Tokens Of Travel: 15 Life Lessons I Took Away From 6 Months Abroad

If there’s one way to catapult yourself into a world of fast-paced, necessary learning, it’s by purchasing a one-way ticket abroad.

That’s exactly what I did earlier this year. My six months abroad brought on plenty of memorable experiences, including many life lessons that I’ll never forget. Here are some of them:

1. Seemingly unfortunate circumstances are often blessings in disguise.

When I found myself slighted from a previously arranged apartment in Budapest, I felt totally defeated. I was alone in Eastern Europe, in a non-English-speaking country and in eight days, I would be homeless.

After a few hours of succumbing to sheer panic, I decided to change my disposition, as I was only making my disaster worse. I got to work and one week later, I was moving into my new apartment.

My new apartment was not only significantly nicer than my last, but also in a much better location and cheaper, to boot. I ended up being very thankful for the circumstance that initially seemed unfortunate, but turned out to be nothing of the sort.

2. Eye contact and a smile are the best form of communication.

Living in a country with limited English will teach you this form of communication really quickly. Regardless of how anxious and insecure you may feel about language barriers, you’ll soon realize there are other ways to communicate.

Eye contact and smiling with hand gestures go further than you might think. When it comes to being back in an English-speaking country, eye contact and smiling continue to go just as far.

3. People are generally warm and welcoming.

While abroad for six months in various countries and cities, there was one commonality I discovered between all cultures: People are friendly and helpful.

I was shocked by the amount of help that came my way when I was dealing with a lost purse situation in Greece, and I was just as appreciative for the physical help I received with my suitcase in numerous airports, train stations and metro stops across Europe. This applies, I’m certain, to the world at large.

4. Music is the best cure for loneliness.

This is a lesson I should have learned much earlier in life, one that I continue to preach to my friends. Sitting indoors in silence (unless sleeping) can be a slippery slope, especially if you already have reason to feel lonely.

So, instead of entertaining that idea, put on some happy, upbeat music; start dancing and find a way to feel happy.

5. Uncertainty is a positive thing.

This is a lesson that is difficult to grasp at first since uncertainty naturally makes us feel fearful. When traveling, however, it’s virtually impossible to avoid uncertainty, so travelers learn to cling to confidence that everything will work out perfectly.

Guess what? Everything does work out in the end.

6. Appreciation is key to happiness.

Even if you’re standing beneath the Eiffel Tower in Paris for the very first time, you’ll never truly feel the happiness if you haven’t learned to view the world with appreciation. Gratitude is a powerful tool and one that directly results in happiness.

7. Self-growth is the outcome of effort and belief.

If you want to change as a person, you can. Travel, distance and alone time are some great ways to facilitate this process, but what I ultimately discovered is that the only two things necessary for self-growth to occur are effort and belief.

First, you have to believe that you can change and grow. Second, you have to put conscious effort toward that change and growth you so desire, each and every day.

8. Miracles do happen.

We hear it daily, yet many of us still can’t grasp what it truly means. Miracles are any set of unanticipated and unexpected circumstances that upon occurring, feel like magic. The key to seeing them is to acknowledge them for what they are and feel grateful for all of their blessings.

9. When you follow your heart, the universe will grant you a guardian angel.

My heart was telling me to run, to be free, to explore, to travel, to dream, to write and to experience life in its purest form. Though there were many risks involved, I jumped anyway.

I jumped regardless of the risks because I had chosen to follow my heart. Once I made that choice, my life became magical. Two months in London expanded to six months across Europe.

Everything worked out magically and perfectly.

It was as if the universe had given me a bumper pad that allowed me to make my way through life smoothly. This experience was unlike any other I’d had in my life and I still can’t deny the reasoning for the significant shift: For the first time in my life, I had finally listened to my heart.

10. Open-mindedness is critical to learning; learning is critical to progression; progression is critical to understanding and happiness.

Everyone wants be happy; however, how many people want, or are willing, to learn? Since everyone wants to be happy, everyone should know the recipe for happiness: progression and gratitude.

People must always be moving forward and, therefore, must never stop learning. Although, we must accomplish open-mindedness before even claiming the ability to learn and then, claiming happiness.

11. There is something positive in everything.

I used to be someone who dwelled on the negative and rarely saw the positive in situations that weren’t obviously good. What I learned abroad, and what I know will benefit me throughout my life, is that there is something positive in virtually every event and circumstance

The ability to see these positive aspects is the simple outcome of practice, and though it’s not always obvious, there’s good in everything.

12. Tricky situations are an opportunity for growth.

When you find yourself in those inevitable tricky circumstances that come with life, acknowledge the opportunity presented. See it not as a failure, but an opportunity for growth, and find your way through it. Come out of it stronger and wiser.

13. True relationships aren't distanced by distance.

The relationships – the real relationships — that matter the most to you won’t be affected in the least by physical distance. When you go away for a long period of time, you’ll likely find that many relationships and friendships will slip away easily, while those that are most important will remain as strong as ever.

14. Life is too short to wait.

Life is also too unpredictable to wait. If there’s something you desire, and you have the opportunity to make it a reality now, my best advice is to take the chance while you can.

If there’s something you want to do before your time is up, why not do it now before something else comes up?

15. That inner voice? It's been right all along.

Listen to that voice – your intuition and your inner guide – since it’s only there for one reason: to serve you.

Photo Courtesy: We Heart It