Lessons learned from traveling

Life is Good and Other Lessons Learned from Travel

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My husband grew up traveling. His dad flew airplanes for a living and Chris loved to fly “jumpseat” across the country while his dad worked. Travel was a thing they did together.

I flew for the first time in my 20s and was a travel “newbie” when Chris met me.

Lessons Learned from Travel

Family at Grand Canyon

Over the past 25 years of life and traveling together, the lessons learned from travel came from exploring the world with Chris. From the Philippines to Thailand, Australia to Austria, London to Florence, our wanderlust has grown. One trip inspires another!

We have traveled with our young adult girls, teens, young kids, and babies. The day we didn’t have to travel with car seats anymore? HEAVEN!

Chris and I are now looking forward to the spontaneity of being empty nesters.

Yet, through all of the adventures, mishaps, lost iPads, first experiences (such as riding an elephant), I have taken note of all the amazing lessons learned from travel. And now it is time to pass them on to you!

As an affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. This page may contain affiliate links. I would love your support through clicking on the links. Read the full disclosure here.

But First, Just How DO You Make Travel Affordable?

When our youngest was three, Chris changed to a sales position at work and became a “road warrior“. He traveled every week whether it was close to home, across the country, or around the world.

What are the lessons learned from travel as the wife of a frequent business traveler?

Sign up for all of the travel reward options and be faithful in sticking with them to accrue the most points!

Due to Chris’ Hilton Honors points, Marriott Bonvoy points, United MileagePlus, and rental car rewards, we often travel the world without adding in the expense of airline tickets, hotel charges, or rental cars.

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The benefits to our family have been HUGE.

You can also sign up for travel reward credit cards. The Points Guy does a really great job of breaking down all of the options for you.

Additionally, there are lessons learned from travel for saving money: start saving long before you board an airplane.

My #1 tip for saving money? Start a vacation fund NOW.

Life is good and other lessons learned from travel…

1. Life IS good

When you set out to explore the world, you quickly realize that the world is full of goodness. People are good. Places are good. Life is good.

For years as I have traveled, I have noticed the Life is Good® brand on t-shirts, hats, jewelry, blankets and so much more. I thought, “What a clever way to bring optimism to the world.”

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I was so intrigued by the Life is Good® brand and the #ThisIsOptimism focus that I became an ambassador for them.

Optimism isn’t irrational cheerfulness, and it’s not blind positivity. It’s a powerful approach to accomplishing goals and living a fulfilling life. By acknowledging obstacles and opportunities—but focusing on the opportunities—optimism enables us to explore the world with open arms and an eye toward solutions and growth. It also makes life a hell of a lot more fun.

Life is Good

Life is good all over the world. If you want to focus on lessons learned from travel, focus on that!

2. A Smile is the Universal Communicator and Can Make All the Difference

I like to smile at people when I travel. It does not seem to be the norm in Europe for people to smile in public…especially at strangers. I usually get one of three responses:

  1. People walk past me without even batting an eyelash…or smiling
  2. People do a double-take, start a hint of a smile, then realize they don’t know me, and go back to not smiling
  3. They actually smile back! (Rare, but it does happen)
One of the lessons learned from travel is to smile
This little girl in Paris wouldn’t smile for me!

In Malta, I was totally surprised and found many of the people to be friendly in returning my smiles. And a first for any European country—a lady actually said “hi” to me first!

Going back to #1 where I mention that people are good, I find that smiling often breaks down a barrier and invites communication.

Butchart Gardens in Victoria British Columbia

While visiting Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island, BC in 2017, I smiled at a gentleman as he walked by. He stopped and asked in broken English, “Where you go?” I mentioned that I was just waiting for my daughters. He tried again, “Where you from?” I smiled and responded, “Colorado.”  He replied while proudly pointing at himself, “Tokyo, Japan”. We both nodded and smiled and he continued on. It was a brief interaction, but made possible with a smile.

3. Be a Planner

Plan a trip to Europe eBook graphic for resources page

For Chris and I, planning a family vacation or even just a getaway for the two of us, always takes time and research.

We have friends who like to “wing it” when it comes to finding hotels, activities, and transportation as they go.

Our friends have fantastic vacations and always seem to find places to sleep and things to do. If you are comfortable traveling “on the fly,” awesome.

If you would appreciate a glimpse into our planning methods, I highly recommend my eBook: SUPER EASY Travel Planning

This eBook is full of my lessons learned from travel where I teach you the planning essentials:

  • #1 Decided where and when
  • #2 Schedule flights
  • #3 Book a place to stay
  • #4 Plan places to see

I also created the Ultimate Travel Planner as a planning journal/notebook.

It is available on Amazon.

The Ultimate Travel Planner is perfect for recording ALL of the details of your trip.

It is just in our nature for Chris and I to be planners, and it gives us peace of mind to know where we will lay our heads each evening as we travel.

4. Sometimes Forget About the Plan and Be Spontaneous

One of the lessons learned from travel (especially if you are a planner like me) is to sometimes forget about the plan.

What? You just finished telling me that making plans is a good thing!

Playing in the water in Prague

Spontaneity is good too. Leave room in your day for a quick stop at an unplanned destination, for a chance to explore an amazing neighborhood, or especially for down time if you are traveling with kids! Some of our most memorable moments come from simply wandering around a new city.

One of the important lessons learned from travel for ME is to be spontaneous and not plan every moment of every day. That comes easier to some than others.

5. Set Goals and Dream Big Dreams

You’ve probably heard people talk about creating a “bucket list”, whether it is for dream destinations they want to explore before they are 50, life aspirations, even books they want to read.

Make a list of your favorite destinations and then get destination-specific to consider your “bucket list” places to visit within a city: museums to see, foods to try, iconic landmarks to tour, and Instagrammable picture-taking spots.

I have a post-it® note next to my desk that simply states:

An unwritten goal is merely a wish. ~Unknown

If your lists are just living in your head, write them down. Start a “bucket list” journal specific to your biggest dreams and goals—travel and others. (I am a big believer in journaling your life!)

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Having a specific bucket list for travel is the perfect place to start if you want to make travel a part of you life. Now, you need to look for ways to make it happen.

Be inspired with these 70 reasons why traveling is good for you.

I mentioned creating a vacation fund. That is one of my top lessons learned from travel.

Here are a few posts that can you give you more inspiration:

6. Travel is an Investment in YOU

How many of you have ever thought, “I will travel…”

  • Someday
  • When I have more time
  • When I have more money
  • When I retire
  • When the kids are grown
Fun Questions to Ask Your Partner as you travel

Nothing is guaranteed: your health, your wealth, your obligations later in life. Don’t wait for someday; make travel happen now while you are able to enjoy it.

Travel changes YOU. You come home with a different perspective on the world. You meet new people. You learn gratitude for your life. You reach beyond what you thought was possible.

The lessons learned from travel have pushed me outside of my comfort zone at times.

Sometimes my husband plans adventures, and I just have to try really hard not to think about them before they happen: adventures like ziplining over a canyon in Colorado; cliff diving; or kayaking in the ocean. Hello! Whales and sharks people!

There are even times when I am moderately okay with the activity and then all of a sudden a huge curveball comes at me. In 2014, Chris had planned an afternoon of ziplining through the jungles outside of Chiang Mai, Thailand. I had ziplined before, so I was not too worried about this excursion.

We had about ten runs on the ziplines, some crazy bridges to cross, and then a 40-foot vertical drop by rope and another 120-foot drop.

You want me to what?

“This is a ziplining adventure Christopher, not crashing to the jungle floor. Christopher!!! (That’s what I call him sometimes when I am freaked out. It comes out kind of like a swear word maybe.) When we first got to the 40-foot drop, I calmed myself by thinking positive thoughts, “Ok, I can do this,” as the employees attached my harness to ropes and let me drop. I even remembered to bend my knees as I landed. Then we came to the 120-foot drop. Seriously? This was NOT in the brochure! Pretty sure I just closed my eyes and plunged. 

BUT, I did it. And you, too, can do amazing things and discover more about YOU in the process. Try new things—live outside of your comfort zone!

Don’t let your doubts talk you out of it.

7. Travel is the Best Education for Your Children

Adventure Seeking Women and riding elephants

Hand in hand with “Travel is an investment in you” is the idea that travel is the best education you can give to your children.

The memories they develop, the experiences they have, the ability for them to maneuver through an airport…these are all educational experiences that are priceless.

If traveling with your kids seems like a huge hurdle, begin by researching how other people have accomplished it. Follow simplyjolayne and other travel blogs written specifically by families who travel with their children. Worldwide.

Chris and I took our girls to the Philippines on their first international trip. We even hiked into a dormant volcano! The planning alone was monumental.

Hiking into the crater of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines

At that time, our oldest was 13 and our youngest was 7. We had been traveling with them since they were infants within the United States, so they were used to travel. All steps that prepared them for the long haul of flying to the Philippines.

Travel inspires memories, courage, and life skills that will last forever. I promise.

8. Photography Captures Breathtaking Moments

Sunset Boulevard in Oregon for off season destinations

Photography has become a passion and hobby for me over the years. As I travel, I can often be found with my Canon 6d Mark II [affiliates] around my neck and my iPhone in my hand. I don’t want to miss a single picturesque moment.

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Photography, and improving your skills, is one of the lessons that translates to other parts of your life. Look for the beauty around you, capture memories with your family, find beauty in the small and simple things (as well as the magnificent), and record milestones.

9. Appreciate Experiences Over Things

Young girl at the Trevi Fountain in Rome

Are you of the mindset that you don’t need more things to clutter up your life or your home? Me too.

Travel experiences build memories that will last a lifetime, surely more than electronics or clothes or gadgets wrapped under a Christmas tree.

When you go on travel adventures with your family you get to spend time together right? Time spent together is valuable and sometimes hard to achieve. As a parent, husband, wife, sibling, or child, you might have come to appreciate the concept of PRESENCE versus PRESENTS.

How about surprising your family with travel adventures?

In a world where you and I are constantly inundated with things, the challenge is to plan for experiences instead of more stuff. Explore the world, plan vacations, be adventurous…you don’t even have to go far to find awesome experiences.

10. Meet Great People All Over the World for a New Perspective

Do you ever chat with others as you travel and suddenly gain a whole new perspective?

While visiting Venice a number of years ago, I started chatting with a young man named Eduardo while taking the bus from our hotel to Venice.

Eduardo had come from Venice to the hardware store by our hotel to have wood cut for canvases. He was an artist. He currently lived with his parents, was studying to be a teacher (three more years), studied art in London for a year, and had a studio in Venice.

He asked about our “flat” in the United States and then innocently asked, “How did you hear about Venice?”

Chris and I looked at each other incredulously, both at a loss for words. I think I fumbled something like, “Well, it’s Venice. It is pretty famous throughout the world,” but that didn’t really do his question justice. 

What I really wanted to say was, “Dude! You live in the most amazing city. It is ridiculously well known!” We reached our bus stop and said goodbye; however, I continued to ponder on his question. 

I’m not sure Eduardo recognized the significance of where he lived. To him, it was just home.

The lessons learned from travel emphasize the importance of reaching out to others.

When you meet people from different cultures, countries, and backgrounds, you share in their unique experiences and gain a broader view of the world.

11. Appreciate Beauty

One of the things I appreciate about my husband is that when we travel, and he hears my quick intake of breath, he knows that I have spied something that I just need to stop and photograph.

Visit the Forum when looking for things to do in Rome

Chris is happy to stop and let me take pictures. In fact, he sometimes plans destinations and day trips for me simply because he read somewhere that tourists love the beauty of an area.

“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” – Confucius

As you travel, you will surely encounter beauty, magnificence, symmetry, and old town charm that speaks to you. It is one of the lessons learned from travel that reinforces why Instagram is so popular.

And what may be beautiful or unique or photo worthy to you, might just be something another person simply glances at and continues on.

12. Appreciate Coming Home

While I love the anticipation of travel, the journeying, and the exploration, I also love coming home. What are some of the best things about coming home?

  • Being home means sleeping in your own bed. That in itself is a luxury.
  • No more living out of a suitcase!
  • Clean clothes and variety in what you can choose to wear
  • Knowing that a hot shower is available
  • Food in the pantry (though you might feel some withdrawal in having to make your own meals again and feed you people everyday if you have a family)
  • Seeing your family and friends
  • Personal space
  • Knowing your way around
  • Sleeping in
  • Not having to pay to pee
  • A clean bathroom with nice toilet paper
  • Drinking water from the tap
  • Enjoying the memories of travel and reminiscing over pictures
  • Anticipating your next trip

Coming back home recharges your travel batteries. If you have been bitten by the travel bug, you may not be home for long (unless there’s a pandemic).

13. Don’t Be an Obnoxious Tourist

Use LastPass to store travel documents securely

You may not realize when you travel that you are often the one interaction a person from another country uses to form an opinion of your entire country.

Locals respond positively when you try to speak their language. Many Europeans, for example, speak English and are willing to converse with you, but be willing to learn a few basic words and phrases in their language as well: hello, please, thank you, goodbye, and where is the bathroom?

Before you even set out for your next adventure, it is wise to learn about the new culture of your chosen destination.

While you’re at it, take time to research a few of the local customs. Consider the etiquette on tipping, hand gestures to avoid, driving rules, and clothing to help you fit in and wear as a sign of respect. (For example, many churches will refuse you entrance if you are wearing shorts and tank tops. Have a cover up or skirt to pull on.)

It is okay to look like a tourist; don’t be an obnoxious one.

14. Try New Foods

Try new foods one of the lessons learned from travel

I’ll be honest. I am not very good at this.

My husband, who travels for work, is much more adventurous at trying new things. Foods such as larvae, crickets and guacamole, ant eggs, and cow tongue tacos. That is not my thing.

There are some foods that I am totally open to trying though: beignets, crepes, white asparagus soup, gnocchi, tarte flambee…mmmm.

15. Learn HOW to Travel

There is definitely a skill in knowing how to travel and building on the lessons learned from travel each time you arrive home from a trip. In order to become a confident traveler, there are a few skills to learn:

  • Enroll in travel reward programs
  • Minimize your travel time spent at the airport
  • Keep a stocked Dopp kit or toiletry bag ready to go for the next trip
  • Invest in quality, light-weight luggage
  • Pack like a pro (don’t overpack)
  • Consider whether or not you will need to do laundry
  • Use the airport lounge when available
  • Be sure to carry the necessary adapters, cables and chargers
  • Practice self care
  • Invest in a good backpack or travel bag
  • Always have a current passport
  • Travel with a portable charger
  • Invest in a quality cell phone
  • Pack snacks and a water bottle

There are more tips to learning HOW to travel, but learning these tips will point you in the right direction.

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16. Take Care of Your Health

Resting in the shade on Devil's Bridge hike

I am a huge proponent of being healthy. Healthy to handle the challenge of everyday life at home and healthy to enjoy the blessing of travel for many years to come.

There is so much of travel that involves movement: walking, hiking, climbing stairs, lifting, and endurance (and the occasional running to catch a train).

The lessons learned from travel for me emphasize taking care of my health while traveling, but more importantly, in my everyday life.

You know your body best. If you need to get in shape for travel, do it!

5 Top Tips for Staying Healthy

  • Get enough sleep
  • Drink lots of water
  • Eat healthy foods
  • Exercise
  • Use hand sanitizer

17. Show gratitude

“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” ~Meister Eckhart

Master the art of being thankful and showing gratitude.

I say, master it, because you often have to create the habit of looking on the bright side. For some, it is human nature to focus on the doom and gloom of current circumstances.

You may benefit from keeping a gratitude journal. That is one way for you to create your habit. Begin by writing down one thing every day that you are grateful for.

Be grateful for travel: for new experiences, for meeting new people, for taking more pictures, for sharing adventures with your family, for your circumstances, for coming home.

18. Learn to Roll With the Punches

There are times when you travel that things just don’t go your way. You may experience lost electronic devices, missed connections, or bad weather. One of the big lessons learned from travel is to roll with punches.

In 2019, we were traveling with our girls in Switzerland and had a flight scheduled from the Geneva International airport to Vienna, Austria.

When we arrived at the airport, we were dismayed to find that our flight had been canceled. Chris set about rebooking our flight and fortunately there were available seats for the five of us, but being flexible while on vacation is key.

19. Pay Attention to Intuition—Use Common Sense

Young girl with pink umbrella as cool gift ideas for travelers

This is wise advice whether you are traveling solo, as a couple, or with a group. 

If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it or simply leave!

Use common sense as you travel. Here are a few tips and lessons learned from travel that can benefit YOU:

Life is Good and other lessons learned from travel
  • When it is dark outside, be extra cautious – If you aren’t comfortable being out alone in the evening, book a room with a balcony so you can still enjoy the nightlife.
  • Try to blend In – Wearing your Mickey Mouse ears and walking around with a guidebook in hand pretty much shouts “Tourist!” Try to be a little more subtle. Dress modestly.
  • If traveling solo, don’t announce that you’re alone – When asking for directions, suggest that you are planning to meet up with a friend or travel companion.
  • Leave your valuables at home – Don’t flash expensive jewelry, electronics, purses, or clothing. Again, try to blend in.
  • Be confident
  • Create travel habits – When Chris travels for business and veers from his travel habits, maybe due to exhaustion or a busy schedule, then he makes mistakes. Like forgetting his iPad in the seat back pocket of the airplane. Create and follow habits so you remember to gather all of your belongings.
  • Do your research – When you fly to a destination, know how much it should cost to take a taxi from the airport to your hotel. Determine the best place to rent a car, the safest plazas, and the most reputable tour companies. Plan ahead to know which train or subway to take, which stops to get off, or how far it is to walk to get to your hotel.
  • Keep in touch with family and friends and let them know your itinerary – This is a good rule of thumb for all travelers. Leave a copy of your itinerary with family or friends and check in regularly.
  • Register with STEP – It is important to register with the State Department (for US Citizens) when traveling overseas to receive important information about safety conditions. It will be helpful if they ever need to contact you in an emergency.
  • Carry ID in more than one place – Keep a copy of your passport in your luggage, even travel with extra passport photos in case you ever have to replace yours. Make sure you have secure electronic copies of all of your documents. LastPass is a great way to travel with secured documents.
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20. Invest in Good Walking Shoes

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If you plan to purchase new shoes for your vacation, be sure to spend some time breaking them in before you leave home.

Even with the most comfortable shoes that you own, you might also want to bring along band-aids or moleskin. Our family often walks over 10 miles a day when sightseeing. That’s a lot of wear and tear on shoes and feet.

Take care of your feet.

21. Technology

Technology will often be your lifeline as you travel.

Be sure to charge all of your devices and portable chargers the night before you leave for your trip. And every night while traveling.

I highly recommend that you also password protect all of your devices.

If you are using your phone throughout the day for taking photos, getting directions, checking maps, figuring out transportation, or using the internet, don’t forget to pack a portable charger (or two) [affiliate] so you can recharge your phone when needed. Charge them each night.

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If you are using your phone for all of those activities, you may use up your battery before the end of the day. Your phone is your lifeline. If you are still in the camp that doesn’t own a smart phone, now is the time to invest in one and learn how to use it. As already noted, they are invaluable when you travel. 

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Lessons learned from travel

Finals Thoughts on Life is Good and Other Lessons Learned from Travel

Travel is one of life’s greatest teachers. The world is waiting for you to explore new cultures, people, treasures, foods, and adventures. As you set out, you will quickly see that life IS good, you will expand your comfort zones, and you will learn about the unknown.

Just because you have graduated from school doesn’t mean that your educational experiences end there. When you travel, you keep on discovering, you build a sense of wonder, you appreciate new cultures… you never stop learning.

Obviously, these aren’t ALL the lessons you could learn. What are YOUR lessons learned from travel? Share them in the comments below.

You may also like these inspirational posts…

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29 Comments
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Alex
Alex
2 months ago

This was a great read! Love all the lessons learned while traveling with your family! Very useful tips to keep in mind. I need to start journaling!

Linda (LD Holland)
2 months ago

Some great examples of lessons learned from travelling. I agree that a smile is a universal communicator. And that if you make the effort to try and communicate, people will appreciate that! Don’t just talk louder in English. Don’t be one of this obnoxious tourists. It has certainly reinforced our planning skills. But being organized lets us feel confident to just wing it some days. 

Michelle
Michelle
2 months ago

These are such great tips. While I don’t travel solo, I especially agree with not announcing that you are alone. Of course, a great pair of walking shoes is also important (like you said)!

Leah
2 months ago

Super guide and amazing tips. Definitely a post people need to read before travelling!

Bea
2 months ago

Really enjoyed this blog and so many of your comments really resonated with me. Travel has taught me so much about myself and even helped me overcome depression and a traumatic childhood. It really is fantastic!

Denise
2 months ago

I really enjoyed reading this! We are big fans of using points for hotels and flights when we can. It also makes spending less painful when you know it will help pay for a trip 🙂

Jenn
2 months ago

Definitely agree with the part about investing in good shoes – it really makes a difference! Also I love coming home and sleeping in my own bed! Travel is great, but home is great too.

Kathryn
2 months ago

What a great list!! Agree with and relate to many of the lessons you learned. My favourite one is the smile 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing!

Anushka
2 months ago

A lovely read for those who love to travel! I agree, our traveling memories are more precious than material items we can buy!

Michelle
2 months ago

These are all great tips. Sometimes the simplest things like a smile and a bit of gratitude can go far when you meet new people while traveling. Thanks for reminding us!

Venaugh
2 months ago

So many great tips! We really dont think about how much travelling actually influences us, other than giving us some content for social media. There is so much to see and learn!

Brittany
2 months ago

These are such amazing lessons! Travel really does change us and makes us better people. As someone who is a planner, travel has really taught me although it’s great to be organized and plan ahead, it’s also just as rewarding to be spontaneous and go with the flow! Thanks for sharing this post. It was such a great way to reflect on my own journey with travel!

Elena Pappalardo
2 months ago

I enjoyed reading your insight here. I really jived with the section on rolling with the punches. So much of travel is accepting that places/experiences are never going to be exactly what you envisioned, but that’s part of the beauty because sometimes they are even better!

A Capone Connection
2 months ago

Such great insight! I love the part about smiling. The masks have really taken that away. Thank you so much for sharing your inspiration.

Linda Jane
2 months ago

A good read! Travel really does remind you that life is good & using points to travel is a great idea. I’ll have to do that more often….

Teja
2 months ago

It’s kinda wholesome that Eduardo doesn’t know his city is famous, despite the millions of tourists descending upon it all the time. I wonder if he thinks that’s normal for all cities? lol

As for #13, I’ve actually been in the position of being the very first person of my country to ever reach a place. Diplomatic travel skills is certainly a thing to cultivate if you wish to travel to remote or unusual places.

Adriane
2 months ago

Everything about this rings so true with me. Before we discovered miles and points, we were limited in what we could do. Travel has changed our lives.

Krista
2 months ago

There’s always an important lesson to be learned while travelling. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us!