The main purpose of travelling is not to discover new lands but new points of view. While on the road, you can learn about the world almost as much as you can learn about yourself. It’s not even necessary for you to go through all the continents to come to a few simple yet invaluable truths. Travelling has taught me a lot and the following five lessons are only the first chapter of the biggest journey we call life.
Languages come in handy
Languages, even these that seem pretty useless, can come in handy in a variety of situations, especially when you’re travelling. Like that time when I used my knowledge of Spanish to escape a serious fine in Italy. Well, I suppose no-one has ever had any doubts that Romance languages are useful. How about Hungarian, though? It is a language that could not be put into any language family for a very long time. Nowadays, it is spoken by only 0,17% of the world population. Yes, it doesn’t sound very promising. Not to mention that the only thing I know how to say in Hungarian is: “Be careful, the doors are closing”. I learned this in the Budapest underground where it would repeat at every station. As scarce as my knowledge was, I still managed to warn an elderly man who was crossing the road right when a car was speeding towards him.
Getting lost is not always scary
Often, people hate not knowing where they are. The unknown scares and confuses them. Most tourists go only on the main boulevards without risking a venture into the labyrinth of small streets, too worried they might mess up their schedule.
I have always been one of these travellers that get lost almost unintentionally. In Italy that is quite easy as some narrow streets can even be missing from the tourist maps. This is how I stumbled upon the Pantheon of Rome. It was not on my list because when I looked it up on the internet I found it “unimpressive”. Well, standing before the gates, I thought I might as well go on the inside. To this day, I consider this most impressive structure I have ever seen. I wondered: “How come this massive dome with a hole in the middle is still standing there?” As if when the Romans were building it some 2000 years ago the laws of Physics were not yet in action.
Stereotypes can be misleading
Have you ever been told that the Germans are organised and the French are arrogant? You have probably heard that the Spaniards never come on time. That’s as rare as a Swiss man arriving late. Frankly, my friends from Valencia really did not consider arriving for an appointment two hours late much of a deal. However, the Spanish people I met in the North of the country were quite the opposite. I’ve met quiet Italians who eat burgers from American fast food chains. I’ve met sober Russians and gorgeous British ladies. As Oscar Wilde once said: “To define is to limit.” Therefore, do not trust generic national definitions. All one needs for a great adventure is an open mind!
Most people have kind hearts
Even Anne Frank, who witnessed first-hand the atrocities of World War II, believed that deep down, people are good. I agree, although we’re often “waiting” for a right time to show our kindness. Ask someone for directions and look what happens! When I was in Naples I got a motorbike ride to my hotel in the infamous Neapolitan traffic. We passed through a small gap between a car and a bus, just so we can enter the wrong way and stop abruptly in front of some jaywalking pedestrians. That might sound terrible, but it’s also incredibly fun. On that same day, regardless of what popular wisdom seems to teach us, I got a free lunch. On the next day, I even dined gratis!
It’s not the man who makes the journey, but the journey makes the man
Truth be told, travelling never goes as you’ve planned it. When you’re faced with something new and unexpected, you’re creating yourself. On the road, I designed a more independent version of myself. I became much more sociable and I eased into speaking various languages, even when I’m not fluent in them. I learned to fit half of my belongings into a backpack so that I never carry anything unnecessary. I quit buying souvenirs because I decided that a person who collects moments is much more interesting. I started taking more risks when I realised fortune really favours the brave.