11 insights traveling has taught me

11 travel thoughts about traveling

I started traveling at a fairly young age. What began with annual family vacations at the French coast, continued with a year spent in an American High School, backpacking Australia, countless shorter trips and finally culminated in my recent year-long journey across Southeast Asia. I said this before; I am not one of those lucky persons who can say that they don’t regret anything they did in their lives.  I would probably change a few things if I had the chance to but what I never regretted and what always turned out to be amazing experiences were my travels abroad. They made me richer, opened my eyes and mind, made me grow as a person and allowed me to create memories which I will never forget. Traveling has changed me and my personality in countless ways and has probably taught me more than 5 years of university. Here are some of the things I have learnt along the way.

1| The world is a beautiful place

We all tend to get our opinions about the world and specific places from the media. But have you noticed that the media is always focusing on the negatives? It is what best draws their audience’s attention, what brings more clicks and rakes in the most money. But it has the side effect that a lot us regard the world as a hostile and dangerous place, where tourists get kidnapped or robbed and terrorism is a constant threat. But during all of my travels I have found the world to be a wonderful place with utterly wonderful people in it. I found a saying, which sums up it quite well. “You won’t know, if you don’t go.”

Tanah Tpraja - Sulawesi

The world is a beautiful place. Tanah Toraja, Sulawesi | Indonesia

2| Different people, same goals

I have seen the most different places with the most different people living in them. Sea gypsies in Indonesia, hill tribes in Northern Vietnam and people calling the biggest metropolises of the world their home.  When we encounter a foreign country and new cultures, we tend to be mostly aware of the differences. These might be language, behavior, attire, skin color or other traits. But if you look beyond the surface, you will find that most people on this earth strive for the same simple things. A roof over their heads, food on the table, safety for their family and community and of course happiness. Especially happiness is a matter of definition but at the end of the day, our goals in life are not so much different as we might think and neither are we as people.

Group of locals Coron

Shelter, food and community. We are all not that different. Coron, Philippines

3| Development – The two sides of the medal

Economic development, especially in emerging countries, has the potential to massively improve people’s lives. Newly build roads connect rural areas, giving their inhabitants access to medical facilities and education. The development of tourism can provide even the remotest regions with new income opportunities. But if not managed wisely, developments like these can have side effects which will be detrimental to a country’s culture and identity. Old traditions might get lost, environmental problems might arise and the traditional sense of community might disappear. I am still not sure what to think of this as of course my priorities are very different from the ones the local people have. I might also be a bit more aware of the negative consequences such seemingly positive developments can have. But it is safe to say, that development can be a mixed blessing to say the least.

Shan State MYanmar kids

Development has not reached this place yet. What will happen if it does? Shan Highlands, Myanmar

4| A smile will take you far

Even if you don’t know the local language of the country you are traveling, a big smile has the potential of opening hearts and doors for you. A smile can take you a long way as people will find you more likeable and hence approachable. Being grumpy and angry will put people off and no one will want to be near you. This goes for locals and fellow travelers alike. So put on a smile, go out and get ready for some interesting encounters.

Kids Tanah Toraja

A smile for new friends. Tanah Toraja, Sulawesi | Indonesia

5| It won’t be all gravy

That being said, it will be impossible to smile every single day and be in the best mood all the time. People think that while traveling, you must be in a state of constant euphoria because of all the great things you see and do. But with everything else, there is always light and shadow, black and white, the ying and the yang. It is perfectly normal to have bad days where everything is just annoying and where you just don’t want to talk to anybody. There is nothing wrong with being grumpy for a day or two. Accept these episodes as what they are – fleeting moments in time with the next highlight just waiting around the corner.

Pantai Bira Indonesia Sulawesi

Being grumpy or in a bad mood sometimes is just normal. Pantai Bira, Sulawesi | Indonesia

6| The joy of simplicity

This is a huge lesson traveling has taught me.  We don’t need much to be happy in life and definitely not as much as society wants us to believe. It’s not all about acquiring more and more things and status – the tenth pair of shoes, the latest smartphone or the newest car. It’s rather the simple things that truly stick and make you richer. Friendship, witnessing the wonders of nature, meeting interesting people and learning about new cultures.
During my travels I often witnessed people who did not have much but where very happy and content with what they had. In my opinion often much happier than people here in the West who, if we think about it, have way more than they actually need. We must be aware of and cherish those small things in life. The simple life is the best life.

Togean Island Family

The simple life is the best life. Togean Islands, Indonesia

7| Memories are the greatest wealth

This is closely connected to the point I made above. After that one year traveling Southeast Asia, I came home with thousands of amazing memories. I met interesting people, made new friends, saw beautiful places and grew as a person. However, when I came home after that year of roaming the earth, it seemed like literally nothing had changed.  And I know that if I had stayed in my old corporate job, nothing would have changed for me as well. All of those memories I made, no one will ever be able to take away from me. I’d rather be old and have some good stories to tell than with a fortune on my bank account. Create memories.

Biri Island Sunset

Memories are the greatest wealth. Biri Island, Northern Samar | Philippines

8| It’s not worth to be cheap

This might sound easier said than done as traveling can be an extensive endeavor, especially if you come from a developing country. But I am talking about activities and adventures along the way as these will make your trip enjoyable and the memorable highlight you want it to be. Try not to be too cheap here. If you really want to do that island hopping tour, then do it, if you really want to climb that mountain, then do it and if you really want to try surfing, then take those lessons. Who knows when you will be back there again? It is better to save on other things instead, like accommodation, food or transportation and invest in experiences.

Biri Island Paddleboard

Renting that paddleboard for the evening was worth every single Peso. Biri Island, Northern Samar | Philippines

9| Low and slow is the way to go

I am not a big fan of rushing through countries to just mark them off a list. I want to immerse myself into a culture as much as possible and get a real feel for the country and its people. This is best done be traveling slowly, taking time and relying on local transportation. Of course this might not be the most comfortable or most effective means of transportation but it allows for a much more authentic experience. It is also an integral part of the adventure. Figuring out how to get from one place to another, asking for connections, riding topload on jeepneys and sometimes getting lost – A flight won’t offer that.

Philippine tricycle

Literally low and slow. Cramped inside a small tricycle in the Philippines.

10| Getting lost can be an opportunity

I find this so important that I wrote an entire article about the concept of getting lost and why it isn’t all that bad. Getting lost throws us out of our comfort zones immediately. It challenges ourselves, forces us to deal with new situations and it makes us learn more about ourselves. Getting lost can for sure be annoying, but when traveling, it can be empowering, teaching us new skills and a source for adventure. So let’s not fear getting lost but embrace it as opportunity.

Jetty Maripipi Island

Getting lost as an opportunity. Maripipi Island, Philippines

11| People who have less, give more

It’s something I noticed in almost every country I visited. But most memorable was an occasion on the small island of Camiguin in the Philippines. One morning me and two new local friends of mine had breakfast at a small bakery in town, when were approached by  young little kid, asking for a bit of money. Whereas I usually don’t give money, my friend gave the boy a bit of change without much of a fuss. “It’s just a few coins”, she remarked. I had a lot of moments like that. People who didn’t seem to have much invited me for food and drinks or opened their door for me. It is a strange phenomenon. There are people who have a comparably tough life, concerned about getting by and living with generally less amenities than we do. And still they are happy and willing to share the little they have with others. Moments like that made me feel welcome and blessed and at the same time a little sad thinking about myself, where I have come from and how big the difference is.

Local Food Vietnam

Sharing the little they have. Invited for lunch into a traditional Vietnamese home. Ha Giang area, Vietnam

Last thoughts…

Traveling has the potential to fundamentally change you and make you grow as a person. It makes you learn a lot about yourself and can be such an empowering experience as well. Adapting to new environments, being on your own without the comforts of your familiar environment can be challenging but it is those challenges that will make you grow and become a stronger person.
Traveling will also broaden your horizon because it will show you other concepts of living life, other values and other ideals. That knowledge is an invaluable asset and of great benefit for your own life back home. That’s why I think, if granted the opportunity, everyone should travel.

What are your thoughts about it? What important things has traveling taught you and what would you add to this list? Feel free to comment below. Philipp

Categories: Inspiration | Tags: , , , , , , | 22 Comments

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22 thoughts on “11 insights traveling has taught me

  1. Isabella Maria

    Exceptionally insightful account Phillip. Once again, your write-up has deeply inspired me to the core. I concur with all of your expression of your views and facts regarding your experiences on your travels. Not discounting the first ten paragraphs, as they are also truly fundamental facts to remember and appreciate; the #11 paragraph is dearest to me. Hospitality comes in different manners. Each manner is noted and highly appreciated. However, when people who have less and yet they willingly give more, it just does something special to your heart, it is a very humbling experience to the one who is being catered to. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I genuinely prize your eloquent way of expression.

    • Hi Isabella, thanks so much for your kind feedback, I really appreciate it. I am happy you can relate to the things I wrote, especially to the last point. I made it the last because I also found it to probably be the most important and impressive one. Being hosted by someone who really doesn’t much and for sure way less than yourself is, just as you said, a humbling experience and it puts things into perspective. Here everyone just strives for more and more and more is regarded as being successful. It’s good to see that it can also still work differently. Thanks again for stopping Isabella! Philipp

  2. Very well written! I specially agree with your sentence “I’d rather be old and have some good stories to tell than with a fortune on my bank account. Create memories.” I’m at an age now where some people feel already old, but the constant new impressions from traveling keep the mind young (not to mention the activities which keep your body going). 😀

    • Hello Juergen,
      thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment here. I think traveling has the ability to keep people young but then, as you wrote on your own blog, it might be hard to fit back in when you return. That can be a dilemma…but it sure looks like you two have solved that issue for yourselves 😉

  3. Esabela

    One of my fav posts. Super agree with all though I hope one day soon o can afford to travel low and slow. I am so yearning for that day to come – rather for me to finally make it happen. Like any other “learning” in life, traveling for one will make you realise the more you learn something new (about a place, people, culture, etc) the more you learn you barely knew anything. Ergo, all in all humbling.

    • Hi Esabella, thanks for stopping by. You are right, it is a humbling experience which can never be wrong. Also, the more places you see, the more you realize how little you have seen and how big the world actually is. It’s sort of the same phenomenon. I hope you also get to travel soon just as you like. Actually to go low and slow is the cheaper alternative but it needs some time which is sometimes the biggest luxury. IN any case, best of luck for your endeavors. Philipp

  4. Great post! Every experience you shared bought flashbacks of my time in SE Asia! Can’t believe its been 5 months since I returned from spending 11 months in Asia with my husband! We still miss it terribly and have too ditched our corporate lives as a result. It’s a life changing experience that affects you whether you want it to or not. (The first three months were like suffering a loss. A grieving process…honestly I’m not joking)! I totally agree with all your insights. In particular, the importance of really immersing yourself in a culture, instead of rushing through many countries. I wish i’d spent more time in Burma and Indonesia! For me, travelling taught me to not set limits for myself. What I thought was impossible in the UK, I thought possible whilst I travelled. I believed in myself more. There were no constraints, no mental barriers, I literally let go of the old me to let the real me emerge. Its a wonderful feeling of freedom.

    • Hi Jajit, thanks a lot for stopping by and taking the time to read my article here. It’s great to hear that you had a similar experience. How have you guys adapted to life back home. I am talking reverse culture shock, I sure had one. And maybe I still do. I am back to corporate but not sure for how long. What have you been doing since you are back? It’s really good to hear from people with the same mindset and experiences. Others just find it hard to relate to the things we have experienced. It’s wonderful to hear that this trip brought out the real you. Now it is up to us to make the best of this. Thanks again for stopping by and your kind feedback. Philipp

      • Hi Philipp
        You’re welcome! I’m always so grateful when someone reads my blog which needs a lot of work but I’m learning as I go along 😉 How have we adapted since coming home? Well… we didn’t really! It was so hard. As soon as we landed in Heathrow and got on the tube, it was like 11 months didn’t happen! So weird. We felt really disconnected from everything here, the people, our friends – even our families. We questioned everything? Moaned and grumbled a lot about our life here, constantly comparing it to what we had experienced. Basically, we could always see ourselves anywhere but here. Only now are we accepting that we are truly back, mentally that is. As for work, my husband opted for contracting for more flexibility instead of being tied down to a permanent job. I have decided I’m going to work for myself. I would never have considered this before. One thing for certain is that travelling will always be a big part of our lives. It broadens your thinking, makes you realise an amazing world is out there to be discovered. Work, save and go is now my motto. Live.

    • Hi Jajit,
      I understand those feelings you desribed and its normal. In those 11 months you and whole way of thinking have changed and evolved but things at home have remained the exact same. It’s hard to fit back in with a new mindset. But it sounds like you eventually managed to adapt and the lessons you draw from it are great.
      May I ask what kind of self employed work you want to do? I find these endeavors very interesting and I could also imagine something like that myself.

      All the best to you guys and thanks again for sharing your thoughts and experiences. Phil

      • Hi Philipp

        Well I’m thinking of setting my self up as a virtual PA as I previously worked as a PA in an investment bank. I’m also thinking of exploring my writing potential and perhaps doing some freelance work. I’ll need to do some courses but lets see where it goes. I guess it depends on what interests you or what you specialise in. Find something you love and go for it!

    • Freelance work sounds very good as I am also trying to get my foot in the door as well. Good luck with that, I am sure you can do it if you are committed. Let me know how it goes. OK guys, all the best to you and thanks again for your sharing your thoughts and feedback. Philipp

  5. peter montgomery

    good day Phil
    great insights as always . travel for me , its been a great adventure besides giving me all i have .

    if u are still in contact with your friends in gubat pi , then they will tell a super typhoon is bearing down on them now , landfall ? somewhere in samar . lets hope the weather gods can turn this one away !
    anyway Phil , a merry christmas to u and your family .

    best regards peter [ gold coast and biri ]

    • HI Peter my friend,

      long time no see. How have you been? I am still in touch with my friends in Gubat and they are preparing for this storm. It’s really a same. Seems like Yolanda has just passed and now the next typhoon is approaching with fierce. Hope everybody will be alright there.

      Will you be in Biri over Christmas? I am still considering coming over for a couple of weeks in January. Still have to figure out a few things before I can make that call though.

      Merry Christmas to you and your family as well Peter. See you again sometime …


  6. peter montgomery

    hi Phil
    my wife and daughter will be there over late december and january . my son and i are off to japan .

    i hear an aussie surfer will be staying at villa amor over december and january , but he has not turned up yet . he was in legaspi last i heard and that city copped some hammer from ruby .

    hope your friends in gubat are safe , no real problems in biri that i know of . seems to be better prepared now after typhoon yolanda .

    all the best peter

    • Hi Peter,
      Japan sounds awesome. I have never been there but I am sure you and your son will have fun over there. Must be expensive though.

      Wonder if the Aussie surfer will show up. I guess December and January will be perfect for surfing Biri. My friends told me that Bicol didn’t get hit as hard as expected, so Legazpi might actually be ok.

      When will you be back in Biri then?

      OK Peter, take care and have a safe trip to Nippon! Cheers

  7. joanna

    great post! ever since i started to travel, the one thing i wish i could do is do it slow, stay longer and immerse with the local. truly travelling is an eye opener. I really like how travelling may change a person holistically to be a better person.

    hope to read more posts in the future, cheers! =))

    • Hi Joanna, thanks for getting in touch and I am happy you liked the post. Traveling can truly change a person to the better and it sure is an eye opener. That’s why I think everybody should do it if given the chance.

      Thanks again and merry christmas.


  8. Marlon Tatil

    Hi Phil, A very insightful article that is true and great to experience. Traveling is really an eye opener for almost everything that surely change a person as a whole. Having such experiences is better specially, when used to do better things not only for self improvement but also help others. But then again fitting back to your own culture would be easier when you are surrounded by the right people. I would conclude that you are very lucky Phil to be where you at right now. Hoping that one day I can travel more like you.

    • Hi Marlon, thanks for your feedback. I really appreciate that. It is an eye opener and can only change oneself for the better…that is true. I am sure you can also travel around soon…. Let me know how things go. All the best. Philipp

  9. Reblogged this on Wanderman.

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