people kayaking in thailand

Never underestimate what travel can teach you. (Photo: Getty Images)

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If You Know, You Know: 10 Life Lessons Travel Teaches You

Whether you head out exploring the back roads of your home state or break out your passport to immerse yourself in a culture wholly different from your own, travel is an education like no other.

The lessons we take from the places we go are as individualistic as our personalities, of course.

But there are a few tried and truisms most travelers can relate to once they’ve gotten out there and down to the business of communing with — and maximally enjoying — the world.

Read on for some of the favorite lessons travel teaches us.

Locals’ knowledge is worth more than any online review

You can read many online reviews about a place — where to find the best pizza, the must-hit tourist site — before you get there.

But the knowledge you acquire from simply asking locals to share their favorite swimming hole or their favorite place to sip a beer at sunset is worth its weight in gold.

From taxi drivers to the pharmacist and that random person feeding pigeons in the park, don’t be shy — ask away. You might be surprised by how happy people will be to know you’ve come to them for advice on their town instead of the almighty Google machine.

Appreciate the simplest pleasures

glass of orange juice in morocco
Learn to notice the little things. (Photo: Getty Images)

There are little travel luxuries we treat ourselves to out there in the world more often than back at home — and they hardly have to cost a fortune.

Consider the humble glass of freshly squeezed orange juice — whether sipped at a street-side stall on Marrakech’s main square or for breakfast at your favorite Florida hotel. Now ask yourself, why do you never have freshly squeezed orange juice back home?

Sip slowly and enjoy — it’s simple pleasures like this one that set traveling apart from the quotidian.

Your intuition works as well abroad as at home

You know that little thing called intuition that makes you walk down one road instead of another or decide that tomorrow’s the day to try something new instead of today?

Well, intuition works as well when you’re traveling as it does at home.

Especially when traveling in a country other than your own, you may find yourself the subject of friendly curiosity — perhaps even being invited to a family dinner or event.

If the invitation feels genuine to you, trust your gut. It most likely is. And moments like those are where true travel magic is made.

Experiences are worth so much more than things

It’s a cliche that’s 100 percent accurate when it comes to travel.

Sure, you could spend a fortune on a new couch for your house that induces panic anytime anybody wants to sip red wine while sitting on it.

Or you could pocket at least half that cash and take a dream trip someplace like Zanzibar or Thailand instead. You’ll return with a new layer of knowledge to add to your life experience archive about how the world and other cultures work — something you’d never get back home while sipping wine atop that fancy couch.

Traveling solo can be the opposite of lonely

friends at outdoor table eating
Sharing experiences with new friends is part of travel’s beauty. (Photo: Getty Images)

There’s much to be said about sharing travels with someone you love. But traveling alone can open you up to conversations and encounters you’d never have while hovering over a candlelit table whispering sweet nothings.

Look for restaurants with communal tables or attend local events — perhaps an outdoor dance gathering or music festival — to connect with people who enjoy the same things you do. Smile and watch the conversations get sparked.

Wet wipes can save the day

Hand sanitizer is everywhere these days. But sometimes what you really need is a stash of wet wipes to save the day.

Keep a travel-sized pack at the ready in your daypack or purse and you’ll always be able to save someone else’s day on the road, too — whether it’s wiping up a spilled milkshake at the park or something altogether more messy.

Never skimp on skivvies

You will always need more underwear and socks than you think. Always.

And while you might leave home with the lightest of carry-on bags and the best intentions of doing a mini load of laundry in your hotel sink, let’s face it — when travel is at its best and you’re out there enjoying every moment, there’s no time for washing underwear.

Young kids may not remember their early travels, but travel is still shaping who they are

small child in airport
Travel shapes us at any age. (Photo: Getty Images)

Every experience we have molds us into the people we eventually grow into.

And even if your kids may not remember that merry-go-round you took them on in Paris or the time they took the red-eye from Los Angeles and stayed awake the entire flight, you can bet every experience they have traveling shapes them into more adaptable and curious human beings than they would have been if you’d just stayed home.

Travel challenges make for the best stories later

As pleasant as that week you spent under a beach umbrella sipping margaritas and hitting the spa surely was, chances are a vacation with no suspense isn’t one you’ll be talking about for decades to come.

Take, however, that time when your camel broke down on the way to the pyramids or you thought you were flying to Manchester, England, and ended up in Manchester, New Hampshire — now those are the stories you’ll remember and be sharing with friends for life.

Getting comfortable being uncomfortable becomes, well, comfortable

Social norms back home don’t always translate when you travel.

Ideas of personal space and what sort of questions are appropriate to ask someone you just met, for example, can vary vastly between countries and cultures.

The best way to roll with the punches? Get comfortable being uncomfortable and embrace the awkwardness of situations that are outside of your norm. The bonus? It can only make you that much more adaptable and easy to be around once you get back home, too.