8 Things I’ve Learned From Traveling The World For More Than 5 Years

January 28, 2016 by Anil Polat  

Thessaloniki umbrellas

The only thing that moves in life, whether you go with it or not, is time, and I’ve spent a lot of mine traveling. You might be looking for some grand insights here but let me disappoint you upfront – distance doesn’t make you wiser, time does – and there’s not even a guarantee of that.

The fact that traveling can be enlightening but not necessarily spiritual is only one of a few lessons I have been taught by 5, wait 6, years of journey to visit ever country in the world. Here are some of the others:

1. It’s Not That Hard

Before I took off to travel, the thought of such a trip seemed daunting. For some reason booking a bus ride seems a lot simpler than buying plane tickets. Actually, it’s hardly different. You can’t really save huge amounts on airfare so stop chasing cheap flights, choose a destination, find a reasonable flight, and you’re off. For pretty much any flight not to Israel, get to the airport two hours before flight time. Pack (at most) two weeks worth of clothes no matter how long you’ll be gone from home. That’s it.

skopje bus station

Boozing heavily in an airport lounge: optional and fun.

2. I Could Have Done It Many Different Ways

There is no one or superior way to travel. Full-time, two weeks a year, there’s no formula. You don’t need to be a travel blogging digital nomad, a lifestyle that has it’s own constraints. Like pretty much anything, looking back, you realize there are multiple paths to any destination.

bogota highway colombia

3. You Pick Up Weird Habits

Pretty much all of my clothes, plus a gi, fit in a single backpack. (These are the best backpacks for frequent travelers.) Electronics go in a SwissGear bag, one I never have to check in. No matter how long I plan on staying somewhere, I pack light and keep it that way. A backpack is always around, not tucked away, as they are for most people, in a closet. New clothes aren’t additions but rather replacements to a wardrobe with an active weight limit.

READ
What Can You Do If Your Passport Expires Before Your Valid Visa(s) Do?

backpacks for sale

There are so many weird habits, I’ll have an entire post about them in a week or two.

4. Traveling Becomes Your Normal

The idea that any two points on Earth are within reach of a whim along and some money, any time you want, is an arrogant way to describe some of the freedoms a location-independent lifestyle can bring. After a while it doesn’t seem so bizarre to you, it’s usually other people’s reactions that are a reminder being voluntarily homeless isn’t ordinary.

rachel nevada ufo bar area 51

Traveling becomes so normal after a long enough time, the notion of staying in one place seems a thought as intimidating as deciding to travel once was. Whatever our normal is, the idea of changing it is mentally challenging, not what it’s changing in to.

5. Planning Is As Useful As Not

Planners: sometimes you win. Not planning often results in travel serendipity. Like the debate of iOS or Android, there’s no absolute superior. Best to choose the least stressful planning method for you personally, while trying a little bit to incorporate more of the other to travel more efficiently.

ford transit connect #unminivan

6. Finding Good Friends Anywhere Is Hard

Traveling puts you in contact with a lot of good people you often stay in touch with for a few weeks after you’re off to the next destination. Occasionally you find people who become your really good friends. You would think that meeting more people around the world would mean ending up with lots of close friends. No matter your lifestyle, your circle of close friends stays small – hopefully being aware of this makes you value them a bit more too.

READ
This Simple Tip Gets You Through Istanbul Airport Departures In Half The Time

skopje bridge selfie

7. Appreciate The Journey

You’ll probably remember sitting on top of a mountain in Yemen, contemplating life at sunset, when the memory occasionally floats into your consciousness. That’s the Disney version. Really though what’s burned into your brain from that experience is erratically pointing a small flashlight around your camp throughout the night because your guide causally mentioned there was a 2-meter venomous snake lurking around while you were higher than the stars on khat.

stars overhead

8. Seeing The World Changes You

Although you’ll see poverty, unfairness, and the darker sides of humanity, the more people you meet the more convinced you become that people are fundamentally good. People everywhere are friendly tooeven the ones that don’t seem like it – because different cultures have developed ways of showing warmth. Poor places aren’t any more real than rich ones; misconceptions about other people are formed by the absence of experience. Ignorance is cured with exposure.

bogota night skyline

Long-term travel is an egotistical act, unique to every individual, which is why everyone learns – or doesn’t – something different from a journey. The lessons can come from anywhere, often unexpectedly. Travel won’t solve your problems or blatantly put you in touch with a higher being, no matter how cool your Indian yoga pants are. Whatever happens, it is certain to be unexpected, no matter what course you take.


Comments - 5 Responses   (Need a pic to show with your comment? Go get a gravatar!)

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail.


Sorted by rating: (Click arrows up or down to to vote anonymously.)

  1. Claudia says:

    Fantastic post Anil! I agree with everything you say. Including remembering being terrified by snakes (or cockroaches, in my case) and realizing that people are ultimately good 🙂

    (2)
  2. It’s awesome to read about the experiences you’ve had since you started traveling 5 years ago! What really stood out to me was the fact that we can travel basically anywhere around the world for some sort of money. I hope to do that, but definitely need to save up!

    (0)
  3. Taya says:

    Quite an interesting read. Though I would like to mention that there is not much difference between bus and flight tickets in Western part of world. But the difference is lot in places like India 🙂 An agree with your point about contemplating the sunset 🙂 I still remember so many rats and cockroaches I experienced in some places I stayed in India. Though it became a new normal after some time

    (0)
  4. Lucia says:

    Great insights! Thanks!

    (0)