Reflections, Travel Inspiration, Travel Lists
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10 Life Lessons From 2 Years of Travelling.

lessons learned from travelling

This post was initially intended to be a rant, about how my life as a travel blogger isn’t as perfect as it can seem, how everyone’s always asking for free content, and how ‘knowing people’ can have more value than good work. I’ll be honest; July has been a pretty terrible month. Having reached a point where I really needed to focus on earning some money, I decided to put all my travel plans on hold this month and work with a vengeance (Read: How I Afford My Travels and How You Can Too). Let’s just say I didn’t meet my financial goal, but that wasn’t the disappointing part. The disappointing part was that karma, and I dare say life, bitch-slapped me in so many ways this month.

In the midst of penning this rant, I started to recount how amazing the first half of my year had been – I got my first taste of the Middle East in Bahrain, stumbled upon hidden beaches in Thailand, journeyed from coast to coast in Canada, reveled in the festivities of Las Fallas in Spain, walked down memory lane in Singapore, and most recently, discovered the virgin beauty of Sri Lanka‘s hill country and its eastern beaches. I quickly realized that I had no right to rant about being a travel blogger!

lessons learned from travelling, why travel, travel bloggers, Indian travel bloggers, Jasper photos

Sipping glacial water in Jasper, Canada.

This month has been one big life lesson, and as I mark two years of the plunge to quit my corporate job (Read: Things I Wish I Knew Before I Quit My Job to Travel) in August, I want to share 10 important lessons that the road has taught me:

1) We take life too seriously.

Most of us have been brought up and set in such moulds of what our life should look like by the time we’re thirty, that we forget it’s okay to mess up and live a little. Meeting people both in my own backyard and halfway across the world made me realize that you don’t always have to be running and aspiring for something more. That more than a steady job, a posh apartment, a promotion, a life partner, or even a to-do list, it’s more fulfilling to have a life that you’ve thoroughly enjoyed.

2)  Money can buy happiness.

For all my talk about how money isn’t the end goal, this might sound contradictory. But it’s true. I remember the time I was in Mauritius last year, and could fork up enough money for an unplanned flight to Rodrigues Island. I remember the numerous times that a few extra pennies have bought me a unique experience, a little more comfort, or the chance to go somewhere off the beaten path.

3) But not if you don’t spend the money.

You know when people talk about investments and making your money work for you? I’ve learnt that it’s bull shit. If I hadn’t, for instance, emptied by bank account to spend a month in Turkey, I would never have known how humbling it was to watch the sun set on the Black Sea with my newfound Turkish friends, even without a common language. It’s good to have a fall back fund, but saving all your money for a rainy day is not going to buy you any happiness.

4) People face the same challenges everywhere.

Here in India, we grow up with the notion that people elsewhere, especially in the west, have it much easier. Maybe in some ways they do. But for the most part, travelling has taught me that people everywhere are grappling with the same insecurities – dealing with parents, finding true love, feeling accepted by society, and the like. So while the grass may appear greener elsewhere, all that matters is how you use the cards you’re dealt.

5) Responsible choices can save the planet.

True story. In the driest parts of Punjab, Rajasthan and north-central Sri Lanka, I’ve met individuals who have literally transformed barren pieces of land into a flourishing green forest. You can tell the temperature difference in their corners of the globe, and you can feel the freshness in the vegetables they grow. Not all of us might have their conviction or patience to affect change, but supporting their tourism offerings can save atleast a small part of our planet.

6) Freedom is underrated.

At some point after I quit my job (Read: The Story of How I Quit My Job to Travel) and gave up any semblance of a regular schedule, I started to wonder why so many people, my family included, couldn’t appreciate the sense of freedom I felt everyday. Then I met a fisherman in Mauritius who chose not to work in a factory for more money like his friends, because he loved the sea and could choose not to work on some days and still feed his family (Read: What a Fisherman Taught Me About Paradise). It was his philosophy that made me more sure of mine.

7) Possessions are overrated.

While moving to Delhi from Singapore two years ago, I had accumulated a few suitcases worth of stuff, from six years of living there. I decided to get rid of most of it, though not without the gnawing feeling that I was going to miss it. The truth? A month from then, I didn’t even remember what stuff I had left behind. I’m in the process of instituting a big change in my life after August, and this time I’ll be more than happy to get rid of the things I certainly don’t need.

8) Karma can bitch-slap you.

You know when you go all out to help a friend and then they brutally backstab you? That’s kind of what karma has done to me recently. I won’t go into details, but I think I’ve learnt my lesson right here in the travel industry. You can either do the right thing or be politically correct, and while both have their consequences, it’s not true that doing the right thing can’t screw you over. That’s just how life is.

9) Strangers are kind.

I’ve trashed all those horror stories that end with the lesson, don’t talk to strangers. If I had a penny for every time I’ve been overwhelmed with the kindness of a stranger on my travels, I’d be a millionaire. Families with so little in small villages in India have shared their meals and life stories with me. People in Turkey opened up their homes and hearts to this stranger from Hindistan (Read: So Long, Turkey). The hospitality of an Aussie expat in Mauritius and a French-Mauritian couple in Rodrigues blew me over. And I haven’t yet experienced anything close to the warmth of the Bahraini people (Read: Land of a Thousand Friends). So trust your gut, but let strangers show you what a kind world we live in.

10) Happiness is not the goal.

I always thought that the leap of faith I took two years ago, to live and travel on my own terms, would take me closer to the illusive feeling of happiness. And it has. But happiness is such a fleeting feeling. Happiness for me was a drunk man on a lonely road in Sri Lanka stopping and shining the torch in our direction, till we found our way back to our guesthouse. Happiness was walking into a bakery in Turkey to ask for directions, and having the owner pull out his truck to give me a ride. The memories of these moments last, but happiness itself doesn’t. Recently a friend told me, we’re not people who can be happy. We’re just drifters. It’s true.

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What has travelling taught you about life?

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This post was written by Shivya Nath and published on The Shooting Star travel blog.

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This entry was posted in: Reflections, Travel Inspiration, Travel Lists

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Over 3 years ago, I gave up my home, sold most of my stuff, stored some in the boot of a friend's car, and started calling the road home. Thanks for coming along virtually on my adventures! I'm always eager to hear your thoughts; leave me a comment and let me know how your travel dreams are shaping up and what you'd like to hear about more on my blog. Connect with me on Instagram/Twitter @shivya.

72 Comments

  1. Totally agree to you Shivya..Having lived a life full of relocations and transfers, I totally agree to this blog.Travelling exposes you to unknowns and enriches you as a human being, makes you aware of the diversities that coexists in this world and helps you to acknowledge them. Travelling help you to understand the others point of view. This is so needed in today’s global world. People with lots of travelling experiences will always make friends in a room full of strangers..

    Like

    • Spot on Chandrima. It is indeed important to understand perspectives half way across the world. I’m an introvert in person, so I’m not sure about the latter though 😉

      Like

  2. Swati says

    You are a saint, Shivya…!
    Not the literal way..but reflecting upon the true nature of your soul…
    Such humbling experiences around the world…and little lovely details….

    Like

    • Thank Renuka, and glad to hear that 🙂 I just glimpsed through your post and sounds very interesting. Shall go back and read in detail again. Thanks for sharing the link!

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    • Thanks Arun. I assumed that the last point will be the one that many will disagree with, but it seems to be the other way round. It’s good to know that you, and more people feel that way.

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  3. Shivya your writing skills have only got better and better – with every post I randomly decided to read and feel a feeling reflected glory and a atleast-somebody-did-what-I-keep-thinking of doing…i.e. Quit my job… 😉

    Having said that, we are all drifters…so my enthusiasm to follow through everytime I read a post of yours lasts till I decide to close the browser 😉

    All the best! ❤ 🙂

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    • Thanks Jelly! I remember the endless hours we spent in the Adam kitchen trying to cook something edible to eat and discussing where life will lead. Atleast there’s some acceptance with the drifting now 😉

      Thanks for reading, as always!

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    • Thanks Stuti. I’m a bit amazed with how much everyone seems to agree with the last one. Drifters, all of us.

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  4. Amit Bhartari says

    Every day i feel the urge to take a month long vacation and go on a unknown place…..your blog brings me one closer.
    Marriage can wait, let me see the world first

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    • Amen to that, Amit. Your world is waiting, everything else can wait 🙂 Let me know if you need any recommendations!

      Like

  5. Freedom is underrated – this whole description is exactly what my alter ego defines freedom as. Awesome post this one is. 🙂

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  6. Priya says

    The Blog is really beautiful with each and every experience having some lesson to it. Each and every word has been beautifully engraved bringing life to it. 🙂

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  7. travel without planning, sense more meaningless to my lot of friends but for me its a fantastic idea……love campaigning in Rajasthan

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    • I think I could’ve added one more lesson here, that “We don’t need the approval of others”. Wouldn’t you agree?

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  8. Hi there, I’m just coming up to my one year anniversary of being back at home after an amazing nine-month trip the year before. I keep thinking about the blog post I am going to write about the last year, which has been very up and down. But, like you, whenever I think about the lows I also remember the highs and how quitting a job I wasn’t happy in has given me so much more freedom. I’m looking forward to writing that post now!

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    • And I look forward to reading that post now! It’s true, how can someone who’s been humbled by the world, time and again, see the lows without the highs? Can’t wait to read what your nine months on the road were like.

      Like

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  10. Shikha says

    You right so beautifully and with so much heart…. may the force be with you always 🙂

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  11. You got yourself a big fan Shivya.. The 10th point was so bang on. Reading your blogs makes even a lazy person want to get up and travel. Keep writing and doing what you do. 🙂 🙂

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    • Thanks Nakul! I have to confess that I can be an extremely lazy person too. It’s comments like these that keep me writing 🙂

      Like

  12. Praveen says

    Still one is missing .. “Luxury of not having responsibility and dependency”
    If someone is depending on you [ mostly Financially ] it is not easy as it seems to live a travel life 🙂 .. Hope this point is not covered in top 10 :))

    Like

  13. Shivya,
    Being a silent reader & a quiet person, I don’t normally comment but this post is so close to my heart that I thought I must say something here. I so empathize with you.
    I have almost similar experiences from my travels, and still learning lessons like you. probably I started writing about it very late. I feel you are always a student of life, of what it brings suddenly on your face irrespective of your age or experience.

    I so agree with points no. 8,9 & 10 and they keep happening to me again & again. You meet friends in strangers & strangers in close friends. But I’ve learnt not to lose faith in people.
    I am writing this comment sitting in my dorm in Singapore…. alone surrounded by strangers but it’s a strange happy feeling that nobody is going to back-stab you.

    More than money, it’s passion for travel that takes me places. Like you,I also struggle to find avenues to earn some to fulfill this passion.
    You are still young and I know for sure, you are going to go places with name & fame (It doesn’t matter what people say, you are the no.1 travel blogger in India).

    Hang in there, you are not alone in this path. 🙂

    Cheers!

    Like

  14. ruth says

    Really great and inspiring….

    Its unfortunate that in india if you dont follow the norm of ‘high income job+ marriage…blah” you’re looked down upon as being unambitious. I just could maybe feel sorry for such people that dont get or even experience the ‘other’ side of living.

    Love ur guts to follow ur heart.

    And wow….so many trips in the first part of this year…2013 has been good to you! 🙂

    Like

  15. seems legit. I sometimes feel more comfortable with strangers than my family.
    but i find happiness fades but lasts with memories.

    Like

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  17. i totally agree with one, this whole thing of being someone by 30 is ridiculous. it’s an indian speciality :p i find people who pursued something different inspiring. it takes a lot to do that, especially a creative field. what i’ve learn from my travels – is to enjoy small moments. people in rural areas have a stress free life and they enjoy life much more than us slick city dwellers. yes facilities are lacking, but they are richer than us in many ways.

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  18. Ian Phillips says

    to me it is always about the people I meet not fellow tourists but locals. The ordinary joe such as a horse carriage operator. It is amazing when you can feel so at home like I do in Nicaragua because the personality of the people mirror my own. Not interested in meeting successful business people interested in meeting people who have a sense of humour and accept me as I am. Happy travels

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  19. Hey Shivya, lovely write! Your point #1 is especially beautiful, and you don’t have to be a traveler to figure this out too – the conflicts and pressures that arise ‘cos of our exaggerated sense of self is very visible all around us.

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  20. Anthony yOUNG says

    Honestly, I’m a bit confused on your perspective on life.. You are sad but you are successful, you travel, you fall in love.. I am skimming through your writing. What is the message?

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  21. Great post. Travel has taught me I am living my life in a rush and task oriented manner. I need to slow down.

    Like

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  24. Great read and everything seems spot on. 🙂 Keep going Shivya. So many people must be living their travel dreams through your words.

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  25. ASHISH says

    im realy feeling inspiring by reading your experiences and the way you expressed it. i m a student 21 belongs to a lowr middle class famliy. i hav wanderlust and want to spend my whole lyf wandering n exploring around the world I’m in love with cities I’ve never been to and
    people I’ve never met but as u said money can buy happiness currently i am working to make my carrier so that one day i set up somthing to fund my lyf necessities n can buy that life i dream off n i also do 1 to 2 trips in a year from my savings recently i went to varansi i liv that place like a local it was mesmerising . well i just wanted to say reading about you is so motivating.

    Like

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  27. Sriharsha says

    Its freaking awesome! 😀
    You are living my dream life! Totally agree with the point related to strangers. I have found some of the kindest people in the form of strangers in my travel times.
    The bad people stay in our own circle rather than outside 🙂

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  28. Beautiful post Shivya. I really connected with the 1st and 10th point for I have recently woken up to the fact that I have been taking my life way too seriously for the past 1 year. As always, More power to you. Take Care.. 🙂

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  29. Great article by someone who has read more pages of the book known as World. Well done Shivya.
    For that 2nd point, I think the correct explanation is Money can bring ‘forever’ happiness when you spend it on adventures rather than materials.

    Like

  30. Vijaya Bhaskar says

    I can tell u by real hard practical experience that one should do what he like’s in this real mad world, but would fully back the saying ‘money can buy happiness’, other thing Karma is very powerful situation to happen any person and most of the times, it is an eye opener or a road block to us to ponder and reboot ourselves..Responsible choices..i would love to meet them, as it was my dream to do something like that but unable to do it due to situations…

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  32. raushangullivant says

    All that matters is how you use the cards you’re dealt. Absolutely awesome. No bragging what you don’t get. Just use what you have wisely.

    Like

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