I have read about the positive effects of travel and even written about them myself. Full-time travel has definitely changed all of us in certain ways. For Makai, the changes or developments really, have been the most noticeable. He doesn’t suffer from anxiety or struggle to make new friends. He is accepting of all kinds of people and loves to try new foods. I have no doubt that traveling, meeting different people, and the constant exposure to new cultures has helped him build confidence, not fear as much as I did when I was a kid.
We just wrapped up six months in Canada visiting family. While we were home the changes in all of us became glaringly evident. Specifically, changes in behavior brought about by the unique perspective we’ve all gained traveling. Certain things that were once quite important to us didn’t seem to matter as much. Here are eight things, I am a bit surprised and quite happy to say, we just don’t don’t care about anymore because of our experiences traveling.
1. Getting a professional haircut
I love short hair so I used to spend as much as $65 for a haircut every six weeks. Sadly, I was frequently disappointed with my haircuts. But, it would only be six weeks until I could get another, hopefully, better cut anyway. When we first started traveling I had a hard time deciding who I could trust to cut my hair.
One of our Airbnb hosts in Colombia recommended her hairdresser. I went to him for a cut and was, like many times before, unhappy with the result. Rob said, “Why don’t you let me cut your hair?” His reasoning was my dissatisfaction with professional cutters, so why not give him a go. He didn’t think he could do much worse than the pros. We’d save some money and I could get a cut whenever I wanted. Sounded good to me!
Now my Husband is my hairdresser. Something I truly never thought I’d consider.
2. Having new clothes
I worked in the retail clothing business for over 25 years. As a result, I was always buying new clothes. To be a good example for dress code, to replace faded blacks, or a try brand new style, I could always justify buying something new. I would shop for Rob as well. One of the benefits of working in the industry was getting great discounts on clothes. That made it even easier for me to jam our closets full of shirts, pants, dresses, sweaters and shoes.
Shoes, new shoes were Rob’s weakness. He loved to buy new shoes! In stores, online, he was always looking for a deal on shoes. Living out of suitcases full time helped instantly cure us of constantly acquiring new duds. But something else happened to us over time. We stopped needing or even wanting to buy new clothes. We’ve definitely become more thrifty, so part of it is the cost to buy new clothes. Especially the kinds of clothes we’ve come to really love.
We found we could shop at thrift stores and find the brands and styles we loved to wear at a fraction of the cost. Sometimes we even find new clothes there as well. Our best finds have been a new Sunice Typhoon waterproof jacket for me, new Children’s Place Jeans for Mak, and new Banana Republic Jeans for Rob. All of those new things together cost less than $10!
We still love a deal but it’s got to an incredible one on something we need before we’ll part with our money now.
3. Standing out
When we first started traveling we focused really hard on blending in or trying to anyway. This proved to be almost impossible, especially with our distinct Canadian pallor in countries where we don’t speak the local language well. So now we don’t even try, we smile a lot more and let people stare. We are respectful of local customs in the places we visit but that’s the extent of our efforts to avoid sticking out like a sore thumb.
People are curious, they’re not thinking negative things about us. Most will smile back at us and try to engage us. We rarely have trouble finding help when we need it and most times we make a friend or get excellent recommendations from locals that recognize we’re visitors.
4. Being right
We spend more time together than most families and we’re all type “A” personalities. If each one of us had to be right all the time I think we’d end up killing each other. Our home life is all about compromise to prevent injury and maintain some semblance of harmony. The same is true when we go out in the world.
Let’s face it there’s no “being right” with people like border guards and TSA agents. We choose to pick our battles wisely and avoid flying off the handle. Doing so has helped us avoid sticky situations that could have caused a lot more pain than simply biting our tongues.
5. Buying souvenirs
Rob and I traveled a lot before we embarked on this adventure. We were always planning our next big trip. Our house was filled with treasures we’d found on our travels. We loved to buy mementos so much we even made a business selling cool things we’d find traveling back home in Canada.
Obviously, having limited space inhibits the urge to buy a lot of souvenirs. So we do so on a much more limited scale. Here are our self-imposed rules for buying souvenirs. The item must be small, representative of the place we are visiting, and/or something we can use regularly in daily life. This has helped us choose wisely.
We still do carry specific mementos and talismans from home. Two special Christmas ornaments and two good luck charms Rob bought for Mak and I before we left to travel.
6. Being prepared for everything
This is something that affected me the most. I would drive myself almost crazy attempting to be perfectly prepared for every situation. Before setting out to do something I needed to have all the information and know exactly what to say or do and if I didn’t, I wouldn’t go. I took some calculated risks but not feeling confident without all the details has prevented me from doing things I should have personally and professionally.
Traveling perpetually has exposed me to more new things than many people experience in their entire lives. I now have the presence of mind to say “I may never be here again, so I should just do it”. That mindset has helped me care less about preparation and more about living in the moment.
7. Getting on an airplane
I used to be really scared to fly and would have anxiety for weeks and sometimes months before a flight. I loved traveling so much I flew despite my fear. But, I needed to medicate with Gravol and a stiff drink not to totally freak out when boarding or scream when there was turbulence.
I had already taken steps to overcome my aviophobia before we began traveling full time. I took a temporary position that involved a lot of air travel. Doing so helped me feel less anxiety and I didn’t need to medicate anymore to cope. But I still had issues with take off and turbulence that kept me up days before a flight.
I can happily say after all of the flights we’ve taken so far on this journey I feel absolutely no fear of flying now. So many good flying experiences in a row has cured me of the intense fear and anxiety I used to feel before and during a flight.
8. Watching TV
We used to watch a considerable amount of TV. Rob and I had multiple series we followed and we always made time to keep up to date. As we’ve traveled we have watched less and less TV. Sometimes the apartments we rent don’t have a television or the programming is in the local language, not English. Now when we do have access to one, watching something on it isn’t as important anymore.
We have experienced many of the positive effects of travel. I can’t help wondering what our life would look like if we felt like we do now twenty years ago.
This article was originally published at Expat Experiment and is reposted here with permission.