People travel for many reasons: for fun, to learn, for a cultural experience, to get away, to find themselves. And most find what they’re looking for and so much more. Traveling to me, meant an opportunity to immerse myself in Hispanic culture and learn more deeply the wonderful language of Spanish.
I wouldn’t say I’m terribly babied, or spoiled, but I certainly never had to fend for myself at home in such a way that traveling has made me do. I’ve never been a very practical person, nor realistic. Life skills are not my thing, but traveling has made it become so, and I am thankful for that. So, without further ado, here are a few skills I picked up from exploring the world.
Reading is something I was never big on throughout high school, but when you’re Wi-Fi-less for over 24 hours at times, you really don’t have a choice. Then, the not having a choice becomes all you want to do. You engulf yourself in the literary elements of classic books and thrive on the book swaps in hostels.
Okay, so this is something I have actually always been good at, but who knew traveling could hone my sleep skills even more?! I’ve slept through it all. Seriously, name it… Drunkards stumbling around and breaking stuff, roosters crowing at midnight, children screaming, horrific smells, the couple in the bed next to me getting it on. I have become the Sandman thanks to the necessity of sleep.
I don’t cook. I tried to make brownies out of a box for Mother’s Day once, and it came out of the oven like chocolate water. Just this week I’ve had to google how to cut certain vegetables, accidentally left a plastic spoon in a hot pan, melting it, and to top it all off, almost burnt the apartment down by leaving on the gas stove. But after all this, I think I am finally starting to enjoy it! I now understand why those moms I follow on Facebook harass us with their newly found recipe that they just cooked up. The pride is immense!
4. Judging people
This sounds horrible, I know, but it is something we all do in one way or another. Judgement can be a wonderful thing, especially when you are meeting at least ten people per day. You learn who to be wary of, and with whom you might actually want to make friends. After being robbed of a little over a hundred dollars in Boquete, I have had to become suspicious of people even in my hostels. There are good people too, of course, you just need to know what you’re looking for!
5. Saying no
Some of the best memories I have come from my inability to say no. Other times? Not so much. This is applicable to so many occurrences during my travels: bothersome taxi drivers, drunk guys, pestering vendors, peer pressure of any kind. You realize that you’ll probably NEVER see these people again, which makes it way easier to say no. Who cares about their opinion? Then, when you return home, where you do know or see certain people often, you’ve become so much of a pro at saying no, you don’t even feel bad anymore! I have learned to have rules for myself and if I don’t like something, I have NO problem saying NO.
I wish I could say I have bettered all of my general cleaning skills, but that would be a huge lie. Hygiene wise, I have probably become dirtier. Salt is such a good detergent, and there is plenty of that in the ocean. My hair has hardly seen soap on this trip, and my clothes need only to pass the smell test, but man, do I rock at doing the dishes now, and kitchen cleaning altogether! Having to use a communal kitchen in the hostels makes you take the time to clean everything above and beyond the norm of what you might do. This is out of courtesy, and also because who knows if the person before you just slobbered all over the spoon and just put it back in the dish rack. YUCK.
7. Reading a map
I remember driving around with my dad on errands as a kid and he would hand me this huge book of maps in Solano County. “Okay, find me Ace Hardware,” he would say. Then, slowly, with the emergence of Google, handheld maps became a thing of the past. I haven’t properly navigated since I was about ten. But when you are without Wi-Fi, you become reliant on street names and even ask locals for directions. I have learned to never be scared when I lose my way, because I’m still somewhere in the world, right? I will find my way back eventually!
8. Managing money
I have always been awesome at saving money, but managing money takes more effort. When I talk about managing money, I am actually speaking more on the spending of it. I was still in Colombia, contemplating my trip to the San Blas Islands, if I even wanted to go, and drop an extra bit of money on it, then my friend Daniel gave me some really good advice. He said, “When you’re on your death bed, are you going to be really mad at yourself for spending that extra $500 for the trip of a lifetime?” Of course not. It put everything into perspective.
This is the main thing I have learned from my travels throughout Central America. As cliché, as it is, traveling really, is the only way you can spend money, and actually get richer. You become enriched in memories, develop abilities, possibilities open up all around you, and your life becomes forever changed. I am in love with my life, and I am so grateful for it. God blessed us with these kinds of chances and said: “Go for it.” It is up to you to take it. I promise you won’t regret it. Maybe you’ll not suck at these things as much after traveling too!