20 Life Lessons You Learn Traveling the World in Your 20’s

22 August, 2014
30 Responses

This week I hit a life milestone. I transitioned out of my 20’s and into my 30’s.  In the past, the thought of turning 30 was always followed by a flop sweat, yelling at the top of my lungs, and a mild panic attack.

However, as this new decade of my life clicks over like the hands of a clock, I find that my nervousness has been replaced by excitement.

The main reason for this is because I am totally in love with where I am in life.

I spent at least three months out of every year in my 20’s traveling with the exception of one, in which was I was busy working, tying up loose ends, and saving for long term travel.

I’m not going to lie. It hasn’t always been all fun and games. I’ve had some hard moments. Some of these have included endless debates with myself about whether I should look for a career or risk everything to see the world.

I also have suffered the discouragement of many people that have said that what I was doing was wrong. Plus, traveling and working is not always easy to balance.

Traveling full time is like anything else in life. It takes hard work and passion to accomplish your goals.

I’ve fought through the discouragement, doubt, and more sacrifices than I care to mention. However, every single moment of it has been worth it. I have found that the rewards I get from traveling far out way the sacrifices.

Looking back, I realize that I am obviously not the same person I was at 20. Travel has completely effected every fiber of whom I am.

So in honor of everyone out there (still in your 20’s) trying to make your travel dreams come true, I thought I would share 20 ways in which traveling will change you, and some of the benefits of traveling the world.



Once I started traveling I quickly learned how much I can accomplish when I set my mind to it. Travel teaches you drive, planning, budgeting, and problem sloving. It keeps you young but teaches you adult skills. 

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The early 20’s are an important time in life for finding out who you are and gaining a lot of freedom.

Nothing makes you feel more alive and free than traveling. After spending countless hours studying the world map, you find yourself standing right in the middle of it. Suddenly the world is a tangible place, and you realize that none of it is out of your reach.


One unknown facts about me is that I used to struggle with self belief. Travel shows you how strong of a person you really are.

Going through all the stages of planning a trip and then executing the plan, gives a deep feeling of self-fulfillment and confidence. You learn that you can do any task that you set your mind to.


With my entire being, I hate cockroaches! Their disgusting shell of a body and the way their limbs swim in the air when they get flipped over like a turtle on its back makes my skin crawl.

However, as I am writing this, there is a cockroach looking up at me from the floor. Why am I not freaking out? Well, because travel has taught me not to sweat the small stuff.

I am in beautiful Chiang Mai taking a break from backpacking Thailand and I pay $75 a month rent for a nice apartment and a cool ride.

This one cockroach is a small price to pay to be where I am and it’s not worth the stress. (Notice, I did say one cockroach)

Travel teaches you how to handle the small things. 

Getting lost, your atm card getting denied, or getting stuck in traffic when you should already be at the airport are all examples of small stresses on the road.

However, after confronting these problems a few times, I’ve learned that things seem to fix themselves.

Plus, these tiny stressful moments usually become the stories I share with others. Travel teaches you not to worry about the things that aren’t worth your time and energy. 

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No one is a perfect traveler and when you throw in the added bonus of foreign countries and language barriers, a fair share of failures are likely to occur.

Travel teaches you to embrace the failures, realizing that they will actually turn into something good – if nothing else, a learning experience.

As long as you are always determine to get back up, there is nothing wrong with falling down.


Traveling the world can make you as wise as an old hermit. You learn countless things about our world, the land, the people, and their cultures.

You observe both the ancient and the modern, yesterday’s ghosts and tomorrow’s dreams, the young and the old, and how they all exist together.

You learn firsthand about the good and bad decisions countries and governments have made. You witness their effects and you hear multiple points of view.

Basically, you gain valuable insights into various parts of the world that you would never otherwise have the opportunity to see.


Do you want to really learn nonverbal communication? Then head to the middle of nowhere in a foreign country.

Truly, you will mastered it in a month! Throughout my travels, I’ve played charades, drawn in the sand, and have made ridiculous faces to get my point across.

Sometimes it is slow. Sometimes it is frustrating. But always it ends up being a good time.

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Traveling solo, you learn quickly to let go of your inhibitions about interacting with those you do not know. Just remember, every friend was once a stranger.

After a long stretch of being alone, you will have no problem walking up to fellow travelers, introducing yourself, and making friends.

The backpacking community is wonderful and don’t forget, all of us have a couple of things in common right off the bat. All of us are traveling, in a new country, and looking for something more out of life.


When everything you have fits in a backpack, you realize just how little you really need.

Living in hostels, meeting locals less fortunate than you, and traveling with people from all over the world teaches you how to be considerate of others and share what you have.

Many people are surprised by the kindness they encounter when traveling, and it only makes them eager to pay it forward.


Traveling the world solo teaches you how to deal with loneliness.

Let’s be honest. You make tons of friends traveling, but there are stretches when you are on your own. Learning how to be alone is a fantastic trait to have and one thing I talked about with the monk when I was getting my Sak Yant Tattoo 

This gives you ample time to learn how to entertain yourself, pick up a hobby, and delve into a fantastic travel blog ( * cough, “this one”, * cough) 


Ah yes, tons of friendships are forged while traveling. Many are passing friendships based on being in the right place at the right time, but there are also lifelong friendships crafted out of traveling.

Since you are experiencing all these new things together, far from the ordinary comforts of home, these traveling friendships grow intensely fast and even a short amount of time with someone has the potential to turn into a lifelong bond.


People that have been to third world countries can attest to this. Some of the happiest and most generous people

I’ve ever met while traveling are also the poorest. They find joy in spending time with the people they love, the smallest comforts they actually have, and sharing what they can with strangers.

For someone from the western world, it is a humbling experience.

In the grand scheme of things, money doesn’t matter. Life experiences and relationships do!

I decided long ago that I would rather have the experience of living a fulfilled life than one of chasing green paper.

This is one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned from backpacking the world, and it has changed my entire outlook on how I live. Today,

I look at fancy cars, mansions, and overpriced luxuries and think about all the unforgettable life changing experiences they could have bought.


I never was the best at money management. Keeping track of my expenses was always overwhelming.

Well, that was before I started traveling. Long term travel or traveling on a budget teaches you to account for every little cent.

This is a great life skill to get in your early 20’s and yet, one that many high schools and colleges fail to teach. Travel teaches it “in your face” quicktime.


When you spend time with different cultures and see the kindness of strangers, it breaks down the stereotypes.

You learn that 99% of the people in the world, really are good people. In fact, you realize that you actually share more things in common than what you could imagine. 

Most people want a better world, peace and happiness, and they are willing to reach out to help their fellow human beings.


Never Stop Dreaming.

Once people plan and accomplish a big travel goal, they realize how easy it is to achieve their dreams when they really put their mind to it. Some people are afraid to dream; afraid that it will only lead to failure.

Other people let their dreams stay exactly that….dreams. Travel can give you the drive to turn your dreams into your reality.


Travel has a way of bringing people out of their shell. My travels started this adventure travel blog

It will bring a side out of you that you might otherwise never would have known existed. This is my favorite side, the adventure side. 

As you start facing more fears, you become more fearless.

Driving a third of the planet? Running with the bulls? Skydiving in New ZealandHiking the Tongariro Crossing (aka Mordor)?

If someone would have asked me ten years ago if I would ever do any of these things, I would have laughed.

Not only have I conquered my fears and done them, but I am hungry to experience new adventures in the future.

Traveling makes you open to trying new things and overcoming your fears. Soon you realize that the scariest thing about fear is not what you are afraid of, but the act of facing the fear itself.

At one time, I would go into a panic anytime I was in deep water. It’s a fear I fought all my life. 

However, recently I have begun making plans to get my scuba diving masters certificate. 

Travel changes your perception of fear.


A lot of the time, the small quiet, seemingly insignificant moments are the best.

Sipping a cup of tea with a local, butchering a simple “thank you” in a foreign language and then sharing a laugh, being greeted with kisses on both cheeks and a warm meal after spending 38 hours on a plane are small moments that make big memories.

A personal favorite of mine is sitting under the stars on the bank of the Nile River on the outskirts of a remote village with a Nubian tribesman.

We stared up into the heavens, talked about life, and drank coffee. He was having girl problems and asked my advice. 

I never knew the man before that night and I never saw him again but his memory will be with me forever.

These moments are priceless.

18. Gives You a Better Understanding of Yourself

Travel forces you to face yourself.

An old travel saying states “Everyone who is traveling is either running from something or running towards something”. When you have long layovers, train rides, or alone time, you have a lot of time to think.

Frequently thoughts drift from one thing to another and often lead to yourself – who you are and who you want to be. 

Not long after being on the road, you discover your strengths and confront your weaknesses.

By its very nature, travel calls you to stop and reflect on your past, take a hard look at your present, and focuses you on your future.


Intrepid Travel did a singles study which showed that 55% of the people surveyed said traveling makes someone sexier.

Yep, you read that right. Traveling makes you more attractive. That alone should encourage many of you to call the airlines today. After all, who doesn’t want that?


Life is short and the older I get the more I realize how short it really is. Each day is a new beginning, a fresh awakening, a beautiful opportunity for something wonderful to happen. And each day comes with a choice

How are you going to spend it? Too often, people get lost in the rut wasting away precious minutes. 

Traveling makes you aware that there is so much more to see, learn, and experience.

Yes, travel does change you. It will stretch your limits, open your eyes, and blow your mind. It will cause you to deal with things that most people put off all their lives and it will allow you to explore beyond your dreams. 

It has its cost but also its rewards and I firmly believe that it is truly beneficial to those who embrace it. 

No matter what stage of the game you are in, consider making travel apart of it.

Like this post? Check out my personal favorite traveling the world quotes, or traveling the world jobs that you might be interested in starting.


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30 thoughts on “20 Life Lessons You Learn Traveling the World in Your 20’s”

  1. Nice life lessons! I think it’ll take a while before most employers see long-term travel as an asset, but there are some forward thinking people out there! Plus, it fulfills you in a way very few things can!

  2. I’ve never had the opportunity to travel much, but let me tell you that I just turned 50 this year and my 40s ROCKED! I am excited about my 50s. 🙂

  3. Agree to all of these! I’ve differently learned (and still learning!) a lot of things about myself in the past 5 months I’ve been abroad.

  4. You always look like you’re having so much fun in the pics you post. 🙂

    We’ve learned things tend to work themselves out too. They really, really do.

    And I hate cockroaches too… one of the few things I don’t miss about living in Florida (the ones there flew over our pool at night, and were defiant and resilient to our exterminator).

    I think the lessons you’re learning and the ones you’re sharing are def. invaluable. I also think you’re lucky. And like I said on Facebook, smart. 🙂 Traveling like you are, is invaluably enriching and smart. 🙂

  5. I agree with so many of these statements. I’m still in my 20s and still working on traveling as much as possible. I wish I could show this to everyone who ask why I’m obsessed with it.

  6. Hi There
    I love your post. The next one though, should be shorter. What I mean is, that some readers may get bored. I am not saying your blog is boring, just a bit long. How did you like riding a camel? I am guessing you have been to Paris. We love Paris and were there this past June. We are so going back. We have to as we put our lock on the lovers bridge. Have fun travelling. Don’t stay too long in one place. Stay Safe.

  7. Yep, you nailed it with all of these. The biggest for me was learning about how similar we all are in this big world. The first time I went to a third-world country and saw a mother with a screaming child, a man rushing to make it to work on time, or even a homeless man on the street, I thought—wow… these people are the same as they are back home. They might have been raised a little differently, dress differently and talk differently… but we’re all just humans trying to find our happiness 🙂 Cheers man, hope all is well

  8. Amazing read! Been working and traveling abroad for the majority of my 20’s, and would agree with all of this. Especially when it comes to money not buying happiness, and not being materialistic. I’ve become such a minimalist since becoming a long-term traveler / nomad. I can’t believe how much money I used to waste on stupid things!

  9. Jacqueline Shanahan

    Thank you so much for that! I’m on the train to work and literally had tears in my eyes whilst I was reading your article. I think all travelers deal with the dilemma of how much travel is to much and what makes that even more difficult is the people in our normal life that we love don’t understand our passion to be able to support us and give us the courage when making these decisions, so we must rely on our own courage to make these decisions. I’ve been lucky enough to spend most of the last 5 years living overseas and I wouldn’t change it for the world. Another lesson I learnt from this is to value my friends and family, no matter how much I change and grow they know my story and there is nothing like being able to speak with someone who just knows why you are who you are.

    1. Wow Jacqueline thanks for the comment! I am glad you liked the post so much. Travel is a wonderful passion but for people like us who want to do it full time it does take some sacrifice and commitment. I am glad you have a good base of friends that you can talk to.

      Thanks again for the wonderful comment.


  10. Well Stephen having met you & your brother Ryan whilst travelling in 2011 to celebrate my 60th Bday backing for some 14 weeks in Europe solo, I often laugh at our fun times. It was also amazing that we met up again in Melbourne for the Australian Open Tennis day. Always read your blogs & smile. Myself I see travel as a tool to grow & make amazing friends, see stunning countries, cherish the life I have seeing what others struggle through each & every day. I encourage each & every person who wants to travel just go for it full speed ahead.
    Cheers my friend until we met again 🙂

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