Unless you’re completely emotionally sideways (or avoidant) it’s difficult to come away from a substantial stint of traveling without learning something.
The simplest reason for this is that travel gives you an excess of time to process absolutely anything and everything, and it allows you to view your (normal) life from a safe distance.
I would consider myself fairly well travelled, and while all of my journeys have varied greatly in intent and outcome, one thing that remains the same is the evolution of thought. Even if I travel for escapism and to intently avoid thinking it always happens. I won’t bore you with my “I thought this, where” insights because that’s severely edging into the realm of self indulgent but here are some of the lessons I’ve taken away from traveling.
Being alone while you travel is such a gift. If you can bare it. It may take a little getting used to – especially eating solo but eventually it’s blissful. Plus, you open yourself up to adventures with some of the world’s most amazing people, just by being yourself.
There’s always ups and downs. Travel, (especially for longer periods of time) is/can be hard work. You’ll have days where you’re tired, flat, moody, feeling ugly, disenchanted or fat just like you do at home. Not every minute of every day is a holiday. For the most part, know that you can’t control everything (particularly in a foreign landscape). Do whatever you can to redirect your feelings, then let it go.
Be prepared, but allow for variables. Book flexible flights. And if you’re going somewhere for an extended period of time and doing multiple short trips don’t do too much planning in advance. Sometimes you need to be able to stay somewhere because you fall in love with a place or want to go to La Tomatina. Other times you need to chopper the fuck out of there ASAP.
Go with a focus (then allow it to change). Travel for long periods means facing idle time which lots of humans cannot stand. Either get really good at doing nothing or find a focus or a purpose for your trip i.e: Yoga, exploring random supermarkets, going to every nightclub in Berlin or writing a book of poems. That way you can always return to your core focus and never be left floundering.
Never leave home without a book. Just trust me on this. In many countries (particularly Asia) there’s not a book shop on every second street.
Money you spend on travel and/or education is never a waste.
Coming home is usually underwhelming.
It takes 3 x longer to unwind than it does to get stressed out again. Factor this into the equation when you’re deciding on the length of your trip.
Prioritise your baseline comfort. I realised just how much I had matured (in standards) while I was away recently. When I was traveling through Europe for the second time I stayed in a hostel in Berlin with 32 beds in one room. The ONE shared bathroom had a pool of water about 4cm deep covering the entire floor and somehow I just ‘managed’ for 5 nights there. Now, if a bedroom of a villa is too dark i’m wriggling in discomfort. Just know what your standards are (and your intention for the travel) and you’ll always make the right choices. Eg. If you’re a surfer you probably don’t give a shit what your hostel room is like because you’re in the ocean 12 hours per day.
Trust your instincts. Definitely harder in different cultures with unique customs and behaviours but always just trust your gut. If something feels wrong, don’t fuck with it.
Home really is where the heart is. It’s so cliche but wherever you are happy, you can make your home. And home can be as temporary, fleeting or cement as you need or want it to be. Home is usually rooted in routine, familiarity and connections of the heart and if you find yourself slipping into those while you’re away you’ll feel at home pretty hastily.
If you are lonely. If you’re feeling really homesick then you need to trick your mind into a better mental space. Do the things you would at home that would comfort you; find your favourite coffee shop, a beautiful view, go for a long walk, to the gym or do some reading and that will settle you.