Travel is a single word with several meanings and possibilities. It can mean driving to the next city, an escape to a tropical beach, an enriching work or school experience abroad, or it can turn into months with little direction and last-minute decisions. Regardless, each type of experience is inextricably tied to lessons learned (almost always the hard way).
Here are five skills I have developed and improved as a result of traveling:
Negotiating—and not just for a fair price.
While a lot of this includes bargaining, negotiation plays a bigger part in traveling and in life in general. The negotiation skills developed while traveling teaches you about compromising and being assertive about your desires—without being aggressive or insensitive to others. This sounds easy enough, but striking a balance can be complicated, especially when engaging with different cultures, through language barriers and in new environments.
Communicating across cultures.
Body language is important and you become so much more in tune with your non-oral forms of communication when it’s all you have. My relatives immigrated to the West and until they learned English, they had little but their hands to get their meaning across. When I travel, I get a taste of their struggle and appreciate their resilience all over again.
While body language is invaluable in environments where it’s your sole means of expression, it’s also important when speaking your native language. At the very least, it might all make you a better charades player.
Navigating new environments.
I recall an outdoor education class in the tenth grade where I was in the middle of the woods, armed with nothing but a compass and a map, and beside myself with confusion.
I used to be utterly useless at following and giving directions—now, I’m at least mediocre at it. After a lot of traveling that has included being chased by dogs, cows and monkeys, I like to think I’d at least have an educated guess about how I could have gotten around the woods seven years ago.
Learning when to let go.
When you’re traveling, you can be exposed to uncomfortable, high stress or even dangerous situations. I’ve been caught in a couple of such sticky situations—whether it was getting into trouble with transport officials without knowing I was breaking the rules, getting mugged or being stranded in the middle of nowhere.
However, I’ve benefited from these less than amazing moments. I’m scared of a lot less and feel much less vulnerable now when I’m traveling. I’m also much more relaxed and content with “winging it,” and I think that’s actually the most enjoyable way to travel. It’s important to be safe and aware of your surroundings, but don’t stress out too much and be adventurous (in reasonable and legal ways).
Relating to others.
One of the best things about traveling alone is the people you meet. Traveling with friends is great, but it’s easy to remain in your own bubble and miss the opportunity to meet people from all over the world. Doing so requires you to put yourself out there, listen, relate and take chances. This is not strictly a traveling skill. This is an aptitude that is immensely important to every aspect of your life.Add this article to your reading list