Traveling is so much more than visiting and exploring new, beautiful places. From my first Europe trip I realized it’s also about being exposed to the world and learning from your surroundings and experiences. My trip was a transformative experience because I decided to partake in a life I always dreamed about and took that step all on my own. After graduating I took the transition as an opportunity to step into my courage and see what the world had to offer. My intention is to be transparent about my experience, show my own revelations, and learning experiences to hopefully help someone realize how much traveling can teach you. See below for 10 things I learned while backpacking Europe after graduating college:
1. People around the world are more alike than different. Meeting people from different religions, countries, continents I realized that our differences in culture were not nearly as impactful as our similarities in humanity. I believe if society gets behind this notion is when we will start to see a more accepting, peaceful world.
2. I learned the power the media has on our perceptions of other countries and cultures. I was having lunch at the Vatican, but was struggling to find a seat. A family from Egypt was nice enough to let me sit at their table and we got to talking. The aunt asked me, “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be rude. But, how do you feel safe living in America with all the shootings?” I was a bit shocked at her question because I never felt unsafe on a day to day basis living in America. But, from her perspective that is all media focuses on showing shooting after shooting. The media focuses on the violence and tragedy to the point that is all we see, especially if we haven’t experienced a country or culture. Don’t fully believe or let the news instill fear into you. Life is meant to be lived and places visited. While shootings are a massive issue we are dealing with, it is not all that America is, which is the same to say for every country. Bad things happen everywhere.
3. Stereotypes are definitely not always true, but racism is still a huge global societal issue.
4. Lugging around a backpack during the heat of Europe’s summer was not for me. I purposefully would book my stay as close to the train station, so I didn’t have to walk miles in a major city. The actual ‘backpacking’ part was sweaty and full of back pain; I definitely would have been better off just bringing a small carry-on that could hold the same amount as my backpack. I concluded that backpacking should be solely for nature trips.
5. By week 4 or 5 of traveling alone, loneliness really hit me. I visited a few friends along the way on my trip, but I still had these feelings creep in. I began to realize ways I could cope and fill the loneliness - I let myself feel it and realized I didn’t need any coping mechanisms, just to let it pass. Traveling isn’t always exciting or easy, but it’s worth it nonetheless.
6. I did not get a phone plan which pushed me to survive without having a smartphone to help me get through life. I learned how to not be attached to my phone, take in my surroundings, and not post every single move I was making.
7.I realized my own capability. Traveling alone to foreign places gave me an “I can make it happen” attitude because all I had to rely on was myself.
8. Hostels are an amazing experience to meet so many people quickly, but can quickly become your worst nightmare. They are the cheapest accommodation option, but there is no way of predicting who your roommates will be. I met truly incredible people by staying at hostels who became my travel buddies for a few days. But, also met some of the rudest people. I learned to not judge a whole culture by a few mean people. Every culture is a mix of both good and bad.
9.Slow down. It took me awhile to learn this one. I was so eager to go on this trip, go to the next place and see as much as humanly possible. After a few weeks, I was completely exhausted and by the end of my trip I needed a break. Looking back on my trip, I got to experience so many countries and cities in a short amount of time, but for the future I want to be able to spend more time and not always be in a hurry to get to the next destination - now I feel like I know what places I want to go visit for longer periods and ones that I don’t.
10. The world is seriously a beautiful place and I can’t imagine a day where I wouldn’t want to keep exploring new places. Traveling is the best education you will ever get.
Alexis Mills is a freelance travel & lifestyle writer, blogger and content marketer. A lover of travel and authenticity, she is passionate about all things positive and adventurous. Alexis is an old soul with a young entrepreneurial spirit who is always up for the challenge. And so the adventure begins... firstname.lastname@example.org.