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9 life skills I’ve learnt from travelling


I’m a firm believer that while travel doesn’t necessarily make life better, it can make you better at life. From practical skills such as money management and organisation to intangibles such as intuition and adaptability, here are nine life skills I’ve learned and honed during my time on the road – and you probably have too.

Image by Julie Pimentel on flickr


1. Money management

Scraping together pennies to save for that first backpacking trip helps to establish an every-penny-counts attitude to money, which is good news when it comes to saving money in the future. Thinking of everything in terms of holidays is a great way to curb spending:

“Stop buying take-away coffee for one year = a weekend break in Prague! ”

Time spent haggling with market traders in Marrakech is also invaluable (and not only because I now own a beauty of a leather footrest). Negotiating and being unafraid to walk away from a deal are skills that come in handy in life back home, whether you’re hammering out a new mobile phone contract or hitting the car boot/yard sales. Haggling is also a great way to practice deal-making. A smile or a joke can be an easy way to break the tension, and a well-timed humorous aside can help to sweeten the deal. Which brings me to…
2. People skills
When you travel, you mix with people from all over the world. You meet people with completely different values to your own – and you learn to respect them. Your way is not the only way; in fact, be open to listening and learning and you might find a better way to approach life.

“Even the negative encounters are learning opportunities.”

Even the negative encounters are learning opportunities. You will encounter practices you simply can’t stand, such as smoking in enclosed spaces (I’m thinking of a particular bus ride across the border between China and Mongolia here…) or a complete lack of respect for personal space. Consider these exercises in tolerance that will stand you in good stead for the rest of your life. The same applies to…
3. Patience

There will be delays. There will be misunderstandings. You could get het up about them or you could take a deep breath, sit down, do some people-watching, read a book – whatever it takes to calm down. Eventually you learn to take the latter approach. Be patient, go with the flow and you’ll get there in the end.
4. Intuition

Travel tunes you in to your instincts and teaches you to trust them. Part of this is thanks to all that time spent talking to people you’ve just met – and learning to discern the difference between stranger and danger.
5. Resourcefulness

Travel bestows you with the ability to read signs – literally and metaphorically. When signs for the train station are in a foreign language, for example, you can either employ the language dictionary or get resourceful and engage other skills, make connections and use your ever-growing powers of deduction.

“And if you still get it wrong, well, you’ll figure it out eventually (strengthening your resilience is a useful side effect)!”

6. Teamwork

Travel with others and you soon learn to recognise another’s strengths and weaknesses – and put them to use. You might engage all those new money management skills and take on responsibility for splitting restaurant bills and planning the budget. Your travel buddy might be great at chatting to people (that’s those people skills coming into play) and finding out the best local bars. And travelling with a super-organised person who’s willing to take care of timetabling transport and sightseeing is an absolute blessing. Between you, you’ve got it all covered, and no-one’s feeling put-upon.
7. Planning ahead

Of course, even when you have a hyper-organised travel buddy, you need to learn to organise yourself, and there’s nothing like an extended trip to make you plan well ahead. Whether that’s researching the vaccinations you need, staying on top of your credit card and passport expiry dates or micro-planning your daily schedule so you don’t miss a thing or overspend on a last-minute hotel, travel will really test your diary- and budget-keeping skills. And you’ll learn that factoring in downtime is essential.
8. Adaptability

When the planning ahead doesn’t pan out the way you imagined, you learn to be adaptable. A body that’s always on the move needs a mind that can stay a few steps ahead. Travel tests and sharpens your ability to react to new situations flexibly and with resilience. And ideally with a sense of humour.
9. Confidence

It all adds up to more confidence, in yourself and in things working out. Confidence that you’re heading in the right direction even when the path isn’t clear.
And the best thing? Travellers never stop learning, even those with 100+ countries under their belt.
What life lessons has travelling taught you?