An Insider’s Guide to Travel: Lessons Learnt

An insider’s guide to travel #6

Amy, from our Ideas & Imagination team, is spending most of her Summer travelling and will be sharing regular insight along the way in her insider’s guide to travel. This week Amy looks back, sharing lessons learnt from her trip…

Arriving home after travelling is always a bittersweet moment for me. Although, I am at my happiest discovering unfamiliar places and experiencing new cultures, there is a comfort in the normalcy of home. Despite being home, everything seems eerily quiet after the constant onslaught of chaos that travelling naturally brings. It is in these quiet moments that I often find time to reflect on the things I’ve learnt about myself. Travelling for me magnifies things as everything I have mentioned here, I kind of, in a way, knew. There is something, however, about being away that brings everything to the surface in a way that everyday life does not.

 

Pay attention and be curious

The real world can teach you a lot if you just pay attention to what is happening around you. There’s a common misconception that learning is only to be done in a classroom yet it’s simply not the case. Formalised education in many ways subscribes students to a rigid way of learning limited to textbooks, lectures and fact regurgitation. However, there’s so much knowledge to be gained from just living consciously and being curious. I’ve always been a question kind of person. In fact, my year seven-history teacher had to limit me to five questions a lesson as she claimed my constant desire to know more was disruptive to the classroom environment. While I’ve massively toned it down as I’ve matured, I am still a firm believer in questioning your environment and learning from it.

In Ubud when we were walking home one night, we noticed a significant amount of hustle amongst the usually sleepy streets. Upon asking, we learnt that there was to be a religious parade at noon the next day along the main street. As we arrived home for the night, we amended our plans for the next day to ensure we would see the parade that had got the locals so excited. After a little research, we were still having no luck finding out more, so we headed to the common area to ask the staff for a bit more information. The team was so excited to talk about the parade as it was an integral part of their religious culture. We learnt that Ubud is the centre of Balinese Hinduism and ended up talking for hours about the traditions and impact the religion has on Balinese people. The parade itself was beautiful, and it was amazing to have some level of understanding of the celebration rather than just appreciating it on a superficial level. One of my favourite things about travelling is the authentic learning experience it creates as, if you ask, locals are often eager to share their culture with you. In turn, this makes the sights you see all the more interesting as you have in many ways an insider’s perspective.

lessons learnt

 

Be open, you never know who you will meet

Another thing I love about travelling is everyone’s eagerness to befriend you. It’s like fresher’s week, except instead of asking what course you’re on, people enquire as to where you’ve been. To quote Bill Nye ‘Everyone you meet knows something you don’t’. Therefore, being open and willing to listen means you will often learn something new and make some great friends in the process.

Perhaps my favourite example of this is Sonia, a woman we met one night in a Middle Eastern-inspired bar. A brilliant live band had lured us into the bar but all the tables were taken apart from one. However, it had a full drink on it. We decided to risk it, agreeing we’d move if anyone came back. A little while later we ordered a drink as no one had come near the table so we assumed the owner of the drink had moved on. All of a sudden as our drinks arrive the singer in the band walks over, having finished her set she sits and resumes drinking. We immediately utter our apologies but she tells us to sit as she’d like the company. We end up sat with Sonia for several hours because she truly is a remarkable individual with some fascinating stories to tell. She works with the Inuit people 8 months a year, a group of culturally similar indigenous people, before travelling for the other four months. It was fascinating to learn about the differing moral laws and issues facing indigenous people from someone who had lived in their company for eight years. Travelling throws some of the most interesting people your way, making you realise that everyone probably has something worth listening to to say. Whilst I’ve always been one to strike up a conversation with someone in a supermarket queue or on a bus, much to my flatmate from London’s disgust, it is different to listen to someone truly. Active listening and remaining open to people socially is extremely rewarding, as at minimum you learn something new, yet often new friendships blossom.

 

Scare yourself once in a while

Everyone loves to scare themselves a little; there’s a reason most of us continually watch horror films despite most of them featuring sub par plots. Without some element of fear, it’s hard to feel the success of our accomplishments, as without risk and uncertainty there is an element missing in performance. I hate being constantly comfortable because I enjoy a challenge, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get scared. I think fear is a great tool, as harnessing the primal instinct can prove useful in thinking about contingencies and meeting deadlines. However, it can often cause people to freeze ergo preventing success. Often we avoid things that scare us because fear creates a false reality that depicts the worst-case scenario meaning we may miss significant opportunities. Travelling can throw a lot at you that would have once scared you; the anaconda that frequented my kitchen on placement in Cambodia was pretty much my childhood nightmare as a reality. However, after four weeks of living with Annie (the anaconda), we did miss her when she no longer showed after some geese arrived at the village.

Mastering coping with fear in unprovoked situations means you can conquer things you’d like to do that scare you. Take me for example; I had a massive childhood fear of being underwater in the sea. In my defence, I think it all stems from Steve Irwin the king of animals being killed by a stingray. You never know what’s below you in the sea and that’s always unnerved me despite me also seeing the beauty in it. However, I was determined that this year I would see a turtle in the wild meaning I needed to get over my perpetual fear of being in their natural habitat. We arrived on Gili Air, and it was D-Day, but what had begun as a niggling fear only mounted as we sailed to the diving spot. Upon arrival everyone was bursting with excitement, jumping off the boat in all directions and swimming eagerly to the central area. Five minutes or so later, I jumped in and began swimming in the direction of my friend who was swimming towards me. On her way she stopped and began to tread water quickly gesturing me to hurry up. When I arrived, I could see exactly why as about two meters below her swimming was a turtle. The moment was breath-taking, I don’t have words to describe it, but it made me realise how limiting even small fears can be. Actively doing something that scares you once in a while creates a realisation that fears are not always rational and protective but rather inhibiting. Therefore, now I am home, I am going to make an active effort to do something that scares me once a month and see where it takes me.

Travelling seems to be a catalyst for life, provoking the processes and experiences we go through as individuals to happen at a quicker rate. Every time I explore somewhere new, I am in awe of the beauty and adventure that awaits me, as no two trips are ever the same. The world is inherently kind despite the media’s portrayal, and travel is affordable if considerations and allowances are made. I think it is something I will always love. Every time I come back I begin to plan my next trip and start the cycle again with an empty saving jar. This time the label says Vienna as I hope to save enough to go and see the Christmas Village at Belvedere Palace in its full glory.