12 Things I Learned from Wandering the World

wander the world

For over 25 years I wandered the world.  Along the way, I had many adventures and learned about myself, people and the world.

These are some of the things I learned:

1. I learned that people all over the world want the same basic things: enough to eat, clear water, decent shelter, good health, education and opportunities for their children, an honest way to earn some money and respect.

2. I learned that some of the poorest people on this planet are also some of the most generous. They share what they have, even if it is only a glass of water.  When someone offers you something from the heart it can be considered very rude to refuse the generosity.

3. I learned I could be comfortable in the company of world leaders and dignitaries and, with people in the slums of Africa, South America and Asia.  Take away our outer trappings and labels to find underneath we are all the same.

4. I learned you have no idea what you will do when mugged. In Lesotho,  I had a knife to my throat and still negotiated to keep the things in my bag while offering them my money.  They agreed. Foolishness or a moment of total clarity?

5. I learned that each culture has a different interpretation of personal space. From experience, I have found that the more populated a country is the less personal space you are given.

6. I learned in some countries going by local bus meant sharing a space with more than just people.  As this is the only means of transportation for many, you could find yourself sharing a space with an assortment of chickens, goats, produce and anything else which needed to be transported.

7. I learned to appreciate everything I had and yet to have no attachment to them.  This was taught to me when Iraq invaded Kuwait. During this war I lost most of my possessions, including all my professional documents.  Things can be replaced.

8. I learned how resourceful I was.  In Zambia, daily skyrocketing inflation resulted in a diminishing salary. Being open to suggestion, I found alternative means of earning more money, and lived well for two years and became closer to the local people.

9. I learned to trust strangers.  In Alexandra, Egypt, a friend and I were standing under a street sign trying to decipher the Arabic on our map with the Arabic on the sign when an elderly man stopped to help.  With gestures we indicated where we wanted to go.  He called someone, a young boy appeared, then he waved for us to follow the boy.  We did and we arrived at our destination.  Later, we discovered we were in a part of the city that most Egyptian wouldn’t enter unless they absolutely had to.  Sometimes you just have to trust and know everything will be just fine.

10. I learned the joy of spontaneous laugher, singing and dancing with new friends in Greece, Russia and Latvia.  Freedom is completely enjoying the moment.

11. I learned to be completely aware of my surrounds and notice things that were slightly off.  In Ethiopia this saved me from being shot at.  I was driving toward the centre of a small city when I noticed how still everything was.  In an instant I knew something was wrong.  Within seconds I was facing tanks, soldiers and a mob of people.  Because I had slowed down, I was able to take the next corner and get out there right before shots were fired. Trust that voice that says, “get out now”!

12. I learned to experience life fully and to embrace whatever was presented.  I learned to love all people and to respect this beautiful planet that we live on.

You don’t need to travel to the world for experiences, they are present all around you every day.  You just have to be willing to look at the blessings each holds.

What lessons have you learned from your life experiences?  I would love to hear them.

Photo by Moyan Brenn

wander the world

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31 thoughts on “12 Things I Learned from Wandering the World”

  1. Carolynne, regarding number 3, I wonder if you were also comfortable with people living in the slums in North America and Europe.

    1. Hi Jude,
      I appreciate your comment. I work in an inner city area in my city. I have observed generosity among the poor here the same I did elsewhere. Just like anywhere else there are a variety of folks all over.

      Thank you for asking.

  2. A lot of the things learnt could be learnt from books or simple reflection. Without looking out of the windows I know everything under heaven, according to Laozi, the first teacher of Taoism. The more one travels, the less one knows, he wrote in a little book of maxims (chapter 47) before disappearing into the wilderness beyond China’s frontiers. A millennium later, the Tang Dynasty poet Bai Chiyii says, “Across the world’s horizon, there’re no strangers. Fellow travellers sharing the same fate do not need to be acquaintances before.”

  3. Hsiaoshuang, thank you for the comment.

    You are correct in saying a lot of things can be learnt from books or reflection. We do know everything under the sun. Sometimes we need the experience of something for it to have a deeper meaning.

  4. Your text inspiring me and make me feel so happy!!!!! I didnt travel a lot but i understand what you means!!!!! Thanks a lot for share it with us!!!! Life is so intuitive some time!!!!

    1. Hello Maryse,
      It is a joy to know you have been inspired and the article left you feeling happy. It is not the travelling that is important, but the gems or lesson we learn for all of our experiences.

      Keep being inspired.

  5. As a teacher, I have learned much from students. After one particular rant on overusing certain words and cliches, a student reminded me, “But they may be new to us.”

    1. Hi Liz,

      Thank you for the comment.

      It is good to be reminded that what is ordinary or common place to us might be something completely new to another. Looking at the weld with a different set of eyes.

  6. An excellent perspective on the world. I do disagree with the “learning everything from a book” comment. Although learned people are we’ll read, first hand experiences make the learning real. NEVER trade travelling and living in other countries for just reading about it.

    1. Hi Shirley,
      Thank you for your supportive comment. Travelling has shaped me in ways that reading would never have done. Experience is the greatest teacher and travelling provides the school. I also acknowledge that it is not for everyone, especially the way I did it.

      Happy travels!

  7. I truly agree with point no.2 – travelling through sub-Sahara Africa, I was blown away by the generosity and happiness of people that had so little in comparison to myself and the rest of the Western world. It was refreshing and certainly helped garner a different perspective.

    And in regards to point no.11 and your ‘voice’; in all my years of solo travel, my gut instinct has not once let me down!

    Lovely article :)

  8. Hello Tony,
    Nice to meet a fellow traveller. I so agree with your point about he generosity and happiness of people with so little. These lovely people left a beautiful print on my soul.

    That gut instinct or voice is the best friend a person can have, whether trailing or not.

    Thank you so much for sharing. And wishing you more happy travels.

  9. Wow, you’ve been in so much different situations, meet so much different people, even death walked near the corner. I believe you know a thing or two about people and living this life.

    1. Hi Ion,
      Thank you so much for your comment.

      Yes, I have had a full and wonderful life up to now and plan to keep experiencing life to the fullest. Each experience is a gift of learning and growing.

      BE in joy and embrace life!

  10. hi carolynne,
    i loved so much your positive learning stuff. you explained so beautifully.
    i get to learn that how each thing can be so genuine and can do wonders in your life.
    thank you so much, i am grateful to you for sharing with us.

    with lots of love and blessings for you.
    megha

    1. Hi Megha!

      Thank you for the comment. I thrilled that you found my article helpful and interesting. I believe that everything is a lesson and there are precious gems in each moment.

      All the best on your journey!

  11. My dear sister. You are such an inspirational lady. From day one when we met in Brazil many moons ago we connected. Im honouread to have spend 5 discovery weeks with you in Peru. You enhance my life every day with your kindness, passion, knowledge and love. Much gratitude to you for your teachings. Xx

  12. When I travelled alon back then, I learned also to trust strangers but I also carefully choose if the person looks decent or not. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

  13. #11 I too am very aware of my surroundings. It has saved me from a butt-load of trouble. It’s sad to see that people are becoming less and less aware of their surroundings due to them constantly being on their phones.

  14. Thank you for the post Carolynne.

    Something valuable I learned while travelling South America was after getting robbed on a bus. I learned that no matter how many people want to hurt you, there are always more people that want to help you. Always look for the helpers.

    Thank you.

  15. Dear Carolynne,

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. They bring joy to my heart! You’re so right – traveling does shape us -as it opens our minds and our hearts. I believe love, respect and curiosity are the secret formula for a happy and fulfilling life. Travel enhances it all!

    Best wishes to you in your journey.
    Suzie

  16. Thanks for this post. I’ve really enjoyed it. I also travel a lot and I have to say that not everyone can enjoy and appreciate things that happen to them. Moreover, not everyone can make some conclusions after.

  17. I learned so so much about myself while traveling. I feel that each significant trip has been a rehearsal for what was coming up in my life. I learned to be a child again in Russia, I learned to be fully present in Egypt and I learned to reconnect with God in Indonesia. I am so grateful for all my far away trips that, paradoxically, brought me closer to myself.

  18. What a great article. I personally love travelling around the world (as much as my budget allows me to).
    “some of the poorest people are the most generous” is something I couldn’t agree more on. It is often said that in poor countries you get robbed right away, whereas the truth is that a lot of the people living there are firendly and won’t share the few things they have.

  19. Dear Carolynne

    I also keep learning that I often haven’t learnt what I thought I had. I think (read hope) the continual re-assessment of what we think we have learnt is part of the journey. I’m constantly re-learning, for example, that I don’t know more than the people I am talking to about how they should lead their lives…often I think I do…but I dont.
    Thanks for the article.
    Alex.

  20. Hi Carolyne,
    Thanks for the wonderful post. I have never traveled outside my home home country Nepal. But we have an amazing range of geographical, linguistic and cultural diversity for such a small country as ours and traveling the length and breadth of the country, I also have come to same ‘learnings’. I hope, someday I will be able to travel the world like you. I don’t wish to travel just for spectacles, seeing and tales to tell but for wisdom and to find deeper meaning in life.

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