My birthday was last last Saturday! I went to Hawaii again and spent a lot of time reflecting on my [short] life. As you get older and experience more, I think if you spend time thinking about those experiences with an open heart, you will grow wiser and take away lessons on this human experience. Especially as travelers, where we’re constantly in new situations! So, here are some of my favorite travel lessons I’ve learned so far.
1. Age is just a number.
People travel, work, and live abroad at all ages. Yes, with age you may have more responsibilities which make it feel like you can’t leave, but if you still have an interest in traveling (or anything), you can make it work. For example- in Maui, half the people I saw were in wheelchairs/walking devices, had five kids, or were otherwise slow movers- and they were still having a blast. In Istanbul, I met a woman who decided that she wanted to teach abroad, so she moved to Turkey- at age 40. My boyfriend’s 95 year old grandma and her 83-97 year old best friends go abroad together more often than young 20 something me.
2. Don’t believe the pictures you see.
People do a lot of things to pictures and videos on the internet. They make things look more vibrant, they make things look more gothic, they remove all the pesky tourists from their shots, and some things just look better in photos than real life. Pictures are an art form or a way of expressing yourself and not necessarily a truth. I’ve been surprised by the differences quite a few times, so now I’ve come to terms with the fact that some places aren’t as beautiful as the pictures or Go Pro or drone footage. And even if the pictures do compare, it’s nothing like actually being there.
3. People aren’t their government.
And often times, the government doesn’t represent the views of the people. In the US for example, all branches of our government are currently controlled by (far) right, xenophobic politicians, and that’s all people see in the news. Does that mean everyone in the US is like that and you should avoid the country if you don’t agree? No! In this case, a majority of voting aged people actually voted the other way. Similarly with other countries, just because the media tells you that their government is crazy, it doesn’t necessarily mean the people are (but still make sure you’re aware of the visa laws of wherever you go and which areas are like an active war zone).
4. Go where you want when you want to go.
Unless it’s for safety reasons, stop making excuses! If you are into something now, you should see it ASAP. I was disgustingly obsessed with Japan in my late teens and wanted to live there for a bit to get to know the culture. But, I thought traveling and living abroad wasn’t for people like me, so I dreamed and dreamed and made excuses. After popping my travel cherry at 22, though well out of the weeaboo phase, I finally went to Japan… And was a little sad because I saw all these things younger me would have loved but older me was just not into anymore.
5. Be confident.
Seriously! Especially if you’re traveling by yourself. I used to be very shy and timid, and people would notice and approach me, try to take advantage of me, touch me, etc. After many bad interactions and a few talks with my more experienced peers, I started carrying myself with more confidence. Then, people were more respectful of my space, and it was easier to say no when people did things I didn’t want to be a part of.
6. Don’t trust travel blogs.
Have you noticed that for every five blogs or friends you have saying “X is great”, there’s one that says “X freaking sucked”? It’s because everyone’s experiences are always different! I still love reading/hearing about other people’s adventures, experiences, and thoughts, but I now try not to let other people color my opinions before I get a chance to form them. Plus, if you’re anything like me, it’s way more fun and meaningful when you discover food or attractions on your own, compared to following someone else’s recommendation to a T. Sometimes it’s not about checking everything off a list, but creating your own todo. UPDATE: With that said, you should still listen if people are sharing actual facts about a culture/destination, how to act appropriately, etc etc.