Age 26 is a weird one. As far as momentous rites of passage go, you can already drink, drive, buy cigarettes, rent a car and vote. In other words, when you reach this tender age of, oh, I don't know, inexplicable importance, you come to realize a couple of things.
Any growth of character from here on out is entirely dependent on the unique experiences you have. There are so many things you really want to achieve before the palpable reality of 30 completely overtakes you.
This is probably why I recently decided to venture off on my own 26-year quarter-life crisis, not coincidentally one week following the ensuing depression of my birthday.
The realization that there might be no upswing from here on out led me to a cheap hut, eight hours outside of Bangkok.
I had no phone, no friends and a single beacon of comfort in the form of a shoddy WiFi connection. If I was looking for growth through humility, this was surely the way toward it.
The reality of my first night lost in translation looked nothing like the sexy Sofia Coppola movie I was imagining.
Retrospectively speaking, my solo travel turned out to be the sexiest thing ever I’ve done.
Solo or not, sometimes, losing yourself to the world is the best way to find your place in it. Whether you’re feeling lost, looking for a new challenge or new perspective, here are 11 lessons you’ll learn from travel that will strengthen your character and make you a better person:
1. People are generally good.
The world is, at times, a sh*tty place, and humans appear to suck more often than they don’t.
One thing you’ll learn when you step outside of your comfort zone, however, is that for the most part, mankind is a refreshingly classy act.
When you venture beyond biased perspectives and paranoid neighbors, the world turns out to be a whole lot better than it sometimes seems.
2. There’s no right or wrong way to do things.
People operate differently from place to place, and if anything, going somewhere new will open your eyes to the attractiveness of options.
Diversity is what makes the world interesting and, sure, sometimes frustrating, but you should probably get over that if you want to grow in life.
3. Nature is almighty.
People have done impressive things, but nothing will humble you quite like standing at the base of a mountain or looking up to the sky from the stillness of a natural lagoon.
It's funny how, sometimes, our preoccupation with civilization makes us uncivilized. Riddle me that.
4. Pick what you worry about.
Nothing prioritizes concern quite like the immediate “worries” of the road. Slowing down just enough to think about where you will sleep or how you will get to your next destination will allow you to focus on the things that really matter.
Instagram? F*ck it. Travel will teach you that your attention centers where you put your energy. Make things important if they are important enough to garner your worry. The rest of it usually works itself out.
5. You’ll discover the beauty of being comfortable in your own skin.
Travel is an excellent excuse for skipping some showers, renouncing makeup, rocking some questionable hair, etc.
Putting effort into your appearance is sexy, but knowing that you bring more to the table than your looks means bringing everything to the table. You’d be surprised how hot that knowledge looks on a person.
6. Conversation isn’t dead… if you stimulate it.
Put your f*cking phone away. Enough said.
7. Money does not rule all.
Money talks and it's really nice to have, but at the end of the day, things are just things. Money is a currency that can get you anything in the world — except the only things that make you decent. Its value has limits.
8. But, use the money you do have wisely.
Dreaming big and saving little is only cute for a little while (speaking from experience). Learning how to marry practicality with abandon will land you in places you never thought you would see.
9. Curiosity is a muscle.
The moment it’s cured is the moment you’ve stopped exercising it. When you travel, you’re engaged with your surroundings. Boredom is a symptom of a limited perception.
You make a trip just as much as you take it, and any traveler who misses the journey misses just about everything he or she could get.
10. Comfort isn’t everything.
But, it's a hell of a lot, and losing it for a little while is a good way to learn how to appreciate it again.
When you travel, you’ll most likely have some weird nights in strange places, where the beds are questionable and the scents are foreign. That will sometimes leave you feeling lost and alone.
But, trust me, there’s no better feeling than coming back to your comfort zone with new eyes and a more refined appreciation for it. You may even find you’ve grown out of it.
11. Never underestimate the power of kindness.
The ripple effect is tangible, and compassion feels as real as it gets when you’re in a foreign country and you’ve had the worst day of your life. Offer a hand to a fellow friend.
The funny thing about travel and disconnecting is that it’s all about connection. It's about discovering, from the moment when you step out of your comfort zone and into someone else’s. Kind of sexy, right?
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