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32 Lessons You Learn Traveling Alone Around the World

by Sean Kim Jul 2, 2017

IN THE PAST 18 MONTHS, I’ve traveled around the world to different cities and countries including Paris, France; Munich, Germany; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Cusco, Peru; Medellin, Colombia; NYC, USA; and more. All of these trips have been with me, myself, and I. I had heard other travelers talk about how great traveling alone is, and why people need to try it. Finally, I mustered up the courage and set out to venture on my own. Here are 32 lessons you can learn by traveling alone.

1. You hate being alone.

You step out of that airport and can’t help but feel nervous, lonely, and doubtful. This is how many feel at the beginning of their solo adventure, and only the beginning.

2. You love being alone.

Being alone becomes a way of living and you have complete freedom to do what you want, when you want.

3. Experiences > materials

The transition from living with a car, home, TV, to a backpack makes you realize how much your possessions owned you. Experiences are life-lasting, materials give you nothing but a bill.

4. Quality beats quantity.

We live in a quantified world where the higher the number, the more it’s attributed to success. Followers, bank accounts, houses. This also applies to number of places. It’s far better to spend 3 months in a city, learning its culture, language, and creating lasting relationships than trying to hit 10 cities in 3 months.

5. Learn a new language.

It’s only when you travel to a foreign country that you realize how big the world truly is, and how much of a bubble you were living in.

For example, if English is the only language you can understand, then you’re only able to communicate with 12% of the world. The best way to understand the rest of the world and the amazing cultures out there is to learn a new language. Just by learning a popular language like Spanish or Mandarin, your reach and understanding of the world doubles.

In the Internet era we live in today, there’s no excuse not to know another language. Take advantage of websites like Rype, providing daily one-on-one Spanish lessons online with a private teacher, where you can book as many lessons as you want on-the-go, anywhere, anytime at the comforts of your home.

We’re entering a Multilingual era, and it’s up to you to take advantage of it.

6. You learn to love yourself.

Travelling alone gets lonely, there’s no doubt about it. Facing your inner thoughts and being comfortable and happy with who you are as a person will be one of the most valuable lessons you’ll learn.

7. You stop caring what others think about you.

There’s a big difference between outer confidence and inner confidence. Outer confidence can be faked, and is hard to sustain. Inner confidence is being 100% comfortable in your own skin. Stop caring what other people think, and have the confidence to do what you want, when you want.

8. Own up to your success and mistakes.

When you’re travelling alone, there’s no one else that is there to help you make a decision. However that decision turns out, you need to own up it.

9. Trust your intuition.

Everyday you’re making a small or big decision. There will never be enough information to make the perfect decision. The ability to trust your intuition is the key to survival.

10. Home is where you are.

Home starts to follow you wherever you go. With everything you own on your back.

11. Blend into the city.

If you’ve come all this way to visit a city, then be in it 100%. Speak the language, hang out with the locals, eat the food. Don’t be that person who only connects with travelers like yourself.

12. What’s important in your life.

You hear the most fascinating life stories from people you meet. From rags to riches, near-death experiences, parents with cancer…

13. Who’s important in your life.

Being away for a period of time across the world makes you realize who the important people are in your life. We’re “burdened” by proximity throughout our lives, which makes it easy to develop artificial relationships solely from frequent interactions. Your real relationships are put to the test.

14. Don’t allow your phone to bring you back.

There’s something magical about travelling, and being in a completely different city. You become more open-minded, your mindset shifts, and you can create the most meaningful relationships. Don’t allow your phone to take that away from you. Put it away.

15. Be weird.

Life is way too short to live in the confined limits of how society expects you to act in public. Embrace your natural weird side, because each of us has it. Take the risk.

16. Don’t delay your happiness.

There’s a difference between fulfillment and happiness. Fulfillment may be a life-long investment to master and learn. But you can choose to be happy here and now. Smile.

17. There’s so much to learn.

There’s so much we don’t know about the world and the people that live here – their culture, food, language, etc. The truth is, most of us have been confined to the same part of the world, with the same mindset for all our lives. As the saying goes, the more you know, the less you know.

18. Taking action beats all.

You can talk all day about doing something, but without taking any action, it’s just talk. There are people in the world working 10x harder than we are at our normal jobs getting paid 1/100th of our normal pay. Most of us don’t know what hard work means.

19. There’s no such thing as strangers.

There’s something about meeting with a fellow traveler that immediately connects you with them. If anyone has stayed at a hostel, then you can probably relate to this.

20. Vulnerability is sexy.

This took me a while to realize, but vulnerability is the sexiest thing a human being can show. Last week I had a 3-hour non-stop conversation on my flight to Colombia, and the conversation got so intense that the other person teared-up. It was one of the most real moments I’ve experienced in a long time. It takes a next level of confidence to put yourself on the line for rejection or failure. Embrace humility.

21. See people for who they are.

One of my favorite things about travellng is how people’s normal societal layers are uncovered physically and mentally. Most travelers are dressed similarly, without the mask of a three-piece suit, and you’re judged solely on who you are as a person – nothing else.

22. Kill them with kindness.

It’s easier to react with frustration than respond with kindness. Choose the latter, you won’t regret it.

23. Bring books.

Enhancing your already open mind with books will do wonders for your creativity. With the number of layovers, flights, transportation, and unwinding time you’ll have – you can easily finish one book a week.

24. Spontaneity becomes a way of living.

Unexpected moments will arise during your travels, and your spontaneity muscles get built.

25. Bring books.

Did I mention bring books?

26. Alone isn’t the answer.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

27. Live for random acts of kindness.

It’s the easiest, yet most powerful way to make the world smile.

28. You cringe at “first-world problems”.

It’s hard to empathize with people complaining about losing their restaurant reservations, or getting a middle seat on a plane, when you meet people making less than $5/day for more than 7-1/2 hours of back-breaking work, while supporting their families.

29. Invest in yourself.

Traveling alone is one of the few times in your life, where your number-one goal is to take care of yourself. Be okay with that because you won’t get this moment back.

30. Have a purpose.

Have a purpose bigger than yourself and your personal goals. Greater purpose empowers us to get through the grind and the obstacles. The realization that you’re not doing this for yourself — there are others counting on you.

31. Stand for something, or stand for nothing.

Be bold enough to stand up for what you believe in, but have the humility to know that you don’t have all the answers.

32. We’re all human.

The irony of traveling is that we set out to explore different cultures, different foods, different people, yet what we come to realize is that we’re all much alike. Poor, rich, famous, Asian, Black, White, Latino — we’re all playing the same game of life. At the end of the day, we all want love, validation, respect, and security for our future.

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