Travel is by far one of the greatest teachers. At first, it leaves you speechless and then, turns you into an avid storyteller. We at BOLDiscovery were fortunate enough to be able to follow our dreams, break away from our jobs in London and explore the world for one whole year.
Last year, we travelled for two months in Malawi where we volunteered and then for nine months we lived in a camper van and explored South America.
The lessons we learnt on these journeys were countless. But here are 10 important ones we would like to share:
Travel can be for everyone
We met a wide range of wonderful overlanders/ travellers from around the world on our trips, from different age groups and from various walks of life. But they had one thing in common–each one had their own unique and exciting stories to share. Meeting like-minded travellers dispelled some of the myths of travel we had and taught us travel can be for anyone and everyone. Here are some common travel myths that were dispelled:
Age: That's only a number! We met people in their 70s cycling and camping across the continent. Such zest for life!
Kids: More the merrier! We met families travelling with tiny children. And were completely awestruck at the width of learning compared to mere education in a classroom.
Money: It's funny. You do not need a truckload of it if you make travel a lifestyle, and not vacation. You can volunteer and travel for free and/or on a low budget. There are ways to make it work.
Companions: We don't always need one. We met solo travellers, couples, friends, siblings and father-daughter duos on the road.
So, no excuses for not travelling.
You need very little in life
Breaking away from the capitalistic ways of life and society, and travelling with just the bare essentials for a year taught us how little you need to live comfortably. When your entire home fits into one car, or for some on a cycle, and all your private belongings (summer and winter) in one backpack, you realise how much we as humans tend to accumulate in the materialistic system. This in turn anchors us down to a place and renders us inflexible.
About overlanding (it has permanently altered our perception of travel)
Overlanding is about scaling land slowly with the primary form of lodging being camping and staying connected with nature. Living in a van allowed us to truly immerse ourselves in different cultures, integrate with a place and its people, and meet fellow like-minded travellers who inspired us. We discovered a new way to explore and realised there is no better way to discover a country better.
'Normal' are the things we take for granted
In our daily lives, we are accustomed to wanting more. So much that we often take the little things for granted, without stopping to appreciate the finer things in pursuit for something bigger and better.
However, travelling like this takes effort and some hardship. At times, our life resembled that of an ancient forager: back to the roots. We sought basic answers like where to fill water; is it clean; where to restock food; where to sleep/ camp for the night; are we safe; should we bathe... if so, where? How cold is the water? Which way is the sun rising/ setting or wind blowing? Where to next? Nothing came easy, so when we suddenly got a warm shower after weeks, we became quite ecstatic.We enjoyed the simple 'normal' pleasures of life!
About freedom, what does it truly mean be free?
When you travel in a self-sufficient van you learn the true meaning of freedom and how liberating it can be. Freedom from rigid plans, freedom to travel at your own pace, freedom to stop and sleep almost anywhere, freedom to explore in solitude, freedom from being dependent, freedom to endlessly wander, freedom to chase sunsets and freedom to wake up to countless sunrises in the most picturesque settings.
It let us recognise how dependent we as humans are on the system in our daily urban lives tied down by mortgages and the desire to acquire more wealth. It takes time to realise that true happiness lies in the freedom you acquire by minimising your possessions.
They say, who does not have much, cannot lose much.
How to speak Spanish (somewhat)
There is no better way to learn a language than throwing yourself into a place that only speaks that lingo. We learnt so much more about places, people and culture by speaking their language, or showing that we tried to, at least. We discovered that people are mostly very helpful and receptive to you when you integrate and are not afraid to put yourself in a vulnerable spot. Furthermore, it was mentally stimulating to learn new skills.
Self-growth, a life's worth
Travelling with time allowed us to introspect. Being in difficult situations outside our comfort zone enabled us to develop and grow. We learnt a lot about ourselves, our likes, dislikes, moods, strengths, weaknesses, priorities and goals.
Travelling with a companion (as we did) enabled us to be privy to a lot of information about the other. We learnt how to thrive together, work around each other's moods, how to be more accommodating, which arguments were worth pursuing/ dropping and compromising on.
Our daily interactions with new people (not to mention in a new language) made us more confident. We gained a better understanding of human psychology, developed our social skills, grew to be more patient, and learnt to gauge situations and read people better.
We are a speck in the grand scale of things
Being immersed in nature was one of the greatest teachers. There was so much to see around us and so much to learn from it. We were, and always are, every day at the mercy of mother nature. In fact, we are a part of it. But in our daily lives, we spend months without exploring and appreciating new things. The experiences and learnings gathered in a year of travel were unmatched, and now we constantly remind ourselves of the larger picture and what lies outside without getting sucked up in the nitty-gritty of life.
Money does not always equate to happiness
If there is one country that taught us this, it was Malawi. With $389 GDP per capita it is one of the poorest countries today, but one with the nicest and happiest people. There is a reason they earned the title of "Warm Heart of Africa". People live very simple and modest lives in a particularly sustainable manner. Life is slow and people are laid back. We volunteered here at the border of a national park for two months and learnt heaps about their way of life.
There were numerous challenges, great learnings and best of all, no stress. Not much work got done either, but everyone was happy and so were we. A way of life we plan to incorporate in our lives going forward.
Travel is a roller coaster ride and that's the beauty of it
Travel such as this was about exploration where the fun lay in the journey filled with its fair share of ebbs and flows. One moment we woke up on a motorway listening to the raucousness of trucks and the other, under a starry sky by a lake, all alone. Such a holistic experience made us appreciate life and each experience even more. The more one goes through ups and downs, the easier it becomes to find the balance in between. Because, "Balance is not something you find, it is something you create", as motivational speaker and author Jana Kingsford said.