15 Life Lessons I Learned From My Boldest Decision Ever
We all come to forks in the road. Some of those require big decisions. Some will lead to a new life.
Our ability to adapt to those changes is what brings us overall happiness.
This is a piece I wrote circa 2015 after spending my first year abroad. Five years later, I’m still living around all corners of the world and couldn’t be happier.
Some of the below content is directly related to travel but can be applied to all aspects of life.
Here are 15 things I learned that year that still apply to my life today.
Last week marked my 52nd in Europe since moving abroad alone. One whole year.
In a word, the whole experience has been life-changing. I could have never imagined this life before I made the decision to study abroad and travel.
It has led to countless new inspirations. It has opened so many doors. And it continues to present new opportunities that feed me with a different kind of excitement every day.
I’m still being inspired by new people every day. And, now, I find myself spreading my newfound zest for life to others as they do unto me.
Living abroad changed my life. That’s the simplest way to say it.
As any milestone requires a bit of reflection, I took the time to think about all I’ve learned in the past year. All that I used to hold close and what I still hold close.
I’ve gained knowledge that I consider unteachable; things I would have never learned in the classroom. Some things can only be learned from experience.
Without further ado, here are 15 things I’ve learned from moving abroad that have changed me in one way or another.
1. Keep yourself open to inspiration
Inspiration is everywhere, waiting for you to find it. Even the people who don’t seem like they can offer you anything can change your life. Don’t judge a book by its cover.
Inspiration involves finding yourself through others.
2. Keep an open mind — it will lead to changes in plans
I’ve changed short-term plans so many times. I have no idea where I’ll be at this point next year because every day I run into new opportunities from learning about new things. Just keep an open mind and don’t be afraid of where it leads you.
3. Strangers want to make friends just as much as you do
Don’t be afraid to say hello. You’ll be surprised who wants to talk to you. Make the first move. Keep an open mind and say something. You never know what it will lead to.
4. Saying “yes” is your best choice
You’re traveling. You’re in a place where no one knows you and you have the chance to start a new reputation. Get out of your comfort zone and say “yes” to experiences you otherwise wouldn’t have. You won’t regret it. Moving abroad is a tough thing to do, but you already said ‘yes’ to it; you took the first step.
5. It’s not about the place, it’s about the people
You’ll notice, after a while of traveling, it’s not the place that creates the memories; it’s the people you will remember. Ordinary people will amaze you when traveling in far-off places. It doesn’t have to be the most exciting place to have the nicest people.
6. Ask questions
People want to talk about themselves. Put on a friendly smile and ask them about themselves.
Be intrigued and engaged in the conversation. People will naturally respect that and desire to become closer to you.
Moving abroad alone will make you curious about a lot of things — don’t be timid. Ask away! My inspiration in life comes from learning from others that I’m interested in.
7. Sober nights can be the memorable nights
Nights out are fun. There is no doubt about it. Alcohol can lead to a more spontaneous you and memories you won’t soon forget.
However, you’ll notice the nights when you’re sober are the nights that last the longest. And that’s what you ultimately want; experiences that last.
Moving abroad alone requires meeting new people. You don’t have to be drunk every time you see them.
8. Leave with no regrets
Travel with the couple you met at your hostel. Spend the extra money to get a beer with new friends. Kiss the girl you meet only for a night. Leave nothing on the table.
Don’t leave with regrets; those will slowly kill you. Move fast, take everything in slow, and go for whatever you want.
9. Use common sense, but don’t over-think
Too many times, we over-think and build a bad image of a place in our minds. My friends who visit worry about pick-pockets and terrorism in Europe because that’s what we’re told to worry about it. Don’t.
Be a smart traveler, use common sense. You’ll realize some of the best stories come from exploring the places people don’t want to go because they over-think. That’s where the real gems lie. Enjoy your traveling and don’t think as much.
10. Don’t over-plan
So many trips are ruined from over-planning. The best part about traveling is the unknown. Surprises that are thrown at you, whether good or bad, are what make traveling what it is. Overcoming the struggles and reaping the joys of the unknown; that’s what it’s all about.
11. Forget about the little stresses
If you are constantly stressing out about things you can’t control, when are you going to enjoy yourself? The most enjoyable moments are those when living care-free.
Moving abroad will be full of little stresses that are out of your control. Let go of the worries, find the positives in poor situations, and live and let die.
Let go of the worries, find the positives in poor situations, and live and let die.
12. Think about the future later
This goes along with the previous point. Your future will always be on your mind. It has to be. But you’ll never let yourself live in the moment if you’re always thinking about what’s best for your future.
Sometimes, you need to say fuck what’s best for your future and do your present-self a favor. It’s good for the soul.
13. Don’t make excuses
There will always be an excuse. You’ll never have enough money. There will never be enough time. It’ll never be a good look on your climb up the corporate ladder. But GO ANYWAY! You have to find out yourself. The best time to start traveling was yesterday.
14. NEVER listen to the media
The media will always try to scare you. Why? Because fear sells.
People want to be given reasons not to go. They want the excuses to make them feel at ease with their contentment at home.
Be motivated to go to the ‘dangerous’ places, too. I’ve never been anywhere that is as bad as people will tell you. The world is a good place at its core.
15. Be a good representative of the place you’re from
This is perhaps the most important one as a traveler living abroad. Be a good ambassador of your country.
Whether you like it or not, you’ll notice you make judgments about places you’ve never been based on the individuals you meet from those places. Others do the same thing. Remember that.
I’ve learned so much more while traveling than I ever did in a classroom. I feel grateful for every day I’m able to stay on the road.
Moving abroad without a job was the scariest and most rewarding decision I’ve ever made. This is the life I always dreamed of and I didn’t think it would ever become reality.
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