Top 10 Things Travel Has Taught Me

The following is a list of things I have learned about myself and the world through travel. I was trying to figure out how travel had changed me and informed the person I currently am. Some lessons are very specific to me but others are really generic. Who knew travel could be so informative?

1. Basement jazz music with a cocktail feels like the coolest city-chic thing ever! I love when the band plays by ear rather than following a setlist. It's so much fun watching and listening. It's equally relaxing.

Next goal: visiting a speakeasy. That would just up the experience that much.
Also, Billy Joel's "New York State of Mine" totally suits New York even more now that I've been to a basement jazz club. NYC isn't all hustle and bustle; it is also incredibly relaxing and beautiful, in its own way. <3.

2. I am a HUGE fan of modern art. I remember falling in love with Claes Oldenburg in high school. Our teacher asked us to mimic an artist through a piece we created with the people sitting at our table. My table made a giant Hershey's kiss out of a tomato cage, foil, and cardboard. It was so fun and I loved the end result.

THEN, I went to NYC to the Museum of Modern Art and saw the original pieces from Claes Oldenburg's The Store with toy food. It was so cool that I even got my in-laws excited about the exhibit. Following that, we saw The Rain Room.

Ever since I've been exploring modern art museums all over the world falling more and more in love with it. I especially love street art like the mosaic tiles and fairy doors in NYC. The street art in Los Angeles is amazing!

Most recent modern art museums we've explored include the Pérez Art Museum and the BROAD in Los Angeles. Both were incredible museums that I highly recommend to any modern art lovers, like myself.

3. Airbnbs can feel really small when traveling with friends and family. This means I have a love/hate relationship with them. I love being forced to get along with people in a way that takes me out of my comfort zone. I love being able to cook and commune with family and friends in places that aren't public. But … I hate being out of my comfort zone. So there ends up being this dance of sorts with friends and family where we try and figure one another out and learn how to work and live with one another, which I think is absolutely beautiful. In the end, I think it makes me a better person and I would always choose to do this than stay in separate rooms at a hotel.

4. Don't judge a food by its country. And Always be willing to try at least some of the local food when you travel. I thought I would hate Egyptian food but instead, I quickly fell in love with it! It's not like you have to try everything, but you might be surprised at what you end up liking when you travel.

5. Dresses are my favorite clothing option. I wear sweaters over dresses in the winter and summer dresses with flip flops in the summer. They feel so versatile and I know they helped me pack lighter when I was traveling between the very temperature-diverse Egypt and Germany in the winter. 

However, I've found that dresses don't always simplify packing. Sometimes they only add to my luggage. For example, when you travel to a summer destination, rather than packing one or two pairs of shorts and various t-shirts that can be interchanged with the shorts, I end up packing a new dress for each day I'm gone. If you are staying in the same place, other people will see what you are re-wearing, which always feels wrong to me. So inevitably, it feels like packing different dresses for each day is more luggage than packing a pair of shorts and a few shirts. 

6. I hate getting up early. I always plan to be up in time to shoot sunrise and 90% of the time I don't make it. I'm slow at waking up. If I want pictures of the sunrise, the best option for me is to book a hotel room with a view. Without even getting dressed for the day, I can grab my camera, shoot sunrise, and continue waking up slowly at my own pace and in my own time. Besides, there is nothing worse than waking up for sunrise only to discover it is overcast and there is no sunrise! 

7. Hotel rooms are part of the travel experience for me. I've always heard that you should pay as little as possible for your hotel room because it is "only the place where you sleep". I've found, however, that if I pay a little bit more, I can get a whole experience. The Hyatt Regency Maui, for example, had animals on the property! I also loved my stay at Hilton's Waldorf Astoria also near Maui. With free food options and a huge property, we never had to leave; there was something new to discover around every corner!

8. Getting lost can be super fun! It's exciting when you don't know what you will find next.

One of my favorite experiences in NYC was staying in Chinatown, grabbing coffee and a smoothie for breakfast, and just meandering our way slowly to our lunch spot. We were able to people watch in the park, check out street art, pop into any store that caught our eye, and take in fresh smog. (Well, you can't have everything in the city!) Anyway, through this experience of having so little planned, I learned more about the city we were visiting, got a great chance to relax and just take in the city for what it was, and spent some quality time with my husband. What could be better?

9. And while not having a plan is wonderful, sometimes plans can make an experience more enjoyable. When you are with a group, I recommend always starting with a flexible plan and going from there. If you break your itinerary, that's cool, but if you go without a plan, you probably won't have a great trip. You'll leave wondering what you did while you were there! 

Example 1: going to NYC with my husband's parents, aunt, and uncle. At first, all went well. We saw things. But then we started talking and lingering. At restaurants. In the hotel room. Just everywhere. We couldn't decide what we wanted to do or see next. Well, why are you traveling if not to see the place where you are visiting? We could have family time at home, right? (Granted, not everyone is as lucky as we are!)

Example 2: going to NYC with friends AND a plan. Friends would linger and talk, but having seen the plans knew when it was time to leave if they wanted to do things on the list.

Another thing worth mentioning – if you don't get friends/family involved in the planning process, they will be less invested in following the plan. Some people just don't like planning and that's ok, but you may have to encourage, sell your next destination to them, or go without them. Obviously, what you do will depend entirely on your goals. If your goal is to spend time with people? Do it. You can come back to your destination later. If your goal is to see the place, do it! Don't let anyone hold you back!

10. You can come back at a later date. Sometimes you aren't feeling up to speed and you want to travel slowly. Don't worry about your itinerary and plans (unless you've invested money in them!). Just relax and enjoy the destination. And if you see something you want to do that isn't on your itinerary, do it! Check out the flea market, the farmer's market, the festival, the pop-up art show! You can do the rest another time. Do what will bring you the most joy, live in the moment, and don't worry about the itinerary.

*11. Don't pre-judge people or a culture. Get out and see the world for yourself. You will be surprised at how kind others are. <3.

I think this list went from things specific to me to generic travel lessons, but I hope it was helpful and encouraging to see just how much you can learn about yourself through travel and how those lessons can be both crazy-specific to an individual and also incredibly generic to the world.

Have you ever learned something surprising through travel about yourself or the world? Share! I'd love to hear!

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