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When You Travel The World Is Your Classroom

When You Travel The World Is Your Classroom

I arrived in Mexico with nothing but a carry-on bag, the name of a man I was meant to meet in a Caribbean beach town, and a stomach full of butterflies. It wasn’t the first time I’d been to Mexico, but it was the first time I’d shown up in peak season without accommodation booked, a couple of hundred dollars to my name, and no choice but to place my faith in a complete stranger. Yet this particular adventure would change my understanding of life.

Travel sparks these kinds of lofty lessons and realisations because experiencing difference is the key to a fast-tracked understanding of who we are; altering our surroundings alters our internal mindset and ultimately, our way of seeing things. Travel presents the perfect conditions to pluck a juicy lesson from life’s orchard because it is a petri dish of new experiences and challenges, highs and lows. We notice and absorb experiences in a more robust, reflective and creative way than when numbed by the humdrum of daily life.

Travelling can restore your faith in humanity because you learn that people are innately good.

I didn’t let low funds or fear stop me from having The Mexican Adventure That Changed My Life because I’d travelled enough to learn to listen to my intuition, and know that regret has a nasty sting. Your gut instinct knows the right choice to make long before the left brain has had time to analyse the situation. It’s having a good or a bad feeling about something without rationally knowing why. Travel has enough uncertainty to get your instinctual juices flowing, offering you ample opportunity to learn, to listen, and to trust your intuition. Getting familiar with this part of yourself can bypass a lot of frustration and lead you down some incredible and interesting paths.

Peak season in the Mexican beach town meant no other choice than living in a sort of alternative-minded camp community. My home would be a borrowed little blue and orange tent on the beach for a few months, a scenario I’d never envisioned for myself. I was alone, I didn’t speak Spanish, I would have to make new friends, and learn to live without electricity, hot water and a mirror. After assembling my tent, the reality hit. I calmly unzipped the hatch, settled inside, and wept silently in my nylon case of emotion.

Little Blue

Feeling out of my comfort zone, it was easy to hide, but I knew it was a fleeting solace. Travel constantly asks you to participate in life, highlighting the choice to resist and be swept up by the current, or dive in and enjoy a good swim. I had an opportunity to live in a way I’d never experienced before, so I got up, walked down the hill to the communal kitchen and introduced myself to my brand new temporary life. In just a weeks’ time, I would write an e-mail to a friend saying I’d never felt more alive or free.

When you’re confronted, or events take an unexpected turn, you’ll discover your impressive ability to adapt. Rolling with the punches and embracing change instead of resisting out of fear means negativity will rarely be the outcome. Adaptability breeds resilience, and travel teaches you that you can put up with a lot. You’re presented with constant challenges and unfamiliar situations, forcing you to regularly step outside your comfort zone. Knowing you can rely on yourself no matter the situation travel throws at you makes for a confident, independent individual.

Travel has enough uncertainty to get your instinctual juices flowing, offering you ample opportunity to learn, to listen, and to trust your intuition.

As much as we learn what works, travel also teaches us what habits are better kicked to the curb. Holding expectations are the perfect way to stop an opportunity from being an enjoyable experience. If they aren’t in check, you could be singing karaoke in Japan with Taylor Swift, bummed that it wasn’t Yonce. Expectations take you out of the present, rendering you unable to fully appreciate the moment. My advice is to have none, and if you can’t get rid of them, lower them considerably.

Meditating Mexico

Assumptions, like expectations, keep you in an invisible cage where your view of life is limited. Travel shines a spotlight on how you relate to the rest of the world, and the shattering of preconceived notions supports you becoming more informed and tolerant. You might also begin noticing how often others inadvertently speak through assumption, and this awareness will strengthen your resolve to stay open-minded and let personal experience be your guide. A curious and open mind lets you get to know a person or culture beyond the generalisations society tends to instill in us.

Travelling can restore your faith in humanity because you learn that people are innately good. I have been blown away by the kindness of strangers, and left asking myself if I would do the same for a stranger in my home country. Experiencing the compassion of others is so powerful you cannot help but be inspired to be a better person. This doesn’t mean you won’t come across rudeness or indifference, but you’ll want to reciprocate the abundance of warmth, hospitality and friendliness from locals and fellow travellers alike.

The lessons we acquire from travelling help us get to know ourselves better, and find a better self. Who are you without your possessions, your job, family and friends? How will you react when all your money is stolen and you don’t speak the language? What do you have to say when there is no one to pass judgment? Travel equips you to answer questions like these through practice and patience, and every experience learned strives to make you a better person.

I found many answers living a hippie life on a Mexican beach, but you could find yours trekking in Patagonia, walking among the rice paddies in Bali, or hustling in the streets of New York City. When you travel, the world is your classroom.

(All photos: Sonia Taylor)

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