published: 2/20/2023 | February 20, 2023
Traveling around the world is like becoming a kid again. You don’t know what to do, where to go, or how to operate.
How do you keep safe?
How do you get around?
How do you communicate?
What cultural norms do you have to follow?
At each destination, you start from scratch and have to re-learn how to do the most basic of life skills.
You have to count on the kindness of strangers. Without them to guide and teach you, you will be lost. From locals who give you rides to people who help you when you’re hurt to those who just tell you where to go or invite you to their homes, you need to guide and help them in the same way a child needs an adult.
Every day on the road, you learn what to do first and how you have to rely on other people – just like a baby.
This constant re-learning is certainly one of the stressful aspects of travel. It’s a lot of mental work to constantly figure out who to trust, how to act, and how to get around. This is why long-haul travelers always slow down at the end (and why people who travel too fast get burned out). After a while, you can’t do this every day. Your mental energy is exhausted. The brain is burning.
But through the process you really grow up. You understand the world the same way you have grown to understand your hometown.
First, you’ll get to know how different countries operate. As Henry Rawlings quote says, “A great way to get to know your country is to leave it.” By repeatedly seeing how other places do, you’ll get an idea of what your country is doing right – and what’s wrong.
It also gives you an infinite number of opportunities to improve yourself and how you do things.
We live the majority of our lives on autopilot. We wake up, go to work, run errands, watch Netflix — and then do it all over again the next day. We know where to eat, where to shop, how to get around, and what places to avoid. We know the exact way to get to the grocery store and have done it so many times that we can go out of our way to get there thinking of the million other things we have to do.
In our daily life, we follow a routine. Our minds don’t constantly need to “work” figuring out how to live.
And any book on psychology will tell you how important it is for you to function as an adult. We need routine because we have so much bandwidth every day just to make decisions. Routines allow our brains to work better and focus on more important tasks. Without autopilot, we cannot function.
But, on the road, you don’t have routines. Every place and position is new. Everything you do requires active decision making.
Think about finding a place to eat. In a new destination, if you find a restaurant, you don’t know what to order, what’s good, and what’s bad. It’s all a mystery. Every time you want to have a meal, you have to decide: does this place look sketchy? Will I like this food?
But re-learning how to decide where to eat, over and over again, helps you improve those processes. In this case, you’ll learn the universal clues to what makes a good restaurant. You learn to eat on your own. You learn what you like.
Whether it’s finding something to eat, checking how to get around, figuring out how to locate information, or learning to trust people, I think that because we travelers have to do it so much, we develop enough different mental pathways to become better. In making the decision making in general than most people. We just have more experience.
The same is true in dealing with people. Since language is not universal, I have to figure out daily how to communicate with people who don’t understand me (and vice versa).
But as I’ve done this many times, I’ve become better at reading people than I would have if I’d only encountered those in my hometown. This constant taxing work – while draining – has produced a lifetime of dividends by being better able to communicate, interact with, and understand a diverse group of people.
And in the end, all that work makes you more independent, confident, and mature. You grow up with a better sense of who you are, what you want, and how the world works.
Traveling can be a lot of work. It may be mentally stressful. And it can make you feel like you’ve regressed as an adult as you wander helplessly from one destination to the next. But, in the end, all that renewal makes you a better person.
Book your flight: logistics tips and tricks
Book your flight
Find a cheap flight with Skyscanner. It’s my favorite search engine because it searches websites and airlines around the world so you’ll always know that no stone is left unturned.
Reserve your accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as it constantly shows the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels.
Don’t forget travel insurance
Travel insurance will protect you from illness, injury, theft and cancellation. It is comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
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