5 Lessons From Traveling To Every Country in the World
Traveling is a great lifestyle, every day is an adventure but sometimes it can be frustrating, tiring and (at times) boring! That being said, I would never begin to truly moan because the more awesome opportunities that find their way to me, the more I appreciate what this lifestyle has done for me. So let me self reflect on my 5 lessons from traveling to every country in the world, (197 of them):
Table of contents
How Privileged We Are In The West
I’ve been to more than
50 countries around the globe (EDIT 2021: Every country on earth), and I’ve come across the most abject poverty imaginable. I may not be super wealthy, but even in my broke days, I’ve rarely not been able to afford my next meal. I’ve rarely had to worry about medical care and my education was free all the way until 18.
More than that, for example, I nearly died when I broke my leg a few years ago in a tuk-tuk crash in Chiang Mai, Thailand so I was told I can’t play a 90-minute football match or
run a marathon anymore (EDIT 2020: After years in the gym, I can now run ultramarathons, north pole marathons and the marathon des sables. NEVER GIVE UP) but that made me feel so unlucky. Why me. Life is so unfair. Right?
I’d feel so sorry for myself until a man in Bangladesh said to me “The man with no shoes feels lucky beside the man with no feet”. The says it all.
So if you’re privileged enough to be reading this, if you speak English, have a strong passport, affordable healthcare, wifi and a laptop, you’re privileged beyond belief. Forget everything else. Your minor slights, your thoughts about politics, your faux-victimhood, it’s nonsense. Only you are holding yourself back.
How similar we are
Now I’m proud to say I’ve got lifelong friends from all walks of life, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu and Christian. Not to mention friends with every skin colour imaginable, mine being a particularly pasty Irish tone of white. Yet when I sit down and have dinner with everyone, and people share, joke, hug and cry over the same things. I truly realize that we all come from the same place, and we’re not so different after all.
How selfish We Can Be
One of the sad lessons from traveling, and it pains me to admit this, but I’ve seen a direct correlation between the wealth of the country I visit and the level of selfishness in their society. And although this is true across continents, I think it’s even more prominent in Western Europe and North America.
Whether it’s through fear generated by the media or advertising there’s no doubt in my mind that if I’m in need, I’m much more likely to be taken under someone’s wing in a poorer country than a wealthy one. And that’s a genuine shame. The rat race turns us into rats.
How life’s about more than money
Watching kids play cricket with a stick and a stone in Sri Lanka with smiles beaming across their faces. Or watching the joy in a family face’s when their husband returns from work. I think in the west we often get too caught up in keeping up with the jones. Rampant consumerism isn’t the answer to life, that’s obviously one of the lessons from traveling that we all can learn. We need to recalibrate what’s important in life, and genuine travel will do that for us.
That’s not to say that we shouldn’t seek financial freedom. We should. But not at all costs. We must weigh it up against the sacrifice we make to reach it. There is a balance to be found. And putting yourself in debt for a BMW isn’t balanced.
“That happiness is only true when shared”
Alexander Supertramp got this one spot on. Solo travel is a great thing, it builds character and forces us to be open and warm but when push comes to shove I’d prefer to have my best mates/family/girlfriend standing beside me sharing that amazing sunset in the Amazon, or the sight of the milky way in the Serengeti Marathon. It’s amazing on your own, it’s double amazing with a loved one.
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