10 things I learned from traveling around the world
14 months and 15 countries with a backpack and a miserly budget. What lessons can this experience leave us with? For me it was at least these 10:
1. The world is, largely, a safe place
Out of the 15 countries we visited, I felt perfectly safe walking alone at night in 13 of them (although I don’t think it would be the same ratio for a woman on her own). The most dangerous place I’ve ever visited, ironically, is my own country, Brazil.
2. People are friendly and helpful
Most people in the world are happy to give five minutes to help out a stranger, especially a foreign visitor. Some would consider it an honour to have you as their guest.
3. Independent budget travel has never been easier
Just about everywhere, transportation is simple to arrange. Cheap accommodation is easy to find. An ATM is never too far away. Plentiful Internet never leaves you disconnected. And every country is getting smart on tourism: useful information is a snap to find.
4. I’m very fortunate to live where I live.
And I should be grateful for this every single day.
5. Loneliness is a choice
In most of the world, community and family is supreme. Nearly everyone in less developed countries has a network of friends and relatives that offers support, company, and comfort.
People who seclude themselves in the quest for individual gratification have no one to blame for their solitude.
6. Those who whine the most have it best
In most of the world, life is hard. Good moments are few, and the people are too busy living to bitch about their jobs, their relationships, the scratches on their mobile phones.
7. Religion is the most powerful force in the world
Although religion is a private affair in the West, in most of the world it’s supremely public. It drives policy, settles family disputes, dictates behaviour… and incites conflicts.
8. Respect cultures, but recognize what’s wrong and right
We’re taught to politely accept all cultures as valid, and this, in a broad sense, is a good thing. But at the same time, we can’t let tolerance overpower our moral barometers.
Cultural habits that rob others of their freedom and dignity or that hurt the environment shouldn’t be excused. The conscientious traveler knows he can be a role model, and politely talks about a better alternative with the natives.
9. “Don’t talk to strangers” is horrible advice
The risk of being kidnapped is small, but the opportunities for friendship and for learning that you miss by fearing strangers are huge.
10. Everything is negotiable
Except, perhaps, gravity. And certain items from the Apple store.