The greatest learning experience anyone can have is through traveling. Opening your eyes and your mind to new experiences and cultures can give you so much more viable information than any textbook. But some of us (most of us) can’t afford to just hop on a plane and go wherever our hearts desire. So how does one go about seeing the world when they are basically broke? I can’t speak for everyone, but I can tell you what I did when I decided to travel.
First, I had to get a passport and there is no cheap way to do that. They cost around $135.00 plus photo fees. If you are an American citizen without a passport, you’re not alone. As of 2013, only 36% of the American population owned a passport, and roughly 10% of those never even used it!
Next, I made a choice of where I wanted to go and started looking for cheap flights. Of course, we don’t have many budget airlines here in the states, so you are going to have to spend some time scouring the web if you want to find a wallet-friendly flight. Also, I usually had to switch between airlines and deal with a few layovers, but 4 hours here and 6 hours there is worth saving $350. I used SkyScanner, Momondo, and browsed budget airline sites to find my tickets.
Finally, where to stay? Thanks to organizations like Couchsurfing and Workaway, I was able to live abroad comfortably, with very little spending. Couchsurfing is basically staying with strangers who open their homes to travelers, and share their city and their lives with them- for a couple nights. Workaway is for a more long-term stay, and that program is a miracle for those who are interested in seeing the world on a budget. With Workaway, you work 5 hours a day (usually with an awesome family who can teach you numerous things), and are provided with room and board. Yep, 5 hours a day and you get a roof over your head, 3 meals a day, and the ability to see new things and learn lots of incredible stuff.
So that’s how I started traveling. And I haven’t stopped yet. Why would I? The life-lessons I have learned, the way my mind was opened to different cultures and beliefs, everything about traveling has been beyond beneficial to me. I thought I would share a few of those things I learned with you.
Here are five things traveling has taught me:
1) Take Risks.
Say “Yes” and jump.
Leaving America with only an over-packed rucksack and a little money, then heading to a country I had never been to was a difficult first step on this journey. But I did it, and I am glad I did. I was told that my decision was “stupid” and that I was “unprepared”. To be honest, we all do things that someone else considers stupid. As far as unprepared… Okay, I might not have had a safety net but I didn’t feel as though one was necessary. Which was an entirely new feeling unto itself. I have ALWAYS needed something to fall back on and I have ALWAYS had something to fall back on. You know what that did for me? It made me lazy. It made me take things for granted. It showed me that I could do anything I wanted to and I would be safe from everything, including myself. It was nice to have but living in a bubble of safety isn’t really living. Every choice I now make has an effect and I have to think about what I do because I am responsible for myself. Even though others care about me, they are not responsible for me. We need to take care of ourselves because that is truly the only assurance we have that we will be “okay”. It’s a nice thought that others will be there for you when you need it, but that is not a guarantee. Which brings me to the next thing I have learned.
2) People are inherently good.
You don’t see that very often, living in a country where most people are obsessed with themselves instead of noticing others, but it’s still there. The people I have met in this past year have turned my world upside down. I have been shown kindness from strangers, been hugged by strangers, been given help from strangers, and been shown new levels of faith and trust from strangers. There were still a sprinkling of jerks in the mix, and there always will be, but the good greatly outweigh the bad. I once lived in fear of other human beings. I was beyond socially anxious – I was disabled when it came to being around others. Thanks to this experience, that is all in the past. I still am not a fan of human beings, but I am learning to like them a bit more and not be so closed-off towards them.
3) Stop. Breathe. Focus. Smile. Try again.
Those five steps will help you in almost any situation. I tend to be a reactive person, or I was until this trip. Heck, I still am a bit, but I try to be proactive. When that fails, I have to stop what I am doing, stop reacting, and breathe. Silence your words, close your eyes and take a deep breath in. Release it and concentrate on what is going on. Focus on a positive resolution to the problem; you will find one. Smile and try again. This seems so easy, and it is. I should’ve learned this a while ago but we learn what we need to at the right time, when it applies to our personal life lessons.
4) Get back to nature.
The city is nice and it has it’s conveniences, but it gets old fast. Nature is beautiful and it speaks to the soul. If you want to get to know yourself and those around you, get away from everything that distracts you – the internet, the phone, the television. Touch the trees, feel the leaves, walk upon the earth, kiss the wind, dance under the stars, sing with the birds. Nature is there for you. It helps you understand and it shows you what you need to see. Most of all, it stirs something inside of you. Well, it should anyways. If it doesn’t, you just need to spend a little longer in it’s grace. The path between start to finish is oftentimes strange, yet familiar; take that familiarity and that strangeness and look deeper into the void until you see something you can no longer question- until there is no doubt about who you are and where you are going.
5) Love with a backbone.
Love yourself, love your friends, love your enemies. You don’t have to like what someone does, and you don’t have to tolerate their choices, but you should try to love them because they are a human being- just like you. You can be kind and firm. You can love with a backbone. I will love you, but that does not mean I will enable you. Sometimes we associate love with making someone happy but that isn’t love, that is fear. Don’t be afraid to speak the words your heart shies away from. We are all connected and the sooner we realize that truth, the better we will all be.
There will be much more in my travels that will inspire me and teach me, but this is a very good start and I am looking forward to whatever the Universe sends my way.
Written by Raven Fon