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! ”
“Even the negative encounters are learning opportunities.”
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.
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.
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)!”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Resilience: My journey from 5m to 5km open-water swimmer
Resourcefulness: Overlanding Africa and the Wings Project
Planning ahead: From Norway’s North Cape to Africa’s South Cape – by motorbike, again!
People skills: 7 reasons why you should try living abroad
Confidence: A letter to my younger travel self