Travelling is a great teacher. Here is a collection of travel lessons – both practical and spiritual – that we may all find useful.
RESEARCH AIRPORT TRANSPORTATION
While this may not be my single most important lesson, it is certainly up there with the big ones. This has saved me time and money on numerous occasions.
One of the biggest rip-off opportunities while traveling is the transportation from the airport to your destination. If you don’t know how much the fare is really supposed to cost, the driver could charge you anything he wants. Riding with the meter on provides SOME sense of confidence. But some taxis fix the meter to run faster (happened in Bucharest), they’ll take the longest route (happened in Rome) or they “get lost” (happened in Adelaide). There are any number of ways to increase that fare. How do you avoid becoming the victim of an unscrupulous taxi driver? There are several steps you can take:
- Avoid taxis on any trip whenever possible. Research transportation options; bus, train, shuttle…before you go. The airport’s website, hotel websites or the website of the city you are visiting will usually give you many transportation options to chose from. Public transportation to and from airports is usually efficient and reasonably priced. Other travelers on Trip Advisor that have taken the same journey can also advise you. You can find these travelers on the Trip Advisor topic forums.
- If you must take a taxi, research the fare on Trip Advisor or elsewhere beforehand. Confirm the approximate price with the driver before you start off.
- See if the airport has a taxi kiosk. These are places where you are given a pre-paid ticket, based on a clearly stated destination map, which you then hand to your driver. Money is never exchanged with the driver.
Besides saving you money, having a transportation plan from the airport will give you a little more confidence when you arrive in an unfamiliar location.
Talek Nantes” blog is Travels with Talek.
RESPECTING PEOPLE’S CULTURES
One of the most important things I’ve learnt from travel is open-mindedness. Sometimes, travelling means getting uncomfortable and going outside your comfort zone. It forces you to confront and shatter stereotypes of places or people.
One example of this happened while visiting Japan. I was intent on travelling to Kyoto to catch a glimpse of the famous Geishas (or Geiko in Kyoto) that dash through the dimly lit alleys to appointments.
Not fully understanding the history, tradition and training it takes to become a Geisha, and only having movie references, I was quietly educated by my tour guide on a walking tour of Gion. These young ladies endure five years of training and sacrifice to become Geishas. By the end of the tour I had a better understanding and respect for the art form of being a Geisha. When I did get a glimpse of a beautifully adorned Maiko (apprentice) rushing to an appointment, it made the encounter more meaningful. Instead of seeing her as character from a movie, I was able to see someone preserving a cultural art form.
Delahaye’s blog is Hues of Delahaye
Here is a tactic I learned for overcoming loneliness while traveling long-term.
Last year, I moved to Hanoi, Vietnam straight from London with a job. Until then, I had only traveled for short, one week holidays to Amsterdam and Iceland. As a result, I experienced a massive culture shock exacerbated by the language barrier resulting in an overwhelming sense of loneliness and homesickness.
Living in a different country exaggerates loneliness more than backpacking, because you can’t just escape. You feel the displacement the most while doing mundane, everyday things like cooking.
So how did I overcome this? The first step was acceptance. Instead of trying to fight it and pretend I was fine, I said “OK, I’m feeling really lonely.” Next step was to think of what would make me feel better. This usually involved an emotional phone call to my best friend followed by a call to my sister or mum. The third step was to identify goals and work towards achieving them. I made this a three-step process and grew used to repeating the same procedure. Suddenly the loneliness wasn’t such a big deal, just a passing emotion.
We all have different ways to cope loneliness, but these three steps definitely helped me.
Zainab’s blog is Discover With Zainab.
DISCONNECTING AND EXPERIENCING
One of the more valuable lessons that I learned from travel is to live in the present.
I have lived in Los Angeles for most of my life and in my circle of friends, it’s all about achieving the next goal and hitting the next benchmark in our lives. I seldom have time for self reflection in my workday life as I am always chasing deadlines and just keeping abreast of the many projects I juggle. When I travel, I actively make an effort to disconnect. This allows me to be introspective about my life and my goals and focus on ideas that would have never come up had I been hustling back at home. Traveling is always a spiritual experience for me.
THE IMPORTANCE OF GIVING YOURSELF ENOUGH TIME
On my first solo trip ever to France, I learned the importance of planning extra time for travels. The day of my flight from Paris to Boston, I got ready quicker than anticipated and decided to leave for the airport an hour early. Lucky that I did: when I arrived at the train station, the trains were down! I had to be shuttled through the heart of Paris, squeezed between other passengers during rush hour traffic, to get to the next functioning train stop.
I thought this would be the end of the trouble, but when we finally transferred to the train to take us to CDG airport, it was packed so tightly that many passengers could not fit on the train. Rather than stepping back and waiting for the next train, the outsiders continued trying to force their way on amidst protests… until the police arrived some 40 minutes later to resolve the situation. Only then could the train doors close, and the train begin its journey.
When we finally arrived at the airport, I sprinted through security, and made it onto the plane with 10 minutes to spare. Where I thought I would have hours of extra time, I ended up with barely enough minutes to make my flight. Moral of the story: always leave an hour early!!
Genie’s blog is GenieOverseas.
What is the most important lesson you have learned from travel?
Read part two of this post to see more lessons learned.