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  • by Roberto Rocha
  • published from USA
  • on 2011.03.23

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.


5 people commented so far
  1. Awesome. I feel like traveling (not quite all the way around the world) has taught me all the same things… except maybe the power of religion.

    Guess I still haven’t visited the right countries for that. I didn’t feel the parts of South America I visited were any more overtly religious than the “developed” countries I’d visited before. I mean, I saw some big religious processions, but they seemed more an excuse for a party, no more really about religion than Mardi Gras or St-Patrick’s day in North America.

    by Fairfax on 2011.03.26
  2. 11. Travel with someone you can share it all that.

    I enjoy a lot following your trip, I learned, I saw, I heard, I smell and I tasted a lot of new things. Thank you guys.

    by JaNa on 2011.03.26
  3. Great list! I’m glad you included the caveat to “respect cultures” that you should also “recognize what’s wrong.” It’s an important part of respect that I think often gets overlooked.

    by Adam on 2011.10.12
  4. I enjoyed reading your article, “10 things I learned from traveling around the world”. I truly believe that when you get a chance to travel and, in my case, live in another part of the world far from where you were born and raised, you get a much richer perspective and understanding of cultures that are not your own. I relocated to the Middle East, far away from my own home in Canada. My opinions and preconceived notions about the Middle East (sadly formed because of U.S. media) have completely been blown away. I am so happy to be completely wrong about the negativity of my opinions. I love this area and though there have been some “frustrating” adjustments, I was able to put myself in the shoes of a Middle Eastern citizen and imagined what they must put up with when relocating to Canada – not everything is smooth-going there either. Education by travel (if afforded) or by reading various sources (rather than trusting only media reports) is surely a key to acceptance of other people, their cultures, religion, etc. as well as recognizing the “right” and ‘wrong” within cultures. Thank you for your excellent article.

    by Connie on 2012.06.30
  5. You have hit the nail on the head here sir with your analysis of how generally good people are and how safe the world really is. I also like your line about lonliness, because friendship will find you if you don’t hide from it. Great post and inspires me for my upcoming RTW trip.

    by Travelling Monk on 2015.05.14

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