Thursday, February 22, 2018

20 Life Lessons I Learned From Traveling

My 5 year anniversary is coming up... That is, the anniversary of when I quit my corporate job to travel full time. Since then, my life has been quite controversial. I backpacked all over the world, cleaned hotel rooms and toilets, babysat demonic children, taught English and got paid under the table, worked at a Cruise Ship and sailed around the Caribbean and Hawaii fighting a debilitating motion sickness, and now, snowboarding in Alaska... among other things.

My journey has taken me to the most amazing places, yes... but what I am most grateful for are the lessons I've learned both from the experiences, and from the people I've met along the way.

Life has taken me on a journey - one I feel I was always meant to take. It's definitely not over yet, but it's been an enlightening adventure thus far. I have been changed for good, and for this, I am eternally grateful. 

I picked up a few life lessons on this expedition... lessons I'd like to share... in case any of these bring you as much growth as they did me. 

Here they are: Earth2Eartha's 20 Life Lessons Learned from Traveling

1. The more things you own, the more they own you.

Before I started traveling the world, the hardest thing I had to do was let allof my possessions go. It was then that I realized I had accumulated a lot of CRAP over the years, and all that clutter didn’t really have a place in my life. They had “sentimental value” but they had no purpose. And even if I shed a tear for everything I had to give away or sell… once they were gone, I didn’t even think about them. Not once. And I felt FREE…. Like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. I’ve learned that living a minimalist kind of lifestyle is beneficial to your soul. Things are just things… What we need to invest on are relationships. They last more and are worth more.

2. Society’s definition of “Success’ is not everyone's Truth

I know this because I was brainwashed as well… I bought into the idea of success being equated to money + car + husband + kids + mortgage. This was what I was working towards for the majority of my adult life… And sure, people thought I was pretty successful… I certainly thought I was doing pretty well for myself, sans the husband and kids, but I wasn’t happy. Not deeply. Not genuinely. I thought I was, but deep down I knew there was something missing. When I quit my job and let go of “security”, people thought I was nuts. Ballsy… but nuts. 

My life of travel isn’t perfect. I struggle financially every now and then, and I do not have the "security" I once had, but I find myself happier and more fulfilled now having less than I was when I was living in excess. I'm not saying that everyone should quit their jobs and do what I did… because I do know a number of people who are quite happy and satisfied with the career they have made for themselves, and the family that they have built. I’m just saying – if you’re not happy working towards *that* particular societal standard, that’s not your only option. You can do whatever you want and should never base your happiness on what society dictates.

3. Breakthroughs usually happen in moments of Silence

My most significant and memorable travel experiences did not happen while I was skydiving in Hawaii or partying with the Greeks in Corfu… Yeah those times were fun but were never the reasons why I wanted to travel to begin with. Most of my aha moments happened either while I was alone in thegreenest mountains of New Zealand, or sitting on a random wall with 2 of my newsoul mates in the remote city of Gubio in the heart of Italy. In these moments I felt the most grateful for the life and path that I chose. Silence (and a beautiful view) proves as an awesome caveat for you finding your inner voice… to hear what your heart is really telling you.

4. Traveling alone doesn’t mean traveling lonely

I have tried, countless times to convince my friends who have been “waiting” for someone to travel with before they go anywhere. “I’m not like you,” they say.


Guys, you’ll be waiting forever if this is your game plan. There is plenty of opportunity to meet people on the road! In fact, I can attest to this method being more effective than Tinder! There is a certain kind of freedom to making your own plans and going off on a solo adventure. If you stay in a hostel – you’ll meet people. If that’s not your thing, then go on those walking tours – guaranteed, you’ll meet people. Go on any of those excursion tours – you’ll meet a whole bunch of people. Don’t be shy… You will find that everyone else is just as hesitant as you are in making the first move in saying hello. The best opener is – “Where are you from?” – 100% that elicits a conversation. I. Promise. You.


5. Learning a Different Language is Good for You

It’s great for the brain! Plus, being able to speak that language in its native country is wonderful and allows you to connect with more people. And the effort that you put in learning the basics (hi, hello, thank you, cheers!) in the country that you are in, really makes a positive impression on the locals. I think it shows that you respect their culture, and they appreciate it when you try. Don't be one of those people who expect everyone in the world to speak English. In fact, if you encounter one of them - avoid them like the plague.

This is how people say "Hello!" in the Color Run!

6. But language barriers aren’t always “barriers” to communication

I’ve met people with a lot of hesitation traveling abroad because of the fear of not speaking the language, but in my experience, words aren’t always necessary to get your point across. I have found that body language, big animated gestures, and a giant smile can go a long way. In this day and age where Google Translate is also readily available on one’s smart phone, it has been significantly easier to alleviate this issue altogether.

7. Courage is not the absence of fear.

I've had a few friends call me “brave” – referencing what I have been doing with my life from the moment I quit my corporate job to - well, to now (which is essentially snowboarding my way through the winter in Alaska). For me it’s really not about bravery, but rather about making a life choice and committing to it. I get scared all the time! I’m a worry-wart and I don’t know what I’m doing half the time. Before I quit my job on the ship, I was a big ball of fear, not knowing what will happen next or if the move to Alaska will be successful… But I knew in my heart it was time for something new, and I took a huge leap of faith anyway in spite of my fear. And that, I think, is what makes the difference. Anyone can do what I’m doing… Anyone can do whatever they want for that matter… All you need to do is DECIDE what you want, and see it through… whatever it takes.

8. Down with Prejudice; Up with Openness

You will have a tendency to meet people who were brought up differently than you have – in fact, this is expected. They may have different religious or political beliefs, different habits, and even different hygiene. Hold off judgments because you may be surprised to learn that beneath those layers, you may find someone that you would come to admire, respect, or have a genuine connection with. I have made a fool of myself on many occasions by misjudging someone just because of where they came from, what kind of religion they had, or what they smoke. Different doesn’t mean wrong. Different is just different – and I’ve learned to celebrate these differences and learn from them!

9. People are kind

I’m one of those people who truly believe that humans are innately good. I have found kindness in the most unusual places and the most unexpected times, and these moments have restored my faith in humanity.  Surprisingly, my favorite people have come from the places that the media has taught us to fear the most because of the higher probability of danger and crime (like Brazil, Argentina, The Middle East, and including my own home country, The Philippines). I believe in Karma… and it is true that you get what you give. I have learned that if you just have an open mind and an open heart, and if you treat people with respect, you usually always get it back. It’s called the Golden Rule for a reason.

10. It doesn’t hurt to know a little self defense though

Being a woman especially… knowing a little bit of self defense is vital. Goodness knows it’s saved me from undesirable situations in the past. I think in general it just gives you a keener sense of awareness, and a little more confidence in yourself, knowing that you can at least put up a good fight and defend yourself --- just in case.

11. Travel in Europe can be CHEAP

Prague is SO beautiful, and surprisingly super affordable! My hostel here per night was just 15 Euros, and food cost is significantly cheaper than most European standards.

At least A LOT cheaper than you think. Take it from a cheapskate like me. Sure the UK is pricey, and there are definitely places in France or Germany that I wouldn’t be able to afford on a daily basis, but places like Italy, Spain, Portugal, and the majority of Eastern Europe are so much more affordable than most people would think. In fact, there are some places in Eastern Europe like Bosnia, Serbia, or even Czech Republic where food and lodging is cheaper than most places in America and Southeast Asia. Look them up!

This is Kravice Waterfall in Bosnia! It's free to enter, and a cup of coffee is about 75 cents.

12. To Travel in general does not *have to* be expensive

When I finally have my own travel show – I will show the world a cheaper and more enriching type of traveling. No, I will not feature exclusive crazy parties, no 5 star hotels, no dining in 4 Michelin Star rated restaurants. The majority of the world cannot afford those anyway, which is why I could never understand why this is what they focus on on the shows I see on TV. What people *should* see is reality. Street Food! Lodging in an affordable hostel/Airbnb, free walking tours, conversing with the locals, living life through the eyes of a native. This is the experience we should be selling, IMHO.

You can't really see it - but that's me trying to hitchhike from a camel/horse, whichever came first. Wouldn't you want to see THAT on TV? :)

Sure – sometimes it’s great to splurge a little by treating yourself to a nice hotel or a cool helicopter excursion. But these should be exceptions, not the rule. And if you change your perspective a little and learn to be flexible when it comes to the things that you’re used to (No, you don’t HAVE to sleep on sheets of Egyptian cotton every night!) you’ll find that the world is more affordable than you think.

13. When you travel – Pack Light

It’s nice to look good, but you really don’t need 20 pieces of jewelry or 5 stilettos when you’re traveling. You’re out to see the world and explore, so you want to be comfortable anyway. As long as you maintain good personal hygiene, in my opinion, the people you meet on the road hardly ever notice (or care) about what you wear, as long as you carry yourself well. I already consider myself a seasoned light packer, and I STILL wind up bringing more than I need. So toss out the extra weight – your back will thank you for it.

This was me, OVERPACKING on a trip to Europe and annoyed AF at the weight I had to carry.

14. Appreciate your own beauty

I was surrounded by the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen while I was working in both Italy and Brazil. I remember feeling *so* self conscious and a little insecure – but tried not to show it. I learned 2 lessons from these 2 sets of beautiful women. 

From the Italians, whom I became genuinely good friends with and grew to love dearly, I learned that I didn’t need to compare myself to their beautiful skin and tall noses and curvy figures… because I had my own assets (according to them) that I should be proud of! Like (in their words), my “beautiful almond shaped eyes” and “nice Asian glow” and “bella bella smile!” The whole time I was admiring them and wishing I had their ‘this and that’, they were looking at me thinking the same thing!

From the Brazilian women, I learned about CONFIDENCE. Yes, all caps and bold. Walking down the beach of Ipanema, I was wearing a regular bikini feeling overdressed, because all of the women wore thongs! And it’s not what they were wearing that really drew me in – but HOW they wore it! These women OWNED it! They strutted the shore like they were being trailed by the paparazzi! And not all of them had a perfect figure… in fact most of them would be considered plus size women in American standards! But they were oozing with sex appeal and walked with the confidence of Ashley Graham in a photo shoot. Those hips! They were beautiful! All of them!

Confidence and self-love is key. Don’t compare yourself to others because you are unique, and are beautiful in your own special way. You just have to believe it. If you do, then everyone else will. (Watch the upcoming movie, “I Feel Pretty”)

15. When you venture out of your Comfort Zone, life happens.

Cheesy and overused, I know… but it doesn’t make it any less true. There is a saying (that I heard from a very insightful movie called, Kung Fu Panda) that says – A person usually finds their destiny on the road they took to avoid it.  Throughout the years, I have learned to say “YES” to the things that I have feared the most… And the outcome has always been something rather significant. I have either been able to do something completely amazing, made great friends with someone I never would have considered to begin with, or fallen in love with someone completely unexpected.

16. Money is great. But it’s not everything.

I’ve always had kind of a love-hate relationship with money.  I usually say “I hate that we need it”… But I have learned that we only really need enough. Anything in excess of what you really truly need is when it becomes complicated, because it makes you want more things. Things that you may not necessarily need. There certainly is no point in killing yourself in a job that you hate, only to make enough money to pay your bills and support an expensive lifestyle that doesn’t make you happy. They key is to find a balance between doing something you love, and making just enough to get what you need… and maybe have a little extra for rainy days.

Look at this lady I found in Maui. All she had was her chair, sand and water on her legs, the beach, the sun, and her Hydroflask. She was the happiest woman I've seen in Hawaii.  

17. Treasure Relationships, and not Possessions

In the many years I have been traveling, I have learned to value more than ever the people that I have in my life. Family, friends – old and new, and the relationships that we maintain with them is what it’s all about. These people are our greatest fortune. Realizing that you don’t need certain people and the drama and heaviness they bring is something you should act on. It is better to be by yourself rather than in poisonous company. Choose who you surround yourself with and fight to keep them. They are your biggest investment. (And call home, every once in a while… This is something that I always have to remind myself to do!)

My sibs and I :)

18. It’s OK not to have your sh*t together all the time.

One of my lowest points in my backpacking trip was when I decided to go to a big Oktoberfest celebration in a town called Blumenau. It was hours away from where I lived, I did not have a ticket to get in - but wanted to risk it and buy one from a scalper, and I was by myself because none of my friends wanted to go. To cut the long and depressing story short, I went, got inside, had beer spilled on me several times by drunk Brazilians dressed as Germans, had a miserable time, had to pay extra to go back to my hostel early, and when I got there I got extremely sick... Too sick to even go to the bathroom to wipe the snot flowing from my nose from crying so much. And so I lied there, blinded from my tears, temperature through the roof, and alone AF.

Like I said - low point.

Things don’t *always* fall into place and you’re not *always* going to be the happiest and everything doesn’t *have to* be super awesome all the time. And if some people make it seem like it is, then they are probably an android.

You experience being the most human during your breakdowns… and although I do not condone wallowing for longer than a brief period, it’s always therapeutic to have a good cry. Things can suck sometimes, and that’s okay. What matters is what you do after… how you pick yourself up and how you bounce back. You learn the most from these experiences anyway, and they are a vital part of growth and of life.

19. At the end of the day, wherever you are… People basically want the same things.

I was having a conversation with possibly the most accomplished woman I've ever met while I was in Greece. She spoke 7 languages, ran her own business, was so beautiful that she literally was a "Greek Goddess", but in the middle of our tête-à-tête, she asks me why this guy she really liked hasn't text her back. "How long before I text him again, you think?" she asked me.

I was stunned. Holy sh*t. All women all over the world are the same.

It’s so crazy really. I’ve met so many people around the world, and even if we have different cultures, and eat different food, have different traditions and speak different languages… at the end of the day, what I have learned is this: We all want the same things. We want to feel a sense of purpose, experience genuine human connection, and above all else, we want and need love – in whatever shape or form. It is the most basic of all languages, and what all of us would like to speak fluently.

20. To follow your heart is more of a duty, not a suggestion.

The one thing that we ALL have in common is that we are all going to die one day. We only have this one chance at life, and so it is our duty to make the most out of it by following our hearts. 

When I took Ayahuasca and was induced to a state of enlightenment, I was shown that I already had the answers to all of my greatest life questions. At our very core, deep within our souls, we already truly know what we want to do... and the only thing stopping us from achieving our full potential is ourselves... because of fear.

Live your truth. Do what makes you happy. We are not meant to just have one path in life… We are not meant to do just one thing. Take classes, explore, learn a new language, travel, go back to school at 50, have children, don't have children, do everything if you so desire. You are never too old, and it is never too late. Always choose (to do what you) love over fear. If you do this, you win, every time.

"When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it"

I have lived that quote, over and over again once I started my path to following my bliss. It is truth. And it is known.

Onward and UPward, guys! ;) UPward! Get it?? Haha :)

There you have it, everyone! My 20! I genuinely hope that some of these have resonated with you. Are there any lessons that you have picked up from Travel (or from life) that you'd like to share? I'd love to hear from you! Please drop me a line below!