20 THINGS I LEARNED FROM TRAVEL

A couple years ago, I traded my cushy urban lifestyle for the life of a nomad. And then I got scammed and mugged and eaten by bed begs. Many of my expectations were dismantled. I experienced a general sense of exhaustion.

But I also saw a handful of brilliant sunsets and tasted some new foods and climbed tall a mountain (or two). But perhaps best of all, I met people who told me, through their generous actions, that the world is a benevolent place.

Here are twenty of my biggest lessons from travelling the world.

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

ON PRACTICALITIES

1. The cheapest ticket is not always the best option. I purchased a dirt-cheap ticket from Lima to Buenos Aires, that featured an 8-hour layover in La Paz, Bolivia. Little did I know that, at 4061.5 meters of elevation, the La Paz airport is one of the highest airports in the world. I slept on a cement floor, and then spent the next two days recovering from altitude sickness. Splurging an extra $100 for the direct flight and sidestepping the sickness would have been the better option. Not all costs are financial.

2. Trains and boats are the best way to go. You probably already know this. But I thought I’d say it anyway. The pace of traveling via rail or water is incredibly pleasing. And even better, dare I say, is walking. But it’s hard to walk from Canada to Morocco. I prefer to take a train. Obviously.

3. Use protection when you crawl in the sheets. I’m not talking about condoms here. I’m talking about a silk sleeping bag liner or anything else what will protect you from bed begs. We have a global pandemic happening, and even the cleanest of hostels is not immune. Those little bastards are hungry. I was victimized in Buenos Aires. You don’t have to be. Use protection.

4. Make sure you have a “fuck up” fund available. My travel lifestyle is generally one of austerity and simplicity. But I always seem to end up spending more money than I initially plan. This has to do with that “you might NEVER get this opportunity again” way of rationalizing adventure. When you’re planning your travels, make a budget, and then times it by two. And if you don’t necessarily have the cash yet, remember that (sometimes) a bit of debt is worth it.

 

ON PEOPLE, CULTURE & CONNECTION

5. Eat a bit of everything. If you’re in Peru and refuse to sample a bit of roasted guinea pig because you think it’s “icky” or “weird,” then you might as well stay home with your TV dinners and the numbing glow of your favourite reality TV show. As a human species, we have eaten basically everything that walks, crawls or grows. Besides, turning your nose up at culinary offerings is deeply rude. Try a morsel. It won’t kill you. Why? Because it’s already dead. Dig in.

6. People want to share their stories, and hearing them is the best part of traveling. I truly believe that we are wired to share our experiences. The evidence of narrative sharing ranges from eastern storytelling practices to western social media engagement. Unfortunately, as we’ve evolved, we’ve constructed the concept of “difference” based on nationality, race, gender and other dimensions of diversity. And these differences cause us to be suspicious of others, thus less likely to share. But if I am able to establish trust, it’s amazing how the differences can dissolve.  And for me, there is nothing more representative of the core purpose of traveling than the exchange of stories.

7. Humour is one of my greatest tools to build trust. You might not be able to guess this, but I’m actually a big goofball. This is never more apparent then when I’m standing in front of a class, teaching an English lesson, I am a complete ham. Why? Because speaking a different language is scary – we fear looking stupid. Being a jester is a strategic way to lighten hearts, both in and out of the classroom. I’ll feign masculinity for a laugh. I’ll dance like a buffoon for a giggle. I’ll attempt to speak local languages. A person’s sense of humour and his or her trustworthiness are often correlated.

8. If you want humility or generosity or humour from your travels, try being a humane and kindhearted and funny traveler. This probably sounds pretty darn obvious. But I find myself returning to the basics, especially when my travels seem taxing. We get back what put out into the world. I get back what I put out into the world. *repeat until clear*

9. The world is really, really, really small. We are evolving quickly. When I was an 18-year-old backpacker, traipsing through New Zealand during the turn of the millennium, I jammed to tunes on a yellow Sony Walkman and I connected to my family once every couple of weeks via a group email. Now I have an iPod where I can listen to 2000 songs and wirelessly video chat with my 18-month-old nephew daily. What it means ‘to travel’ is changing drastically. Epic voyages are increasingly a rarity. The world is only getting smaller.

10. I am fortunate to be able to cross boarders with ease. Citizenship is a determinant that I hadn’t given much thought before travel. But as I move across borders, the privilege of my nationality becomes apparent. To be able to tour the world, in the fashion that I am traveling, does take some financial saving, but it also requires a passport that reflects diplomatic neutrality.  I support a global shift towards facilitating easier transitions between nations. Freer borders will be a symptom of a world that is seeking peace. In the meantime, I travel with pride in my passport.

 

ON TYPES OF TRIPS

11. Short-term international volunteer work is highly romanticized and rarely impactful. Chances are your three weeks stint in a Ghana orphanage is more about fulfilling your own agenda then “saving the children.” Unless you have a year to give to a social-based development project, it’s doubtful that you’ll have long-term impact. This doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t participate in short-term volunteer projects. But go forth with realistic expectations. And clear intentions about who’s really benefiting.

12. Traveling alone is the best type of travel. I spent four days hiking in New Zealand alone, and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. It forced me to be self-reliant and to develop an internal conversation. It turns out I’m totally hilarious in my head! Also, as a solo traveler, when in social spaces such as hostels, I find myself more open to interacting with other people, thus making new friends and learning about other places in the world. See the world alone. You’ll never be alone.

13. Traveling with people is the best type of travel. There is something extremely rewarding and deepening about traveling with a friend. Like when you’re in Costa Rica and you happen to contract a gut-cleansing form of food poisoning on New Years Eve, and you’re violently retching up the evening’s seafood pasta and beer, and this person ensures that you’re not dying. True story. But seriously, the jokes and the memories made on the road are the type of things that solidify friendships. Grab someone who shares your thirst for adventure, and hit the road. We’re better together.

14. It’s okay to drift. It’s okay to stay put. The great thing about transferring to a different destination every few days is that I’m able to cover much ground, and thus form a comparative analysis of a country. However, there are benefits of staying based out of one location. The potential for developing more meaningful relations is greater. Ultimately, you’ll decide what is more important. Perhaps the talented traveler finds the perfect balance between drifting and staying put.

the traveller

 

ON BEING A GOOD TRAVELER

15. I need to put the fucking camera away. I am guilty of wanting to share every awesome detail with my family and friends. And I think this 21st century sentiment to share travel images comes from an innocent enough place. But each time I reach for the camera, I switch out of “being in the moment” to “documenting the moment.” It’s okay not to record everything. Be there.

16. It’s okay to look like a tourist. I’m allergic to the image of a group of westerners waddling around with fancy cameras and safety belts. But guess what? I’m a tall, pasty white man, and most folks are going to put me in the exact same category as the waddlers. So maybe I should get over my ego and surrender the idealism of flawlessly blending in with the locals. I am what I am. Still, unless I’m partaking in a ten-day hiking safari, you’ll NEVER see me rocking the cliché quick-dry, cargo zip-off pants. But that’s just me being a vapid fashion snob. I guess I’m not over my ego yet. Shit.

17. Sometimes you just have to walkaway. Head for the door. I’ve highlighted a bunch of romantic/gooey shit like “trusting people” and being “kindhearted”. Those words are valid. But if I ever feel unsafe or taken-advantage-of or isolated, then it’s time to make changes. If you are not in a good situation, GET THE FRACK OUT! It’s okay to change your itinerary, leave a host situation, ditch volunteer projects and say ‘no thanks’ to free rides. It’s not always going to be a lovely prance through a flowery field of meaningful-narrative-exchanges. Keep yourself safe. Capeesh?

18. It’s helpful to have a map. I was surprised as hell to discover that 98% of the people I meet in my travels have no idea where my hometown of Prince George (British Columbia) is on a map. Okay, that was sarcasm. But truthfully, many folks can’t locate Canada on a map. I have the choice between becoming offended or using the opportunity to teach a little geography lesson. I choose the latter. I’ve learned that people love looking at maps. *hums: We Are The World*

19. Good times happen when I’m able to let go of my expectations. I’m the master of constructing expectations. I thrive on scheduling travel romances, planning epiphanies and projecting moments of enlightenment. But these things tend to surface when they’re meant to surface, not when I’ve penciled them into my itinerary.  The sooner I can align the reality of any given situation, the easier it will be for me to appreciate it for what it is. It’s great to dream big. It’s better to live with few projected desires.

20. When I trust, my trust will be returned. If you’ve never engaged in long-term, low budget travel, allow me to inform you of a giant secret. There is a giant karmic pot from which you will be depositing and withdrawing. This includes a delightful series of free meals, late night conversations, travel tips, book exchanges, glasses of beer, personally guided tours, work exchanges and couches to crash on. I give to the system. I take from the system. And when I put this trust in people, I am rewarded.

This is the lesson that keeps on teaching. It is the most important.

 

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Please share this post with the traveller in your life.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Reddit

Related posts:

48 Responses to “20 THINGS I LEARNED FROM TRAVEL”
  1. Sunita 17 June 2011 at 10:13 AM #

    Daniel,

    This is a delightful and super helpful list — especially your point about bed bugs in hostels. Good stuff. It is heartening to know that there are other dreamers and wanderers out there and not everyone is chained inside a cubicle. My wanderings don’t take me traveling much, but I’m writing and I have no boss. I can never have a “boss” again.

    Safe travels, Daniel! Keep up the good work.

    Warm Regards,

    Sunita (from Chicago)

    • danbaylis 20 June 2011 at 5:52 AM #

      Thanks Sunita,

      Life is an ebb and flow. Sometimes I have bosses, sometimes I don’t.

      We gotta do what we gotta do.

      Hugs and high fives sent to Chicago,

      Daniel

      • marie 2 July 2012 at 2:16 PM #

        This is fascinating. I do travel solo but still a bit cautious since im a woman.there were things i need to be extra careful of. But i do wish on traveling like vagabond. And i know it will happen soon. Reading these articles from you really pushes me to the edge of becoming that non-reluctant, but just a very very curious traveller. And maybe our paths may cross one day. Such a small world for million travellers out there. You inspired me. Really.

  2. Ahmar 17 June 2011 at 12:38 PM #

    lovely reflections.

  3. Hart Downey 17 June 2011 at 12:39 PM #

    this is very meaningful, thanks for sharing

  4. Alice 17 June 2011 at 2:40 PM #

    this really resounded with me: “A person’s sense of humor and his or her trustworthiness are often correlated.”

    thanks dan. i just love you more every day!

    • Maya 23 June 2011 at 5:30 PM #

      Me too — I loved that line.

  5. Lukas 17 June 2011 at 2:55 PM #

    Daniel-

    I love you.

    Did you know that? Well I do.

    Can we meet in person sometime in the next four years? I would really like that.

    Also. Your piece made me happy because it resounded with much of the learnings I picked up in the process of my own vagabonding. More than that, I appreciate these words because I can feel a familiar fullness of life pushing them up. Because you, my friend, are currently expressing that word, “living” to it’s upper potentials. One thing travelling continues to teach me is that life does not have to be pale and milk colored. Travelling has made me feel how vibrant, how musical, how absolutely full life can be. And once you feel that you never go back. There is no settling once you have achieved that.
    I know I am travelling when I am living fully. When I can see and feel that that beautiful beat line through the world, through life and I can walk it as as well as any trained trapeze artist. I know I am travelling when all that is superflous can be cut away in a day or less and what is left, what is left is what is real. And precious and beautiful. What is left is religion. And it has always been there, you know? We just let ourselves get to busy to listen for it, look for it, feel for it.
    I love this, Daniel. When I talk to a person who is…I still don’t know what to call it. Awake? Present? Engaged? Alive? I suppose I can call them travelers, even when many of the ones I meet these days have lived in the same town their whole life.
    But when I talk to a traveler, they ALWAYS have their own way of saying number twenty.
    Sometimes they use the word God, sometimes they reference the earth, sometimes they use scientific terms. To me it is a dance.

    And when it gets down to it that is all there is. Even, and this Daniel I need to tell you, even when you get home. Wherever that is for you (and it can change!)

    I guess what I am trying to say is that you are my brother now. And that on the night I got back from New Orleans I sat down at my desk and read through everything I had written and collected in those three months. Everything. Straight through. And at the end, realising that I had two empty pages, I wrote gratitude. Here is the last part:

    “Thank you for all those warm and cold night bicycle rides, forever with me as images of sheer contentment. Thank you for slow moving trains and children dancing in busy streets. Thank you for New Years when I was eighteen and the revelation of celebration, of smiles so wide and dancing in the street, of realizing what family is, and realizing that you don’t always have to care what strangers think about you! Thank you for Boris, Daniel, MaryAnne, Zack, Sam, Alec, Craig, Myke, Denise, Thom, Madelyn, Edda, and Glynis. Thank you for that night in the treehouse and sunsets on the levee. May the spirit of these people, these memories and New Orleans itself always stay with me. Thank you for this new swaggering heart!”

    Thank you, Daniel. Keep following your own heart, whether it swaggers, struts or does cartwheels. Because I know from personal experience that however Daniel Baylis’ heart moves, it moves big.

    Good luck.

    Lukas.

    • danbaylis 20 June 2011 at 5:51 AM #

      LUKAS! I love you too, buddy!

      Your crazy wise-beyond-your-years tendencies continues to wow me.

      Such amazingly generous sentiments that you’ve shared. I hope that each of my readers takes the time to read the comments. That’s where the true gems are found. You’ve proved this.

      Keep that heart swaggering. And soon we shall be watching another sunset together.

      With deep respect for life and ice cream,

      Daniel

  6. Maria 18 June 2011 at 10:12 PM #

    I am particularly thankful for your article, because in addition to repeat the same things I keep hearing over, and over from the brave souls that embark in similar adventures (I am a CS ambassador, so I read many of those), you had the honesty to mention two key elements that so often get omitted, and I am not sure why: a) there are privileges that simply have to do with the country where you were born, and that’s something you cannot just choose. If you are traveling with a certain Middle Eastern or Latin American passport, your experience at the border will just not be the same! b) There WILL BE scammers and people trying to take advantage of the “rich” tourist. It’s so obvious to me, and yet… so many of the bloggers keep talking *only* of the wonderful hearts, and souls and their infinite generosity. However, not everything is a field of roses. I do trust Karma, and I will keep trusting people, but I also know there is a reality, and I feel that failing to mention the ugly aspects is some sort of dishonesty that now has somehow become fashionable among people with nomadic lifestyles such as yours. Thanks for sharing your wonderful insights.

    • danbaylis 20 June 2011 at 5:58 AM #

      Hey Maria,

      Ha! I *wish* everything were a field of roses!

      Actually that’s a lie. The bumps in the road provide the memories!

      To karma! To thieves! To all the brave souls!

  7. Stroumphette82 20 June 2011 at 12:37 PM #

    Taking a train from Canada to Morocco? ;-)

  8. Raw Girlfriend 20 June 2011 at 12:39 PM #

    Hey Daniel-
    Love the blog. I traveled thru Europe, alone for the summer many moons ago and had my most meaningful adventures one ‘tick’ off the tourist track. So, to your list I would add #21- Get off the beaten path. Only there will you experience the true culture of each country.

    Good stuff. Happy travels~ RGF :)

  9. Denise Barkis Richter, Ph.D. 20 June 2011 at 12:55 PM #

    Daniel, Thank you for this wonderful list! So true. Friends of mine from graduate school live in Rabat. I know they’d be happy to meet you. DM me at @dbrsat on Twitter, and I will give you their contact info. #21 on your list might be: It’s always good to get the inside scoop from natives! Cheers, Denise

  10. Kristine 20 June 2011 at 1:30 PM #

    “15. I need to put the fucking camera away.” – So true! I only got a digital camera two months (I’m the polar opposite of an early adopter) and it really had an effect on how I travel. During my pre-camera days, I was happy enough just chilling out. Now I often feel like I just HAVE to take pictures of everything. It gets kind of exhausting.

    It really is about finding the balance between “capturing the moment” and knowing when to put your camera away and just enjoy being there. Photos are supposed to remind you of the great times during your travels but it’s pointless if the only thing you remember doing was running around taking pictures.

  11. Jeffrey Willius 20 June 2011 at 2:16 PM #

    Great post! Many useful points, some of them very insightful. Thanks!

  12. Trini 20 June 2011 at 3:08 PM #

    Hello Daniel, I loved this list, it made my heart warm and my soul want to go out on a new adventure at once. At the same time it is something down to earth and honest about it, I liked that alot. I think it is about time that I have a closer look your blog.
    Kind regards from Norway, Europe.
    – Trini

  13. Clementl 20 June 2011 at 3:31 PM #

    Hey Daniel,

    I’m fond of travelling and an active member of a traveler’s club…
    I visited 37 countries and i found myself in every points you mentioned!

    It is great to read you!

    I’ll stay in touch with your blog and share it with a friend. she’s currently moving all over the world and she’s in Montreal at this time :)

    see you across borders!

  14. Mandy 20 June 2011 at 4:04 PM #

    Excellent Blog!
    A couple of distant relatives are visiting the UK for the 1st time, and I met them at the weekend. Guess where they were born & brought up….. Prince George BC !

    So yes we did get a map out (Google Earth actually) to see their farm, and compare it with our house and even ‘flew’ around London.
    So I agree – maps are a very useful conversation piece.

  15. Lisa's friend Jen 20 June 2011 at 5:18 PM #

    Hi Daniel
    I’m home being a mom to three little ones and have enjoyed living vicariously thru your posts. I am inspired to say, “one day…” to travelling again. Thanks for the great stories. Jen B.

  16. Vishal 20 June 2011 at 7:56 PM #

    Cheers to traveling alone and discovering yourself!

  17. Sakti Soediro 20 June 2011 at 10:30 PM #

    Am I just read a post written by a warmhearted, full of loving & funny traveler? That was a neat lovely way of telling Dan, love it. Thank you for sharing ;)

    Any chance to hit Bali? you should contact me once you plan to go here, I’ll treat you for free visiting places that even never mentioned on traveling book. Have a great travel time, keep my mail.. ;)

  18. Lucy 21 June 2011 at 11:53 PM #

    Very well written, and a great read for someone like myself who has just jumped off the career-track for the first time in order to embark on a (? month) journey across the world!
    Point 11 re; volunteering interested me a lot… I haven’t read all of your blogs, but you did volunteer work in Peru from what I can see. Just curious to know if it’s that you saw people with an inflated expectation of their efforts that spur you to write this, or you feel that a lot of people aren’t truly altruisitic? I’m thinking to participate along the way if possible, mainly because I am an “every drop of water…” person. But would be lying if I said that I wasn’t conscious that it helps me justify my expedition as well… just keen on your thoughts.

  19. David 23 June 2011 at 12:08 AM #

    Hey Daniel,

    It was a good decision to write more. Once again this is a very well written piece that is extremely interesting. I’m sitting outside in my garden in Montréal on a night when it is so warm that you would swear this city is in the tropics and I’m reading your blog because that’s how I’m travelling vicariously. Thanks so much!

  20. oliver 23 June 2011 at 11:13 AM #

    Bed bugs!
    Like the blog.
    Thanks

  21. Monique 23 June 2011 at 5:33 PM #

    As a vegetarian, I felt (positively) challenged by your argument for eating everything offered to me. I know I should, but do I really have to eat the sheep’s brains? I think I have some mental hurdles I need to get past first! Good for you for digging right in!

  22. Vago Damitio 9 July 2011 at 3:26 PM #

    BYO condoms….back when I was a single guy, this was sometimes my biggest regret…for many reasons.

  23. Shuttur 5 September 2011 at 4:29 PM #

    Very cool.

  24. Karan 2 October 2011 at 3:24 AM #

    Brilliant writing. So thoughtful. Just wonderful! Keep it up Daniel!

  25. Ashley Diener 15 October 2011 at 10:47 AM #

    This was great! Thank you again for sharing! I was just thinking that I wanted to ask you all this….as I drink my morning tea and catch up on some Daniel traveling time! Big Hugs, ash!

  26. Mylène 15 October 2011 at 11:06 AM #

    this is my 3rd read of this specific article and I always find pleasure and joy in it. well done Mr. Baylis!

  27. Arturo Vazquez 26 January 2012 at 3:24 PM #

    This is how I imagine your book would look like. Insightful, witty, full of banter and light on the new age. People like feel-good books, but I believe people love true books that reflect how the author actually is, instead of “pandering” to fulfill an expectation. Because we travel, we know how it feels, we just want to know how was it for you, in order to say: “nah, whatever” or to snort and say: “true dat!” ; ) So, keep it real and best of lucks.

  28. emergencygirl 23 February 2012 at 10:14 AM #

    What a beautiful, true and perfect post!
    I started cross-reading it and got stuck at every single point on you list :-)
    What I learned on my travels? That it is always ok, better and satisfying to be yourself. No matter what.

    Keep up the great articles, I’d love to read more. And more. And more. :-)

  29. Turner 27 September 2012 at 12:23 PM #

    Good on ya. I was about to disagree with #12 until I saw #13. Some really solid points here.

  30. Laura 7 February 2013 at 8:30 PM #

    Daniel, I loved your list! You’re welcome in Colombia any time!

    • danbaylis 7 February 2013 at 8:52 PM #

      Thanks Laura!

  31. Tin 26 March 2013 at 11:58 PM #

    Thank you for being YOU. I feel like I’ve done something good in life to be in this moment – reading, feeling this, these, your soles/soul.

    • danbaylis 28 March 2013 at 12:30 PM #

      Hey Tin. Thanks for the sweet words!

  32. Feli 4 April 2013 at 1:53 PM #

    Hey Daniel,
    like the article very much. Have to think about my learnings until now. But I’m still travelling…Feli

    • danbaylis 5 April 2013 at 2:32 PM #

      Thanks. Sometimes the lessons come after travelling has ended!

  33. gokhan 10 October 2013 at 6:58 PM #

    Nice lessons! :)
    and congratz for hitting 10k on fundraising :)

    • danbaylis 11 October 2013 at 8:43 AM #

      Thank you, sir!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. LandLopers Picks of the Week | LandLopers - July 8, 2011

    […] 20 Things I Learned from Travel Share this:EmailPrint […]

  2. Interview with Daniel Baylis - Traveler Around the World - November 12, 2011

    […] not to document everything. Put the camera down and be in the moment. Here are twenty of my most important lessons from traveling…5. Which, out of all the countries you’ve visited was the most impressive?Tough question. […]

  3. 53 Lessons Learned at the School of Life & Travel | A Life of Blue - November 22, 2011

    […] it is, travel teaches you something. Even if you visit a state or city for the first time in your own country. Travel enriches you with […]

  4. 10 Unconventional Travellers and Adventurers You Can’t Miss | A Life of Blue - December 13, 2011

    […] Inspiring Post: 20 Things I learned From Travel […]

  5. ONE YEAR OF TRAVEL: 2011′s BLOG STATISTICS AND MOST POPULAR CONTENT | danielbaylis.ca - May 18, 2012

    […] Discover the 20 Things I Learned From Travel… […]

  6. 20 Things Daniel Baylis Learnt from Traveling « Jump Weiter - September 23, 2012

    […] 20 Things Daniel Baylis Learnt from Traveling […]

Leave a Reply