South America, Southeast Asia, Travel, Travel Adventure

No Cliches, I Swear: 5 Things I  Learned from Traveling the World

To Travel Is to Be Fearless

It takes a lot of courage to step out of the comforts of your home, to step away from all that is safe and familiar. From the moment you board that airplane, you embark on an adventure into the unknown, traveling to destinations where you won’t know the language, the culture, or anyone at all. I have anxieties and fears like anyone else, especially when it comes to traveling around the world. But stepping into those fears and making those trips has boosted my confidence, taught me important life lessons, and above all, it pushed me to live a fearless life.

I know it all sounds cliche, but I’m here to encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and into your fears. Book that trip you’ve always wanted to take, visit that far-off country, travel solo, try the local foods, meet new people, and above all: live in the moment.

Crossing the chaotic streets in Hanoi, Vietnam

To Travel Is to Be Adventurous

Having traveled to over 30+ countries, I have opened myself up to new experiences, new cultures, and exotic foods. I’ve learned to embrace them and appreciate them for what they are.

The more I traveled, the more I learned how to recognize the unique ways each culture is exciting. It didn’t always look like what I was used to in my hometown in California, but I realized that by embracing a culture’s way of life, even the things that seem the most bizarre have their own beauty. I never thought I would purchase a plate of bugs for lunch or sit with and chat with a woman from the Karen Long Neck village while touring around in Chiang Mai, Thailand 一but what kind of explorer would I be if I didn’t step into the adventure full-heartedly?

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Lunchtime in Thailand

To Travel Is to Be Patient

I am sure you have heard it before: “patience is a virtue.” Nothing will help you exercise this virtue more than traveling the world. I’ve experienced everything from bad weather, missed flights, canceled bus routes, delayed train rides, and even boat trips where I feared for my life. When I was an inexperienced traveler, I fell victim to many of the travel scams, even with all the research I did and tips I took from other travelers. When I travel these days, I confidently say no to suspiciously pushy vendors and have learned to quickly spot anything that feels like a scam.

Every time I experienced something that tested my patience, I would take a step back and remind myself that this is what travel is all about: it’s about being uncomfortable doing things I might not normally do. Once I allowed myself to accept that, my patience improved. Today, one of the best compliments I receive from colleagues, friends, and family is how much they value my ability to remain calm and collected, even under the most stressful situations. Traveling the world is what has helped me remain patient at all times.

One time I was in  Cusco, Peru at the end of a 24-day trip to South America. I had boarded a plane to Lima that would allow me to catch a connecting flight back home. Once I boarded the plane, it sat on the runway for over an hour before the pilot announced that due to poor weather, the flight had been canceled. Everyone had to deboard, get their luggage, and wait in an insanely long line to secure a flight out the next day. There was a rainstorm, it was after midnight, and I was forced to catch a taxi back to my hostel and hope there was a room available. It’s in those tired moments you cultivate your patience, because what other choice do you have? I made it home eventually and there was no reason to spend more energy being upset about the situation.  

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Rainy day exploring in Buenos Aires, Argentina 

To Travel Is to Be Humbled

Humility might be the greatest gift I’ve received from traveling. I was fortunate to be raised with an abundance of opportunities to excel in life, and with parents who provided me with all that I needed. I was lucky to get a college education without having to struggle. I used to take all these things completely for granted.

It wasn’t until a trip to Cambodia that my perspective really shifted, thanks to a local taxi driver. He picked me up from the airport and as he drove me to my hostel, he offered his tour services. I took his information and arranged for a day of exploring Siem Reap. His services were so inexpensive that I booked him for the remainder of my time in the area. 

As we spent time together over the next few days he opened up to me about his life as a child, his family, and how Cambodians were still attempting to rebuild and preserve their culture after the genocides under the Khmer Rouge. However, it wasn’t until the last day as he drove me out to visit the floating villages that he told me why he’d chosen a life as a taxi driver and tour guide.

This man was working to support his brother: his younger brother was living in the capital city of Phnom Penh getting an education. He had graciously given up his own opportunity to get an education, choosing to work in support of his brother. I was profoundly humbled in that moment, not to mention inspired. To this day I will never forget the pride in his face and the joy in his smile as he showed me around his beautiful country.

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Homes in Siem Reap, Cambodia

To Travel Is to Be Grateful

Similarly to the how I’ve cultivated patience, travel mishaps have taught me how to be more appreciative of any given moment. As a more seasoned traveler now, when I come across a situation that would aggravate most and my travel buddies, I take a step back and say, “Let us refocus here and find the positive in this situation.”

While visiting Buenos Aires, Argentina, I went to catch a flight to La Paz, Bolivia, which I presumed would be out of their international airport, only to find out the flight departed from their domestic airport on the other side of town. I missed the flight and was detoured to Santiago, Chile 一 a destination not on my initial itinerary 一  and paid $160 US dollars to enter Santiago to stay for just one night.

After I finally made it to Bolivia, I was forced to take a 14-hour bus ride from La Paz to Cusco, Peru because the indigenous people of La Paz had placed large boulders on the only road leading to the airport. It was a protest to preserve their way of life, and while I later admired that, at the time I was desperate to get out of La Paz. I jumped on the first available bus out of town, which, I was told, was comfortable, included a bathroom, and would stop for breaks. That wasn’t the case: the bus was old, had a toilet that did not flush, and it made only one stop. I was angry I was on this bus. I was angry about the mistake I’d made in Buenos Aires, angry it messed up my schedule, and angry (albeit unfairly) at the indigenous people.

When I think back on that trip, though, I love everything about it. I am grateful I had the chance to see Santiago; I had one of the best meals of my life there. I am grateful that I inadvertently supported the indigenous people of La Paz by being one less tourist to travel through their homeland. But most of all I am grateful for the amount of laughter it brings me when I recount these stories with my travel friends, especially the now-infamous bus ride.

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Market day in La Paz, Boliva

Humility, gratitude, patience, adventurousness: to travel is to live, learn, grow, and become a better human. So get out there!  Go explore the world. You never know what amazing things might just unfold for you.

Visiting the Karen Long Neck Village


4 thoughts on “No Cliches, I Swear: 5 Things I  Learned from Traveling the World”

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