The other day I was driving home from work and as I sat in traffic with the sun ducking behind the hills I started thinking about just how much travel has taught me over the years. Whether it’s an eye opening revelation, a small glimpse into the lives of others, or a realisation of how grateful I am for the life I live at home in Sydney, I have found traveling and exploring different countries teaches you things that you may not have learned otherwise.
My first major realisation and lesson came from living in London for six months. Being on the complete other side of the world to the country I call home, Australia, there were several differences that hit me in the face like a tonne of bricks. It was eye opening. Really. I never fully understood what culture was until I lived in a place that was so fundamentally different to the culture I was used to back at home.
Here are my top five countries I have traveled to that taught me a memorable life lesson:
Oh Greece. Where do I begin? Arden and I traveled to Greece back in 2013 which you can read a hilarious story from our time there here or drool over some spectacular blue and white sanctuaries on the cascading cliffs here. All three places we visited, Crete, Athens and Santorini were all incredibly different, but there were also many similarities. It’s no doubt that Europe still is going through financial and political strife, particularly in Greece, so it shouldn’t have been a surprise when we came across the tourist plots, the locals arguing on the streets about who should get the customer’s business, mistreatment of animals, airport baggage strikes and broken tourist ferries that delayed journeys by almost twice the time.
Lesson: Don’t underestimate the effect of a countries financial and political insecurity on its people. And it’s obvious to and will effect tourists / travelers.
What a country. This was my most recent eye opening trip, having lived there for two months earlier this year. You can read my post I wrote there here which highlights some of the great things this small yet unique country has to offer. I really enjoyed my time in Singapore but one thing my Aussie group and myself immediately realised was just how controlled, regulated and harnessed the individuals living there were. Whether it was the eerily systematic order that everyone lined up for everything in (this can be really good but can also feel quite totalitarian), or the cameras and constant monitoring that went on, I yearned for the freedom that we had in Australia and the lack of fear us Aussies have in our every day life.
Lesson: Freedom is such an important part of living in a country. When people don’t feel free, they often become less efficient and pragmatic, making for slower decision making.
Now this is a place every one must visit once in their life, especially for a romantic occasion with their partner. For me the Maldives is still hubby and I’s most magical trip as it was for our honeymoon – you can see more of this gem here. My favourite thing about traveling, and which I often write about, is the people you get to meet and the conversations you have with them. Arden and I enjoyed getting to know the beautiful staff who worked on these resorts. It was eye opening hearing how much they had to work just to save up enough money to have a one or two week break every year to go back home (Sri Lanka or India) to visit their family or loved ones if they were lucky to get the time off work. Even paradise can have its dark places.
Lesson: Some people have to work harder then you, for less money then you and may never have the same career opportunities you get solely based on where they live or come from.
New York, USA
New York, New York, I love you. I really do. I love the energy and vibrancy you carry every day. I love that we can eat dinner at 11pm and it’s totally normal, and that you have a gigantic park in the middle of your concrete, never sleeping jungle. But you do carry some dark secrets that it took me a little while to figure out. Arden and I explored NYC last year which you can see here. Everything in New York revolves around food, shopping, work and well, being seen. I think that being a lover of nature and the outdoors, I quickly came to realise that living in such a man-made world can’t be all that good for you. Did you know that 1 in 5 New Yorkers suffer mental disorders? There are also many homeless people living on the streets and the congestion of the city is really quite taxing. I’ve heard it’s also a place that you work 7am-11pm every day and your friends are the ones you work with.
Lesson: Not everything that glitters is gold. Hype and smiles can carry as much stress and pressure as the Empire State Building does in peak tourist season. Yikes.
I started with you so I’ll finish with you. I was young when I lived with you for six months. I’m still young now but I’ve matured. I did enjoy being in Europe and I met some beautiful people who I am still friends with (see more here) but I didn’t realise how protected Australia was – from the alcoholism, the sexual exploitation and the depressiveness that cold, cloudy weather can bring on a nation. Opening a public newspaper to a topless girl on the second page was startling to say the least, and the fact that the average amount of sexual partners a college student had every year was around 8 was enough to throw me off. There are drugs and parties and horror stories everywhere you go, but the ones I saw and heard of in the UK were next level.
Lesson: Don’t underestimate the power a smile and a bit of sunshine can have on your every day. Also, a sense of innocence is a beautiful thing for a country to carry.
What lesson have you learned from traveling to a different country?
I hope this post has opened your mind to the other side of traveling. I honestly do feel so grateful and blessed to have been able to see much of the world and meet many beautiful souls. I hope I continue to learn more about the world and the people in it.
Love A x