24 Things I’ve Learned about Life, Travel, and the World

24 Things I’ve Learned about Life, Travel, and the World

In honor of reaching the 2nd anniversary of the existence of this blog, I want to share 24 things I’ve learned over the past two years of travel blogging.  Travel blogging has not only affected my travel style, but it has also changed the way I see life and the world.  Here’s what I’ve learned through my travels and travel blogging:

1.    Less is more

The famous Mies Van Der Rohe (architect) quote fits in every aspect of life.  A less cluttered life gives more space to breathe and to actually live and feel free to do what you love.  Invest in life experiences also, not just in material things.

2.    Having a positive attitude makes everything easier and much better

It’s a simple truth of physics.  Every action has a reaction.  A positive action will mostly generate a positive reaction back to you.

Elephant Orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya

3.    Getting mad will only delay things

Like the inverse of the previous point; having a negative attitude attracts negative things.  This is what we do when we get mad about things not going our way, and chances are, our madness is just a selfish reaction.  Just get over it, and act proactively to get things rolling.

4.    When traveling, full planning and control can be overrated…  Why not just go with the flow of the destination?

Sometimes trying to control everything ends up hurting or delaying us from what we want to achieve.  Learning to delegate and trust (or leaps of faith) can take us further than what we could imagine or do by ourselves.

5.    Sometimes expectations are the traveler’s worst enemy

It’s not the destination’s fault you arrived there with a misconstrued idea of what the place must have been, based on images and tales from others.  The place is what it is, and it is us who have to be open minded to enjoy it or not based on its real current characteristics.

6.    There’s no right or wrong way to travel

It’s been always debated what’s the best way to travel.  I say, travel the way that makes you happy and enjoy the place the most.

7.    Settling on the status quo doesn’t necessarily help you progress… challenge it

Just settling on things and doing them because it’s convention and socially accepted will only keep you swimming in the same water as the masses.  Take the chance in life and don’t be afraid of change.

“One of the most difficult things is not to change society – but to change yourself.” – Nelson Mandela

8.    Being alone is not that bad

I’ve been asked frequently during my RTW if I get bored when I’m on my own.  Sometimes I do, but other times being alone helps me achieve and see things I wouldn’t do otherwise.  Loneliness can be a creative catalyst.  It makes you more aware of things and to appreciate them more.

9.    Patience IS a virtue

Patience, my friends, is a quality you master while traveling (especially in Africa).  When you realize that not everything is under your control (see #4) and that the world has its own pace, then you’ll learn to accept things as they come, easier.

Petra UNESCO heritage

10. The world is the best university you can ever find

Life and the world have better ways of teaching than any university.  I’ve learned more about culture, architecture, geography, and many other things in these seven months of round the world travel (to this day), than in years of college.

11. You don’t need a guidebook to experience the best in a country… Just ask a local

Local knowledge is richer than any well-researched guidebook.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help, tips, or to just set a conversation with a local.  Picking their brain will teach you a lot about their customs, culture, and more.  Plus, it can be a genuine local experience.

12. When you truly love something, sometimes getting away from it gets you closer to it

When you’re passionate about something, no matter what you do, you’ll always find a way to keep your heart close to it.  This I’ve just experienced with architecture.  I thought quitting my job to do a RTW would separate me from my profession, but now I’m more active, more related, more thoughtful, and more passionate about it than I had even been while working at an office.

13. Sometimes the things you dread the most, are the ones that make you grow the most

We grow from the challenges undertaken, not from the easy walks of life.  Don’t be afraid to get out of the comfort zone.

14. It’s ok to be afraid, but it’s not ok to let fear stop you from doing what you love

Like they say, courage is not the absence of fear, but the acknowledgement of it and taking over it.  Don’t let fear keep you from achieving awesomeness.  Take risks, challenge things, and learn from your experiences.

Watching the sunrise at the Kilimanjaro Summit

15. Some things you can just photograph with your mind… just enjoy them

There are moments when you just need to forget about the camera and absorb the moment naturally, as it is.  When doing a safari Uganda, a hippo walked next to my tent at 1:00am and started eating grass literally 2 feet away from me.  Had I worried about taking a picture, I would have missed the moment, and ended up with crappy pictures.  Now, the image is vivid in my head, since I focused in enjoying the moment.

16. A smile, and saying “hello” in the other person’s language can go a long way

A smile is a universal welcome and people appreciate when they see an effort on your part of accepting their customs.

17. The best way to move forward and succeed is by believing that everything is possible and by believing in yourself

Don’t expect anyone to believe you if you’re not the first one believing in yourself.  Just by believing that even the craziest ideas are possible, you’ve paved an easier path to achieving that specific goal.  This is a world of possibilities.

18. Likeminded people are always the greatest source of inspiration

Bad food gives you tummy aches, right?  Then why feed the mind and soul with negative thoughts from others?  Positive people attract positive people and inspire each other to achieve greatness.

19. Taking risks brings more opportunities than failure

Being passive wont get you anything.   The more chances you take, the more opportunities you can gain.  Failure does happen, but just learn from it and move forward to new opportunities.

Walking with lions in Livingstone, Zambia

20. Happiness can’t be measured but in your own terms

If you measure happiness on other’s terms, you’re only following what happiness means to them.  Be yourself, make your own rules and be happy on your own terms.

21. The first step of a journey is the hardest and the most important one

This is commonly said, but it is true.  When starting my RTW, one of the first critical steps was getting rid of everything I had and quitting my job.  It was really hard to do, and I even cried one night a week before my trip because I felt I had nothing with me.  Now, I’m more than grateful for having taken that hard step to live my dream.

22. Street smart is just as important as book smart

The way I see it is simple.  Book smart teaches you how to think, but street smart teaches you how to act.  Take the best of both worlds and be a better self.  Learn from life too, not just from books.

South African Dancer in Cape Town

23. Learning about the world helps you learn about yourself

The world is all different and relative, but it’s that difference that helps us see how unique and equally interesting we all are.  I’ve learned so much about my character and individuality by picturing myself in relationship to other people from around the world.

24. Patient guidance is key to understanding

Not everyone will understand you at first when you try to do something different in life.  People closest to you might not understand your decisions, but it is your duty to help and guide them to understand why you want to do this.  Take them slowly, step by step.  At some point the y will get used to the idea, understand it, and possibly cheer you up.

In my case, my family didn’t understand my RTW idea at first, but now they are my biggest support, cheering me all the way.  Thank you!

What have you learned in these past two years?

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50 thoughts on “24 Things I’ve Learned about Life, Travel, and the World”

  1. I love this list Norbert! You share great wisdom here! Especially the notion that patience is an immense virtue! I learned that in Laos on my first real solo travel experience Southeast Asia being such a laid back environment, I distinctly remember being in Pak Beng trying to catch a bus up to Udomxai and the bus was delayed, as was our breakfast. The European guy who was heading the same way as me was getting angrier and angrier at the whole situation. And the waiter said, “Calm down. It’s okay. Everything is going to be fine.”

    Those are words to live by. You never get anywhere by getting upset and the realization that so much of travel is out of your control and there ain’t much you can do about it is a powerful one. So why not take it in with a sense of humor and a healthy dose of patience! If you do, you’ll go far in this world!

    1. Thank you Aaron! Situations like the one you just described are the ones that taught me many of these things. When traveling, you don’t have control over many things. And not only that, but many countries have different ways of operating that might not go along what we are used to. So, patience will either grow naturally, or you’ll drive yourself mad!

      While in Egypt, I did a felucca ride with a few Spanish friends. The felucca was supposed to get all the way to Luxor, but it didn’t even left Aswan area. In the end we all said, “It is what it is, so let’s enjoy it. Don’t worry, be happy!”

  2. I couldn’t agree more with you Norbert. Travel is the best education that you can get, and the world would be a better place if everyone could learn these things.
    And congrats on the anniversary!

    1. Thanks Dean!! I’m one that also thinks that everyone should have the experience of travel. Many people don’t realize it, but traveling can be very educative, if you pursue it with an open mind.

  3. Wow! What a thought-out and comprehensive list, Norbert. I identify with many of them, especially #10. I can’t wait to experience my own RTW adventure someday. Congratulations on 2 amazing years of GloboTreks! I look forward to many more years.

    1. Thanks, Ellen! I truly believe in the world being the best university out there. As long as you have an open mind while traveling, you will absorb everything you come across with, making your experience even more interesting than if you travel just for the sake of traveling or taking a vacation.

  4. I have really been thinking about taking the leap and doing RTW. It is so weird how possessions can be so inhibiting, and giving it all up can be the scariest thing. I think the need for more is starting to overcome that fear though. (I woke up last night and just started going through all my stuff!) Thanks for this post — it is always nice to have some reassurance and this type of story just reaffirms why I need to take a chance.

    1. Oh yes… possessions can tie you up if you put so much value on them. And yes, it’s a scary feeling to get rid of them. It’s like a sense of loss and instability. But, going through that process is necessary to actually get the real sense of what doing a RTW conveys and requires of you. It is a transition that will prepare you for the road. This is not just a trip, it is a life changing experience. 🙂

  5. great post man… agree on all the points you raised here.. happy blog anniversary btw 🙂 cheers to more travels and adventures and of course more life learning….

  6. A fantastic post and so very true. I can relate in one way or another to each and every point on your list. Brings back memories, lessons I have learnt, experiences I have had and a whole host of other emotions.
    Thanks for sharing, a truly great post which I shall be retweeting right now 🙂

    1. Thanks, Colleen! It’s nice when you come across a post, or an article that makes you reflect back on the memories and experiences you had before, and what you learned from them. I’m glad you liked it! 🙂

  7. Leslie (Downtown Traveler)

    Love this post Norbert! I think being patient is the hardest part of traveling but is the most productive attitude. If you got worked up about every little thing, traveling wouldn’t be much fun 😉

    1. Thanks Leslie! Patience is highly tested when traveling, but like you said, it is most productive when we keep that patient attitude. 🙂

  8. Happy Anniversary and great article. I’ve been pushing myself to take the advice that you’ve so eloquently stated – especially the part about taking risks. The first step IS the hardest.

    I would add that you can’t please everyone, so don’t worry about trying. I believe that once you realize this, you’ll take more risks.

    And, you only fail when you stop trying.

    Thanks so much for sharing these!!

    1. Thank you so much Michaela! True, the first step is the hardest, especially when we talk about taking risks or doing things we’ve never done before.

      And, I totally agree with you. When you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one at all. 🙂

  9. Such a thoughtful and inspirational list. I needed to be reminded of a few of these lessons — thanks.I especially like your positive people and attitudes advice. Well done on all 24!

  10. Congratulations to 2 years of successful blogging. One of the best pieces of advice you mentioned is: ask the locals. If the language fails, you even have great fun with sign language.

    1. Thank you so much Inka. Agree, asking the locals is a great gateway to discovering some of the best things in their area. And of course, it’s always fun talking with body language!

  11. ¡Ole, Ole, Ole, good on you and congratulations Norbert!
    Some wish and dream – others take the leap of faith and do.
    Thank you for the photos, impressions, descriptions and lessons from your travels
    They are perfect gems and always leave me wanting more.
    A warm hug,
    Sylvia (tu prima) Correa Viloria

    1. Thanks Alexandra! Agree, if you’re determined to learn from your experiences, traveling is the best school you’ll ever find! 🙂

  12. Great post. I think one of the things I’ve learned from travel is to calm down a bit. Sometimes things are definitely going to go wrong and you can get upset about it, or you can just relax, take a deep breath and know that everything’s going to be fine in the end.

    1. Thanks Izy! Oh yes, calming down… which goes along with being patient. Things might go wrong at some points, but just taking a break to understand the situation better will help you get over it and see how things end up being fine. 🙂

  13. This is a fantastic list! I agree with everything you’ve included, but I especially agree with #16. A smile can make awkward and difficult situations so much easier. Congratulations on two years of blogging!

  14. Gladys | ByahengBarok.com

    great post! so many things learned while on the road… i totally agree on a lot of points here, especially with #3. hahaha! getting angry, not only delays things, it wastes energy that we could have allotted to visit more places 🙂

  15. Spot on Norbert! I think every traveler can relate to these lessons.

    On my very first day traveling internationally in Mexico, the 2nd class local bus I was on broke down in the middle of nowhere. The driver kicked me off alone in some tiny town made of shacks, I spoke no Spanish at all, and had no idea what was going on.

    I was freaking out for a bit. Eventually I just had to relax and say “what’s the worst that could happen?”. Now I look back on the experience fondly. 😀

    1. Thanks Matthew!Oh, that’s quite an experience! I think I would have freaked out a bit at first too, but yes, “what’s the worst that could happen?”… I’m sure it was cool in the end.

  16. I loved this list! Excellent ideas and spot on. Loved that you didn’t get generic with the list but went inside the travel experience. Dread and fear- so true. Travel tests us to really go into these things and when we do, they turn out to be the hugest turning points or rewards!

  17. Great list Norbert! Learning from the local people while traveling stood out the most to me. Today, to many people are stuck behind all-inclusive resort walls and never really experience the real country they are visiting. Congrats on your 2 year! Best of luck on your future travels!

    Cheers!

    Robert

    1. Thanks Robert! Local people do teach us a lot, without them even known about it since it is so natural of them. Yes, while the all-inclusive resorts might have their good audience, I personally don’t consider them to be “true” to the destination visited. But hey, to each their own…

      Good luck to you too!

  18. Sergey Wain-Fellowes

    Hi Norbert, just started following you on Twitter and started exploring your impressive website. What a great post this one is! Very inspiring and so true. Cheers, Sergey (from Toronto) @sergeyszest.

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