Travel Lessons: Can You Embrace the Unknown?

"It is better to travel well than to arrive." -- Buddha

What is the purpose of traveling if not to experience and learn knew things? We can find fun and thrills  anywhere, but worldly wisdom is illusive without exploring.

Travel offers perhaps the most profound of life's lessons. Although much can be learned by reading books or discussing topics, true wisdom is only gained by confirming or discrediting intellectual knowledge through experiences.

As we make our way slowly around the globe, we feel more in tune with these lessons because new experiences almost seem to force reflection.

Embrace The Unknown!
For instance, who would have known that you should never leave the house in Asia without a roll of toilet paper, especially when traveling with kids?  Okay, it may be not so profound but it's an immediate lesson learned nonetheless.

Yes, the lessons do go much deeper than toilet paper. There are fantastically unique cultural, geographical, economic, spiritual, and social lessons that can only be learned by launching yourself into foreign environments.  But perhaps the most important are the personal lessons and intangible qualities that we learn along this path.

I suppose personal growth is the only thing each of us is truly in control over in our lives. Many of us may struggle for years or even a lifetime trying to control all the circumstances and people around us, which seems to only lead to frustration.

Instead, travel teaches each of us to temper our expectations and to embrace new experiences and challenges. If a traveler fails to do this, the road will chew them up and spit them out very quickly. Whereas, most people in a stationary life can usually go many years rigidly refusing to live outside their expectations and insulating themselves from new challenges.

But, inevitably, challenges arise in life no matter how well we attempt to schedule our lives. This is why learning to cope and adapt to changes is so important.

There is a basic philosophy we've learned from traveling that applies to life in general as well: Plan for the worst, hope for the best, never fear the unknown, and appreciate the ride.

Preparation can be vital to improvng any given situation!
Planning for the worst doesn't mean fearing the worst. It simply means taking precautions against foreseeable challenges. This applies to any situation in life, but the consequences are much more acute when traveling in foreign lands where the unexpected is more likely to occur, and without your normal support group or the comfort of familiarity.

For example, for women traveling to Egypt knowing that the men there have a reputation for harassing foreign women should not scare you into not seeing the Great Pyramids. That pre-knowledge just presents the opportunity to plan a proper wardrobe, group travel, and how to deal with potential harassment.

Likewise, hoping for the best is not blowing your expectations out of proportion. Rather it is more about defining what you want to happen during your visit. If you don't have a vision for what you want to happen on a journey or in everyday life, it's unlikely that you'll get it. In other words, how do you expect to get what you want when you can't define it?

Embracing the unknown is perhaps the most important lesson from traveling. Fear of the unknown is a natural human instinct that in some cases may be an essential defense mechanism. Yet, since life and death situations are far less prevalent in modern times than when our ancestors roamed the earth with saber toothed tigers, fear of the unknown is usually imaginary. This fear effectively keeps us in a small box of perception, thus limiting our overall experience.

Travel forces us to embrace and anticipate unknowns with excitement. We've been told by many of suburban friends how brave we are for the life we lead where the unexpected is, well, expected. However, we've never felt or feel brave because fear never really enters the equation. We just chart our course with excitement (and some research) and pursue it. Besides, after the unknowns are conquered, it's very apparent that there was never anything to fear to begin with. So there's not much point in dwelling on the perceived fears.

Finally, in our opinion, appreciating the ride is most vital to enjoying life. Being reminded of how grateful we are for big and small things is a gift that extended travel has given us. Too often we took things for granted when living a regimented, redundant lifestyle. But, now, because we frequently change our scenery and environment, it demands that we compare and contrast every aspect of our journey.

Enjoy the little things
While traveling we find appreciation in small things like finding a good pizza or a clean bathroom, things we would just expect in a familiar setting. These constant small reminders contribute to our overall gratitude about the lifestyle we've chosen.

Traveling also forces us to evaluate our setbacks and mistakes much quicker than when we're stationary. By pure necessity, many times we must identify the lessons inherent in our mistakes right away to prevent them from happening at the next location. Because of this, we find ourselves grateful even for the set backs. It's odd, I know, but it's amazing how this gratitude ends up being our best weapon against fear of the unknown.

Although traveling has taught us many useful things about the world and ourselves, nothing has been more valuable to us than our seemingly natural ability to embrace the unknown. We're convinced that this treasure from travel will allow us to excel in all possible adventures of life, whether we eventually settle down into a community or keep traveling the globe.

Curious what other traveling families learn on the road??  Click the links below!


Flashpacker Family - Lessons from the road of life

Family on Bikes- Complaining won't change a gosh-darn thing

Our Travel Lifestyle - Travel: Teaching us about ourselves

The Nomadic Family- I Know Nothing (and 99 Other Things The Road Has Taught Me)

Pearce On Earth- 5 Life Lessons Learned from Traveling

Life Changing Year- Life Lessons From The Road - A Little Bit Of Planning Goes A Loooong Way!

A King's Life-  Two things I know for sure

Family Travel Bucket List- 3 Things We've Learned While Living Outside of the USA

Ramble Crunch- 15 lessons I've learned traveling the world

Any Road- Lessons from the Journey

Living Outside of the Box- 6 Life Lessons from the Road

Travel With Bender- So it's been 6 months


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33 comments:

  1. I love your philosophy Mary, especially the bits about traveling well and appreciating the ride.

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    1. Thanks Jenn! Can't wait to see you guys in a couple days:)

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  2. Embracing the unknown is definitely the most important lesson about traveling. I like your image of "saber toothed tigers" and what you say is so true. In our modern society, we rarely have to confront those "life and death" unknowns from the safety of our box. Putting food on the table doesn't mean heading off into the wild to hunt down some animal. Now most people simply head to the Whole Foods Market for their imported beef from Argentina. Just putting yourself out there, in an unfamiliar environment, taking what comes at you, keeps one truly engaged in life. Thanks for the perspective.

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    1. Thanks so much! I know in the US at least it is such a sterile environment so people, especially children, have no idea how to deal with things, especially things that are different, or perceived as dirty. Travel has openend all our eyes that is for sure!

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    2. You beat me to it, babe! :-)

      Mary, great post! What Mark said...

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  3. We, too, are called brave or courageous, but like you said, at this point, there really is very little fear in what we do. This is our life! Like that physics principal...things in motion tend to stay in motion. We didn't want to become so fixed in our lives that we couldn't move and grow.

    Thanks for being one of the encouraging people that helped us take those first steps towards travel. You will never know how much your words meant to us! May others be encouraged, as well, by what you share.

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    1. That is so kind of you to say! One of my main goals is to help people find their dreams and go after them! I want everyone to know if this life is something they want to go get it!

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  4. "temper your expectations"...what a great way to word it! And yes, "embracing the unknown" is certainly a MUST in our lifestyle! Isn't it fantastic?! I love it!

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  5. Great post Mary! I especially love your motto -

    "Plan for the worst, hope for the best, never fear the unknown, and appreciate the ride."

    That and always carry toilet paper!!

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    1. Yes the TP is always part of the plan, especially in Asia;) Heading to the train in a few minutes and I have 2 rolls!

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  6. "travel teaches each of us to temper our expectations"

    Yes, yes, and YES! It seems like there is simply no way you can plan everything out. Simply ain't gonna happen.

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  7. The photos are amazing, you are so blessed to have seen some amazing things!

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    1. We sure are! But more importantly we take away from those things so many amazing lessons:)

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  8. Great advice. I still think you are brave though. We have not taken our kids overseas yet so your stories are encouraging. Your kids are getting such a wonderful childhood! You are giving them these lessons first hand..and not out of a text book. Hey, you can use old textbooks as toilet paper if you have to ; )

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    1. Thanks so much! We don;t feel brave but I guess it just depends on where you are coming from:) I will not admit nor deny the fact that a page in a book was used for TP in the past:)

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  9. I'm surprised you didn't mention how much travel makes you appreciate a good salad!!!

    Travel certainly does make you appreciate a clean bathroom, especially with kids. Love your profound toilet paper lesson. I remember in that first year when our daughter was at that toilet training stage where she couldn't hold on for long our "leave the house rule in Asia" was always have toilet paper and know where the next toilet was ... or know what that culture's attitude was towards little kids peeing on a tree in public. See that's one cultural lesson I never really expected to be learning through travel with kids!

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  10. I just carry lots of packets of tissues - they fit in my bag better!! Appreciation of a good pizza or a clean toilet - possibly the most important things to find while travelling! My kids will definitely second that notion!!

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  11. Thanks so much for this post and for your links. My husband and I dream of becoming a nomadic family like yours. Our kids are currently 2, 9, and 10. We are unschoolers. Just a practical question I have is:
    How do you pay for your travels?
    Another question that came to mind is "what do you do when the kids get sick?" I always think about how nice having a home is at times when sickness hits.
    Thanks again for your blogging. Your example is an inspiration to me.
    Anna from Minnesota

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    1. Thanks Anna. We both work so that funds our tarveling. It is actually quite a bit cheaper then staying still. We live a pretty simple life and can tolerate living with far less then most people I think. We both run blogs about what we are passionate about and it's enough for us:)

      As for the kids being sick, we have been pretty fortunate in that they do not get sick often. But when they are, really they just want mom and since I am always there it works out fine. We carry aroud a good first aid kit but have found that every country has decent healthcare and supplies available everywhere. I was a nurse also which I think may help my confidence.

      Feel free to email me anytime with questions:) bohemiantravelers@gmail.com

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  12. Excellent post - I love the learning to 'embrace the unknown' idea. Definitely what we hope to happen when we set off. :)

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    1. Thanks so much! It will happen, almost no way to stop it!

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  13. Another awesome post.
    Very well said.
    Keep it up.

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  14. Great advice! Being prepared (were you ever a Boy Scout?) is my favorite bit of advice!

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    1. You mean "girl" scout right?:) lol Thanks!

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  15. I guess you need a bit of attitude to travel right, this article is certainly inspiring!

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  16. I guess you need a bit of attitude to travel right, this article is certainly inspiring!

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  18. I truly loved this kind of post, if I have your permission should i duplicate this post to my personal blog and share it with other people too.

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    1. No problem at all, just please leave the original links as well as a link to this site. Thanks!

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