In the moments leading up to our decision to travel for a year, both Andres and I were scared to quit our jobs and create this abrupt change in our lives (more on this in a story I shared for Hello Fears).
But once we were on the trip, when we were actually out in the world adventuring, volunteering, constantly meeting new people and absorbing new life lessons, the only thought that came to mind was, “how did we ever hesitate?”
This year was life changing for us. Travel is incredible because it teaches you so much about yourself and the world. Below are some of our biggest takeaways from this year of exploration. W
Hopefully they inspire you to take a trip like this of your own.
1. Travel Can Be As Cheap Or Expensive As You Want To Make It
Before leaving we researched hundreds of travel blogs to get an idea for how much money we needed to make our dream trip a reality and concluded that about $40,000 would be necessary.
We spent half of that.
How did 2 people travel around the world with $10,000 each? We set a daily budget and tracked it with one of our favorite apps, Trail Wallet. Keeping a budget makes you really consider each activity, tour, and restaurant to ensure you only choose the ones you really, really want.
We also realized that keeping a tight budget helped us connect with people and places in more meaningful ways. For example, instead of staying at hotels we couchsurfed, collecting so many stories and getting an inside look at how locals live. And when we decided to hitchhike in Japan instead of riding the speedy trains, we got to meet the incredible Taka, in addition to several other kind, selfless people we met.
2. It’s Not Easy Being With Someone 24 Hours A Day. Breaks Are Necessary And Encouraged
Andres and I have been together for over 10 years! We are best friends, love each other and know each other better than anyone else…but spending 24 hours a day, every day together can lead to tough moments.
Sometimes it was a struggle to find something to talk about! “So tell me about your day today… What did you do?”, Andres would joke. I’m pretty sure I heard just about every story Andres remembers from his childhood.
Whether it was taking an hour apart to go for separate walks, hanging out with different friends at the hostel, or just reading our own books for some quiet time, it was nice and helpful to give ourselves a few hours apart.
Also, the main reason for volunteering in each country was because there were moments when would get tired of being tourists and constantly having to plan the next few days. Volunteering gave us opportunities to learn new things, connect with other travelers, and feel at home for some time.
The awesome secondary effect was that we usually had different roles at our volunteer jobs giving us some healthy time apart. For example, when we worked on the farm in China we almost never saw each other during the day and even slept in different rooms. And now that we are home, back in a routine of “real world” responsibilities, we really miss all the uninterrupted time we had together last year.
3. We Need Much Less Than We Think
Have you ever seen those small red cars with steering wheel, little tires, and an opening at the bottom so kids can push/drive themselves around?
We’ll never forget when we lived with a Nepali family, the kids had one of these cars. Only thing is, the once bright red car was now completely faded and so old and worn down that it had no wheels.The kids would attempt using momentum to make the broken down toy advance just a little bit, all while it made this horrible screeching sound against the paved floor of their home.
Even though it wasn’t perfect in our western eyes, the kids loved and appreciated their car and didn’t need any other toys to play with.
One of our first trip posts was about packing a small pack. We never had to check our backpacks when flying, it was always easy to wash clothes, and it felt great to know that all we had and needed was in our small 40L backpacks. Even when I got back to Miami and had a closet full of clothes I still lived out of my backpack for a week because it really had everything I needed.
We learned and strongly believe in living a more minimalistic life, and are try to embed those lessons into our lives here. Many times it’s difficult, not buying that beautiful skirt thats 80% off, or rejecting the gift mom bought with so much love. It’s tough, but necessary to remain somewhat minimalistic. Only buy things that you really need.
4. Travel Helped Us Connect, Not Disconnect
Many people have mentioned how good it must have felt to disconnect from our lives back home. The reality is, traveling made us feel more connected than ever.
It’s very common to fall into a routine and get comfortable in your bubble when you’re staying in one place and seeing the same people for a long time. Can this be considered the way to be ‘connected’?
On the other hand, travel opened up the world to us and connected us with places and people we never thought about before! There is a big, huge, crazy world out there and it was amazing to get a taste of it.
5. There Are Truly Kind And Special People In The World
Our trust and love for humanity was re-kindled.
There are and unfortunately will always be some terrible things and people. India was one place that really tested our patience with this…but putting those moments aside, we feel like we were lucky to have met the most incredibly kind people in every country visited.
We felt that the most generous and kind people were often the ones who had less. People that had much less than us in possessions, money, space, education and anything else you can think of were the most willing to open their homes, share their food, drive us around, and so much more.
To be honest, it’s very hard to put into words the gratitude and love we feel for all the special people we encountered and who made us feel at home in the world.
6. Ice Cream Is Delicious Everywhere
Seriously. We made sure to eat ice cream in every single country and it was always delicious. In India it was so hot that we had at least one ice cream each a day. In Bali a monkey stole an ice cream right out of my hands! I can still taste the dulce de leche ice cream from everywhere in Argentina. One of the best parts of travel is getting to try local foods and we made sure to take advantage of that.
Our favorite overall? Coffee Parm in Japan. If anyone knows where we can get it in the States we will be forever grateful!
What have been the most important lessons you’ve learned from travel?