Letter to my former self: 7 things I learned traveling
Travel pushes you out of your comfort zone and gives you space to grow in the most dynamic ways. If I had the chance to write a letter to my former self — 10 years back from now — here's what I'd have to say.
How are you? It's me. Luciano. Yes, I am you, but 10 years older. Wait, don't run away. You are not dreaming. I am writing to you from the future and I want to give you some advice about your life. I've been traveling a lot (yes, really). I mean... not just on holidays. Traveling... as a way of life. And there are a few things you may want to know. Please read them, it will help you.
Before I begin, one thing. In a few months, a dear friend will call you, and ask you to take a trip around Europe together. Say yes.
7 things I learned traveling
1. Traveling will change your way of seeing things
Soon, you will have a Software Engineering degree and your way of seeing things and life will become very methodical. You will treat life as a binary thing. Black and white. One path, or the other. One truth, or its opposite. Black and white.
Well, traveling will change that. You will understand that things change depending on where you are standing. That what may seem to be a universal truth in your own country, is not in, let's say, Asia.
You will come to see that what you learned in school is not always entirely true, and even if you think you studied a lot in University, there are so many things you don't know, or better yet, so many things you are incapable of understanding because you haven't experienced them firsthand.
Everyone has something to say. Every place has a story to tell. Travel will offer you the opportunity to listen and learn from so many stories, perspectives, paths, and truths.
2. Language is not an obstacle, it's an opportunity
You will end up speaking good English. Even Italian. Your travels will help you learn the languages you never thought you'd master, and they'll also take you to places you never thought you'd end up in.
You will visit countries where you won't know the alphabet of the spoken language. Consider it all an opportunity.
You will discover, despite communication barriers, how generous people are and how willing they are to help you. You will come to realize that, even if you don't speak the same language, there is still so much to connect over, so much that you share.
Eventually, there will come a time when someone will come to you, speaking a language you haven't learned, smiling and asking for help. Then it will be your time to give back all the help you received.
3. Traveling alone is not lonely or boring, it's incredibly rewarding and empowering
The time will soon come when you decide to leave home and your perceived stability and go travel the world. People will tell you; "the world is too unstable to safely travel alone", "you will be lonely", "it's too overwhelming", and so on and so forth. Don't listen to them. Say yes to your inner voice and trust yourself.
Traveling alone may be challenging, difficult and, at times, not exactly what you dreamt about. But, after a few years, you will look back and you won't believe how many fears you faced, lessons learned, goals accomplished, and friends and memories you made.
Even if you are the most shy person in the world, traveling will ask you to step out of your comfort zone and you will find yourself socializing and deliberately putting yourself in situations you wouldn't dare enter otherwise.
Ultimately, the relationships and bonds you will make — not just with others, but with yourself — will sustain you on your journey. In addition to making lifelong friendships, you will rediscover who you are, and become more aware of your true potential.
4. You will work and volunteer in places you never thought about; you will become more adaptable
Forget about the big job you are dreaming about now. Forget about being in an office from nine to six, behind a computer, making reports for your boss, who in return creates reports for her boss, who then creates reports for another boss, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. While traveling, you will not do that. And not because you can't. But because you'll learn that don't like it anymore.
But wait — something important. Before you begin traveling full-time, you will work behind a computer from nine to six. At first, at home, and later, abroad. Don't underestimate the value in this experience; you will learn so much, and build many great relationships. Just know that there will come a time when you decide to pursue other passions, learn new skills and trades, and take on new jobs.
You will work in places you never thought about. You will do farm work. You will fall in love with coffee and the art of being a barista. You will learn how to carry a tray and how to carry three plates all at once. You will be a volunteer in Japan, you will teach English in Thailand and you will teach Math in Philippines. And that's just the start of it!
With the help of incredible platforms like Worldpackers, you can become a full-time traveler exchanging your skills for accommodation in no-time.
5. Life is not about places or things, but moments and people
Paris has the Eiffel Tower. Rome has the Colosseum. London, the Big Ben and Madrid, the Guernica. Incredible places and things, for sure. All so beautiful that the first time you see them, you'll be overwhelmed. But, these places are not only about their landmarks. There is so much more — to see, and more importantly, to feel.
You will visit Paris, some day, and you will hate it, even though it has the Eiffel Tower. And you will visit Edinburgh, and you will love it, even though it doesn’t have the Colosseum.
Traveling is like life. A roller coaster where you will be at the top sometimes, and at the bottom, others. You will experience good times and bad; you will feel exponentially happy and sad; you will fluctuate.
The more you travel, the more you'll realize that your memories of a place are filled with the people you met and the special moments you shared... not with monuments, streets, and museums. You will make lifelong friends in a matter of days; you will change travel plans and visit new cities and countries to see them again and spend more time together.
You will even fall in love with someone. And eventually, that person will leave and continue traveling alone, too. Don't be afraid. It will happen and you won't ever regret it. Most likely, you won't go back to the city where your heart was broken. But your life will go on.
Traveling— just like life — is not about places or things, but moments and people.
6. There will be some ugly days, but you will learn so much more about yourself; your power, your boundaries
People will sell you traveling as the best thing in the world. A fantasy world where all the good things happen and where you are always happy. Don't buy that. Please, don't. As I said before, traveling is like life and, if you have sad days now, you will have them just the same when traveling.
You will miss your family. You will miss your friends. You will feel alone in the most crowded city and you will cry hundred of times. Let it be. You will need those moments. We are not machines; we are human-beings and it is our nature to feel. We need to experience sadness and bear tough days in order to appreciate the joyful and fulfilling moments.
Time passes for everyone; your friends and family will get older with you. They will achieve things. And you won't be next to them to hug and congratulate them. You will miss hundreds of moments, even with technology right by your side. That’s part of the deal you signed when you took that plane. Distance can be hard sometimes, but, at the end of the day, you will fully realize the value of your relationships and your bonds will become stronger than ever.
7. You can do it; you are capable
This is the most important thing you should remember about this letter. Despite what everyone might tell you, you can do it. You don't need someone from the future telling you this. You just need yourself. You just need to believe. You just need to dream. You just need to understand that, what you ask in the right way and put forth the determination and effort, the universe will collaborate with you and not against you.
There will be difficult moments. And there will be so many happy ones. There will be moments when you won't know why on earth you ever left home; where you will question why you even chose this new path in the first place. And there will be moments when home won't be a single place, but many places. Savor it all.
You can do it; you are capable.