have seen growth personally and emotionally.
You learn a lot about yourself and the world through travel.
Travel teaches you what a textbook cannot.
2017, here we come!
What have you learned from your past travels?!