I was flying out of the country for the very first time in my life, and I was flying alone. My friends were on an earlier flight, at a different airline. I’d have to find my own way to meet them at our hostel when I got to Hong Kong. There I was, 4 am at the airport, slightly freezing and feeling all sorts of emotions whirling inside my stomach. But was I scared?
Nope. Not one bit. I was ecstatic. Which was odd because I usually was the sulky, anxious, worrying one. I was never adventurous, didn’t like camping trips, I suspected ALL strangers, and I had never really been away from home for more than a few days.
But now, fast forward to four years, one Asian backpacking trip, and countless Philippine destinations later, I realize now that there was always a budding wanderer sleeping somewhere inside of me. That the reason why I wasn’t even a bit scared or worried, is because I was about to unravel a life that was always meant for me. I didn’t know it yet then. I was flying away, but I was coming home.
Traveling has turned my life around, because it had taught me so many things about the world, myself, and life in general. You might have read it a number of times, people saying how traveling changes one’s life, and I can attest to you that it really is true. It does.
And based from my own experience, here are the important life lessons I have learned from traveling.
7. Open-mindedness is the key to learning.
You cannot travel well if your mind is closed. If you have preconceptions about a place, cultures, or race, traveling is pointless. You cannot learn this way. You cannot grow. And travel is all about expanding your horizons and learning new ways of life.
So open your mind, open your heart. If you allow it, you’ll see that preconceptions are not always true, and stereotypes are absurd. All the people in this world, we are all different. Yet we are all the same.
6. We are always right where we are supposed to be.
This is one of the earliest, most life changing things I learned from my travels. I used to obsessively plan everything, sweat over the littlest things, and also get so frustrated when things don’t go as planned. And 80% of the time, they never do.
But you know what? At the end of the day, on those days my plan failed, I would still always find myself in happy moments that I would not exchange for anything else. Everything is destined. No matter how you plan, and no matter how your plans fail, you are always, always at the right place at the right time.
5. Being in the moment.
It is a human flaw—we’re always either clinging to the past, or stressing over the future. But the past no longer exists, and the future is never certain. So what are we obsessing about? Why do we look for moments that aren’t there when we could be simply present?
Don’t let life pass you by. Mean everything you do. Savor the food when you eat, observe the littlest of things when you look, talk meaningfully when you speak. When you travel, being present helps you experience each place a hundred percent, and you’ll thank yourself for it.
4. Good things cannot happen if you do not let it.
When I was in Kuala Lumpur two years ago, I was so lonely because that was the last stop of my backpacking trip. I didn’t want to go home yet. On top of that, just before KL, I was at this soulful island where I met and made amazing friends, and I was heartbroken to be apart from them not knowing when or if I’ll ever see them again. I had a post-island depression and so, naturally, I hated KL at first. Concrete jungle, polluted, noisy, crowded, and hot. I only longed to be back in my happy island. But the day I had to fly back to Manila was nearing, and suddenly I realized how foolish it was of me to be acting so sour. I tried to change my perspective, see KL again with fresh eyes and a fresh heart, and suddenly, the city wasn’t so bad at all.
I made good friends there as well, saw some amazing things, and left with some wonderful memories. To this day, I’d still constantly miss KL.
All this wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t let it.
3. Happiness and freedom are choices we make.
Before I started traveling, I was a really unconfindent, insecure, anxious person. But in one of my earlier travels, I met some backpackers who I became really good friends with. I saw their way of life—simple, laid-back, so happy, so free. They showed me bright, wild youth. I realized then that I was wasting my twenties away being the sad person that I was, so I started consciously working on myself.
It’s been a long road, and there are still many things to work on, but I am proud to say that since then, I’ve come a long, long way.
2. Kindness is everything.
Everything. That is the truth. Even in the moments when it’s difficult to be kind, choose to be kind anyway. I know it’s easier said than done, but you’ll realize when you travel that there are actually more kind people in this world than bad ones. And that knowledge just ultimately makes you want to be a better person. You’ll also learn that kindness is a sort of an invisible currency. You get what you give, so if you give away kindness, kindness is also what makes its way to you.
1. Just love.
There really is no need to explain this anymore, I don’t think. I am one of those who belong to the small population of annoying people in this world who think love is what makes the world go round, no matter what skeptics may say.
I say love. Just always love. Love more, love always. And that will be enough. You will be okay.