15 Life Lessons Travel Has Taught Me

TrekWorld_15 Life Lessons Travel Has Taught Me_Neelima Vallangi
Desert sunset | Photo: Neelima Vallangi

Life teaches us lessons in many ways. But we choose to understand only when we’re told in a way we like. Many years of education and corporate life didn’t teach me what travel taught me in few years. Here’s what I learned.

1. Step into the unknown—you will be rewarded.

It’s okay to take risks. In fact, it’s a good thing. There can be only two outcomes: if it goes well, you will have an amazing experience, and if it doesn’t, you’ll have a good learning experience to take back with you. Everyone warned me against going to Sikkim in monsoons but I did anyway. That was probably one of the best trips of my life to date. It is okay to take risks. It pays off well half the time!

2. You always had it in you, you just didn’t know.

Travel forces you out of your comfort zone, makes you do things you never thought you could do and shows you the strength you never thought you had. I never thought I could travel solo until I did. So next time I find myself wondering if I can do something new, I’ll just go ahead and try it.

3. Luck favors the bold.

Back to Sikkim—that one trip taught me lots! After many days of waiting for bad weather to clear, we gave up and finally proceeded toward Gurudongmar Lake in the rain. The roads were totally deserted but just as we reached the lake, the sky cleared, the sun shined and the lake dazzled. The army guys posted there said it hadn’t been sunny in days. Seems that Lady Luck smiles on those who dare. The lesson: who dares, wins!

4. Destroy your prejudices and look beyond.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness” wrote a very wise Mark Twain in The Innocents Abroad. I thought so many places would be boring before I visited them. But every such place only managed to surprise me and change my opinion. What was I thinking, forming ideas without knowing anything about those places? Having an open mind not only makes travel better but also makes our lives easier and better. Appearances can be deceptive. Next time, I will try not to judge a book by its cover.

5. A smile is the universal language.

A smile can take you a long way. When you’re traveling, being grumpy is not an option. A smile is the universal language—everyone understands it, and the best thing is, it is totally free! So smile at that lady in the store or that bus conductor. I promise you will feel good.

6. Don’t give up. Fight till the end.

We have seen countless movies and millions of matches where the game turns around in the very last moment. That is the secret of success—never giving up until the very end. In Sikkim last year, most of the roads reported landslides. Our driver was happy to know that because he thought he could take us back to Gangtok and leave. But we refused. We wanted to go see it ourselves. He and his friends mocked us for our ignorance, but once we reached the landslide area, the army had just opened the road. It was cleared. “In your face, losers!” is what we thought.

7. Patience is a virtue.

Before I traveled, I had about a second’s worth of patience. Every second I had to wait for the bus irritated me and anger was a constant companion. Then I started waiting at airports to catch a flight. Today, if I have to wait, I don’t mind. I will write a post or maybe just catch a nap but I certainly won’t go crazy like I used to earlier.

8. Good things come to those who wait.

Because I am oh-so-patient now, I don’t mind waiting. I am in no hurry. I take my time. Once, a few of my friends and I gathered to await the sunset. We weren’t sure how good it would be but we waited. And just as we’d hoped, a brilliant scene unfolded before us. Some others who’d left missed it. Not us, because we waited.

9. All things happen for a reason.

If you sit down and correlate all the events of the past years, you’ll find that, in most cases, everything that happened, happened for the best. I’m not saying you should resign yourself to fate and do nothing to change it. But when, despite your best efforts, things go wrong, wait it out—something good will come from it. When I fell sick and had to miss a Stok Kangri trek, I went to an unlikely destination instead that was super fun. And later I got another chance  to summit the missed mountain. Now that worked out well, didn’t it?

10. Happiness is only real when shared.

Truer words have never been spoken. We all are social beings after all. I come back and share my stories with you, with my friends, with my family. We have to share—share our love, experiences, knowledge, curiosities and happiness. Only then do they make our life worthwhile.

11. Be thankful for what you have.

It is quite easy to take everything for granted without appreciating its value. When we travel, we see how fortunate we are to have what we have. There are many people who don’t have access to half the conveniences we enjoy.

12. We don’t need half the things we think we need.

When you live out of a backpack for a month you’ll understand how little we actually need to live. And when you come back home and try to clean your room, you’ll understand how much rubbish we accumulate under the illusion that we need so many things to live.

13. Silly is so much fun.

Being silly is the best way to have fun, seriously! When my friend said she wanted to stand on the standing camel, everyone was incredulous, including the camel owner. But she did stand on the eight-foot animal and then she fell down from that height, too. Later, I stood on it as well. It was so much fun!

14. Change is constant. Nothing will go as planned. Enjoy it!

You can’t plan your life. Heck, you can’t plan a two-week trip and expect everything to happen accordingly, let alone plan for a hundred years. Change is constant—embrace it. Without that surprise at the corner of the road, life would be quite drab, don’t you think?

15. What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.

There are so many times during travel when we feel scared. “Why didn’t I stay back at the hotel tonight?” “Why didn’t I choose a safer destination?” “Why didn’t I inform someone I was coming here?” “Why am I here instead of my comfortable home?” But every mistake you make is a lesson learned. Every bad situation you got out of only makes you stronger and wiser. Just don’t repeat the same mistake!

What has travel taught you? Tell us in the comments below.


A nature lover to the core, I am a traveler, photographer and blogger. My camera is my constant companion. More than the regular touristy kind of places, I prefer the road less taken which leads me to secluded little-known jewels scattered across the length and breadth of India. I believe it is a beautiful world and its beauty inspires me endlessly. Follow my adventures on my site, Facebook and Twitter.


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  3. Great article, it looks like that traveling with an open mind and a big smile is the key. All the points you mentioned are absolutely true.

  4. Great article, all the points you mentioned are absolutely true. Traveling with the open mind and no expectations but of course a big smile will open doors and the oportunity to explore great places.

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  7. Add one more of Twain. He is my favorite too:
    “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

  8. I love this post! All such good points and well put, a smile is definitely the universal language, and i liked to believe that all things happen for a reason too.

  9. I think if you make it over the 1st point you are on a good way of changing your life altogether.

    “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” This quote sums it all for me. 🙂

  10. Hi Neelima… you are so right. point no 12 is so relevant specially in travel when carrying excessive stuff is such a big hassle…point 5 about smile is so true…. 🙂 🙂 🙂

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