To honour the holidays: Christmas an Thanksgiving, I decided to list 25 lessons I am thankful to have learned travelling and living abroad with my family. I’ve been to over 20 countries, lived abroad several times but I have to say that travelling with my family, (my husband and kids) has given me a new perspective. I have discovered and learned so many new things about myself and my family.
Here are 25 random lessons I learned.
1-Travelling forces you to live your life to the fullest:
You know how you go on a vacation and you hit all the museums, go to the beach, try new things and see new places. Well, travelling and living abroad long term is kind of like that but less manic. You know you have a limited amount of time somewhere so you try to make it really count. No complacency here.
2- I’ve Learned More About ME
When I was working crazy hours in silicon valley California (dot com capital of the world), sitting in rush hour traffic 2 plus hours a day and rushing home to feed the kids and do laundry, I didn’t have time to to care of me. Well when you travel, you have to think of yourself because you have to make conscious choices every day. As a result, I’ve been able to focus on things outside of necessity and explore my talents and passions. Things I previously ignored. Even my kids are discovering hidden talents. For example, my son Andre has become quite the artist. (that’s his drawing above)..
3- I’ve Learned More About My Family
Again, back in the corporate word, I barely had time to do anything but work and the day to day necessities. Travelling long term means we spend more time together and do more things together. I’ve gotten to know my children and husband better and they me.
4- McDonalds Really Is Ruining America’s Image
Everyone knows fast food is inherently bad. It’s been 7 years since we have eaten a big mac. When we travel, we don’t go into a McDonalds even though they are everywhere (exception is to use the bathroom). America has a bad image in that when people think of Americans they automatically think of McDonalds. For example, my son’s friends at school in France told him that they didn’t think they were American because they were not fat and did not eat McDonalds. I digress.
5- News and International media are often wrong or don’t report the whole issue
The news portrays certain events much differently depending on which country you are in. I won’t get into it. Let’s just say that crime and violence is what gets the eyeballs looking at the news. They don’t talk about the good stuff happening abroad because it’s BORING.
6- Date night is super important:
I already knew this but travelling has really increased my awareness of how important alone time with my husband is.
7-Travelling makes you appreciate the comforts of home
I used to take things I had for granted like soft towels, good cookware, a warm bed. Now I appreciate the simplest of things like finding a descent Mexican restaurant or hand holding with my kids and husband. I like feeling appreciative.
8-You Don’t Need As Much As You Think You Need To Be Happy
I used to think I had to have certain things like a cell phone, 30 pairs of shoes and every appliance known to mankind. Travelling long term means you can’t have all those things and guess what. I’m doing fine without those things and so are the kids.
9-I’ve Learned To Stop Buying Things.
Because we could potentially pick up and leave in a few months, we only buy what we really really need. This means we stopped practicing retail therapy every time our hearts desired it. This has not only helped us stop buying unnecessary things, it has also helped us save money.
10- I’ve learned to make do with what I have.
Since we’ve been travelling more and living on the road we can’t carry all that much which means we don’t buy nearly as much as we used to. As a result, I’ve learned to deal with what I have and re-purpose things. Clothes, old jars, random things. Our 5 year old daughter loves playing with leaves and doesn’t need the latest and greatest “my little pony toys”.
11-I’ve Learned What Is Really Important
Living without things makes you realize that you don’t need the things you thought you once needed like that 12 speed mixer. On the flip side, sometimes you realize that other things are extremely important. For example, having books at my disposal to read is my insatiable need. Since we cannot carry books on the road with us, I have resorted to buying digital e-books. It is the next best thing to having wall to wall bookshelves. I can carry over 400 books with me at all times and read and learn wherever I am. It’s pure heaven.
12- You need a break from your partner and kids
Because my husband and I are home all the time, we see one another all the time. It sounds great in many ways but in other ways it’s not so great. We all need our alone time so we can reset, reflect and be alone. It’s healthy it’s natural. Don’t feel guilty.
13- Travelling as a couple has made our relationship stronger.
Travelling and Living abroad long term as a couple has aligned our lives, goals and our focus. Before we hit the road, we spend our days and nights the treadmill of life worrying about just the bare necessities like work, kids, chores and preparing diner that we neglected growing our relationship. Travelling has helped us connect on a daily basis and feel closer to one another.
14- Traveling and living abroad has taught mt that: You Can Do and Accomplish More Than You Think
15-Travelling pushes your boundaries and forces you to put yourself out there.
It’s just the nature of travel. Travelling compels you to do things and seek out things you wouldn’t normally do.
16- Slow travel is less stressful than a vacation
I used to get so stressed out on our annual 2 week vacation because I always felt like we had to jam pack everything in no matter what the cost. The kids were cranky, I was cranky and we fed on each others crankiness. Slow travelling has allowed us to spend months enjoying one location at a time on our time schedule. (making friends along the way, Catherines friends above in Marseille). We get to live like locals not tourists. In my opinion this is by far the best way to experience the world. If you can manage it, I highly suggest you spend a month somewhere and rent a house vs staying in a hotel. Not only will you save money but you will feel relaxed from your vacations not stressed out or in a race to see as much as you can in a two week period..
17-Slow Travelling Is Cheaper Than A two Week Vacation.
When you go on a vacation you have to book an expensive hotel which can cost a couple hundred bucks a night.
You have to eat out every night because you have no kitchen.
You usually travel during peak season with all the other tourists so it’s doubly expensive and finally you end up doing a lot of the expensive touristy things.
But when you travel for extended periods of time, you get to rent a house ( cheaper than a hotel room), cook at home, do things during off peak travel and do the lesser known non touristy things that are way cooler in my book and cost less.
18- Create a capsule wardrobe (Standard wardrobe of select pieces)
I know this seems trivial but just because I can’t have a full walk in closet doesn’t mean I have to sacrifice my sense of style. I hve learned to make the most of my wardrobe that must always fit in one suitcase. I know how to turn 3 pairs of pants, 3 skirts, 5 shirts and 2 dresses into 30 different outfits. More on that later.
19-Travelling has taught me to be Brave
Sometimes we need to try and do things that push our boundaries. Just trying a new food like fried crickets or squid tentacles takes some bravery. See Blake above eating squid tentacles a la Provençal.
20- Time is precious: Make the most of you time
Every minute counts. When travelling long term, you do have a sense that your time is limited so you try to make the most of your time. Even when you are at a bus stop waiting for the next bus you can do something together. Break out that hacky sack.
21-Travel is the best education
We are so lucky in that everywhere we go there is something to learn first hand. When we stayed in Berlin Germany, the kids got to see the remnants of the wall.
They contemplated what it was like to live through the holocaust and stood on the same soil where people were shot. We visited the Stasi Museum and learned about the different methods they used to spy on people.
They didn’t have to read about it in text books because they were right there. Being there creates this natural curiosity. I hope to have many more experiences like this with the kids..
So next time you travel, take the time to teach the kids about that areas history. (That’s Catherine on Blake’s shoulders writing on the Berlin Wall in the photo above. She was very concerned about the survivors of the Holocaust.)
22-We don’t need a dryer
Living in North America, everyone I know has a dryer. Since travelling and living abroad in Europe, I’ve discovered that most people hang up there clothes. No dryer needed. In some countries they don’t use microwaves either. GASP!
23-We need a bigger fridge: but a smaller one forces us to buy just the necessities so I guess it’s good.
We have this tiny fridge that can barely fit anything at all. I’m so used to our huge fridge back home that we would fill up to the brim.I have to admit though that having a smaller fridge has resulted in less waste. We just have room for the essentials and we eat what we have.
24- I’ve learned to make every trip to the grocery store count.
We don’t have a car or truck anymore so we can’t just jump in the car to go get some parsley and garlic on a whim.
We have to walk and carry one of those little hand pulled trolleys to put our food in. We have to think long and hard about what we really need vs. what we want because you can only fit so much in those carts.
It sucks making multiple trips. Result, no junk food just the necessities. Fruits, veggies, meats and of course wine and bread. Luckily the store is only a 5 minute walk but still, no one likes spending their day at the grocery store.
25-I have the best husband in the world
I really do think he’s the best. Here we are on his birthday. He has his moments but for the most part he is a 6 ft 4 teddy bear.
Lastly -Anyone can travel and be adventurous
I used to think our family was all alone travelling the way we do and living abroad. Boy was I ever wrong.
There are literally thousands of people out there (right now) who are backpacking around the world, living nomadic-ally taking family sabbaticals abroad and zig zaging the continent in an RV: with and without kids. They are ordinary people who decided to live a little unconventionally. You can read about some of them here.
Read Lessons learned by others travelling the world
Ramble Crunch- 15 lessons I’ve learned traveling the world.
Four Jandles 50 lessons learned from travelling the world.
Bohemian Travelers: Travel Lessons: Can You Embrace the Unknown
Edventure Project – American Thanksgiving: 22 things we are thankful for
The Nomadic Family: I Know Nothing (and 99 Other Things The Road Has Taught Me)
Peace On Earth: 5 Life Lessons Learned from Traveling
Travel with Bender: So it’s been 6 Months – You won’t believe what we have learned!
Life Changing Year: Life Lessons From The Road – A Little Bit Of Planning Goes A Loooong Way!
Living Outside of the Box: 6 Life Lessons From the Road (why 6? I have no idea!)
A King’s Life: Two things I know for sure
Flashpacker Family: Lessons From the Road of Life
Family on Bikes: Complaining won’t change a gosh-darn thing
Family Travel Bucket List: 3 Things We’ve Learned While Living Outside of the USA
Grow in Grace Life: By Any Road..Lessons from the Journey
Our Travel Lifestyle: Travel: Teaching us about ourselves
France Travel and Food: 3 Things that living abraod taught me.