Eight months of traveling in South America through Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador at 18 years old, and I have learned more life lessons than I could have in years of going to school.
If we were to sit face to face, I could spend hours recalling stories and experiences of things I learned from traveling (in South America and other trips too). Here are just a few of the things I learned from traveling the world:
1. Appreciate And Be Thankful For What You Have
Yes, this is probably one everyone says. But really thinking about it, it’s true. If I were to look back when I was in middle school, I would not have ever thought I’d be thankful for a consistent hot shower.
That really hit home for me when we were in Uyuni, a super high altitude city in Bolivia. It was cold, there was no heater in the hotel room and worse, no hot water. Thinking about that experience even makes me feel cold. But I’m so glad we went through it.
2. The Value Of Money
This is something I’d have to credit my mom. Her philosophy is letting us stay in all types of accommodations. For example, for eight months in South America, our accommodation included everything from camping, hostels and basic apartments to apartments with amazing views and luxury hotels.
The point was to show ‘we paid a lot for this accommodation and this is what we got, compared to we didn’t pay a lot and this is what we got instead’.
3. Don’t Settle In Your Comfort Zone
It’s easy, but don’t do it. When you settle in your comfort zone, you’ll never reach your fullest potential.
It would have been comfortable for us to still be staying in our home in Florida. Instead (lots of credit to my parents) we took steps to get out of the normal comfortable life and start traveling long term.
I used to hate speaking Spanish in public. What if I say something wrong? What if they laugh at me? But in South America, there really wasn’t a choice. That’s the language they speak so that’s the language I had to speak. Little by little, conversation after conversation, I started to enjoy speaking Spanish when it was necessary while living in South America.
Even if I pronounce something wrong or need them to repeat something, it doesn’t matter. I’m learning and improving.
4. Experience, Not Things
Strangely, after long term traveling in South America, I don’t enjoy shopping as much as I used to. I used to like going to malls. But now I’d preferably shop online and just for the things I need.
In general, if you were to give me say $500, you won’t see me at the mall (though occasionally I’d like a new outfit!). I’ll probably add that towards saving up for a plane ticket, a travel experience, to a business coach, self improvement or giving to one of my favorite charities.
Experiences create memories and memories last forever. Material stuff and things don’t.
5. WiFi And Social Media Are Everywhere
One of the most surprising things in South America is the fact that WiFi is available almost everywhere. 90% of restaurants we went to had WiFi. You just have to ask and they’ll give you a password.
It’s even available in the strangest places. Like on a ferry to Chiloe, an island in Chile. Or on buses from city to city in Uruguay. We got so used to having WiFi that when we came back to the US we were wondering why certain restaurants didn’t have WiFi.
Regarding social media, I noticed Facebook and Twitter icons everywhere. When we asked, people would say, “Yes I’m on Facebook”. South American companies, hotels and restaurants are on it competing for customers. (So by the way, if your business is not on social media, you’re missing out!)
6. People Are Nice And Not So Nice
We’ve had random locals help us out when we were lost or recommend a great place to eat or visit. Locals have even put up with me when I tried to communicate as best I could in Spanish. And there are some who have even went as far as to invite us to their homes, making it a real cultural experience.
But on the other hand, some people were really rude, racist and have lied to us. All I can say is as touched as I was about the nice people and as mad as I was about the not so nice people, there was something to learn.
7. Don’t Complain
There are people in the world who are struggling, don’t have freedom, no food and all sorts of issues.
What I learned from traveling the world is it’s really a privilege to be alive. And especially if you’re healthy and have people that love you. I really can’t ask for more.
What have you learned from traveling? I’d love to know! Leave a comment below.