7 lessons travel taught me that a degree did not

1. Never in a digital era has it been more imperative to be outward looking and forward thinking.

The digital era has brought about emojis as a substitute for words in trying to express how we feel (whatever happened to Shakespeare?) and time consumption spent tapping away on social media as subjects of mass data-collection. In an online sphere that is boundlessly connected on an international level, it has never been so important to be conscious of the news, information and energy that we consume on a daily basis.

I urge you to put your devices down, seek someone whom you wouldn’t usually interact with and learn something about their culture, background or personality. One of three key components to human life and purpose is communication, and never has face-to-face social interaction been more deprived than under the existence of social media. Life is literally right before our very eyes and sometimes it just takes a reminder to step away from the white noise of the internet to realise the beauty of the world and people around us.

2. Don’t take white western privilege for granted.
Volunteering for 10 weeks in South America’s poorest country, Bolivia, changed my perspective of the world in so many ways that any volunteering overseas does to a person. I recall crying with relief on the train home after realising that I would once again be able to drink and brush my teeth with clean water from a tap. I would once again be able to orientate myself and understand everyday conversations in my native language.

But this so called ‘western privilege’ in the form of mass consumerism filtered from corporate companies is merely an illusion. Now I know that true privileges come from selfless people who are native to the countries I have travelled, most of whom are not at all wealthy but working class like you and I. Yet somewhere in their hearts they find an act of kindness to share with me and for that, I am eternally grateful and indebted.

3. The greater the mind, the smaller the world.

I once thought the world was vast, but then I travelled coast to coast of the world’s second largest country and realised I was wrong. Geographically, 4,000 miles seems a daunting prospect to conquer alone. But with every new adventure and new person I met, I came to realise just how connected we all are. Whatever your language, nationality, skin colour, the list is endless… we are all human and require the same key resources to survive. Do not be so quick to assume superiority because someone appears to be different to you; likewise you too are different to them.

4. We can all do a little bit more for the world around us than we think we can. 

Imagine a world where every single person did one small act of kindness for one another. If you’re thinking that’s an unrealistic ambition then consider this: if someone did a kind gesture for you, would you be inspired to do the same for someone else? My bet is that your answer is yes.

I’m not talking about needing money to buy someone a gift, but more so the lacking components of every day social interaction or even a goodwill gesture of helping someone reach for a tin of beans, or getting up when fallen. It truly is the small things that make society a better place and the best place to start is from within.

5. Take risks in life, but take common sense with you.

I like to think of everything we do on a daily basis as a risk assessment (less the hassle of paperwork!) You go to cross a road and your mind is processing: is there a risk? If so, what is it? What are the  potential consequences of this risk? But most importantly, does the outcome outweigh the risk?

When faced with new situations, we no longer have familiarity and naturally become more exposed outside of our comfort zone. Having hitch-hiked and couch surfed across several continents, I can tell you that the first thing anyone says to me is “wow, you’re so brave” or encouraging words from my mother “you’re mad!” In all honesty I don’t think I am either (okay, perhaps the latter). But with some level of sensibility and sound judgement I have encountered risk on several occasions and every time I am left with increased hope, happiness and new friends across the world.

6. “The man on top of the mountain didn’t fall there.”

Growing up in Devon, the outdoors has always been a natural surrounding to favour, so for my 21st birthday I was gifted with a flight to Nepal. You see, I’m one of those millenials who would rather experiences over materialism. So in January 2017 I started my trek to Annapurna base camp (4,130m).

With each step over the undulating terrain and vertical stairs I was faced with yet another, and a few miles later another set of stairs. Looking back I realise life is comparable to trekking mountains. If you have a goal or aim in life, it will take perseverance and sometimes grit to get you through. But when all is over and done and you have reached that goal, pride and glory are the overwhelming emotions that you remember.

7. Stay humble throughout your successes and never forget those who helped you to where you are now.
To all the friends I have met along my journeys so far across the world, I am forever indebted to you and know that one day I sincerely hope to repay you with the same help and kindness that you have taught me. You’re an inspiration and I am eternally grateful.

I am marked by the happiness you have brought to my life and I will never forget any of you.


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