Lessons from travels later in life

I can’t get enough of people’s lessons from travel – just reminds me over and over how important travelling can be in shaping our lives – and so I have a great guest post here from Aussie couple Ros and Alan from the Frequent Traveller site. It’s a good reminder that no matter how old you are or how often you travel, there is always more to learn from it.

What travel has taught us

Our names are Ros and Alan, an Australian couple in our 50s (soon to be 60s). We have been travelling the world for over two years, dividing our year between our base in Chiang Mai, Thailand and other destinations across the world.

These travels have taught us a lot about ourselves and how we react in different situations. We are happy to say that even at our age, we learn something new every day and along the way we have grown as human beings.


Ros and Alan: Lessons learnt from travel

Ros and Alan: Lessons learnt from travel

Age is no barrier to travel

So, you aren’t in your 20s anymore, pining over the loss of youth will only make you bitter, and it will prevent you from being focused on the experiences of the future.

We have learnt to be happy and proud of our age and realise that you’re never too old to begin a new path in life.

We have met so many older travellers, some even in their early 80s, and they all have two things in common: they have interesting stories to tell and they have an air of youth. Travel keeps you young in mind and spirit no matter what your age is.

You don’t always need words to communicate

When we travel we always try learning a few phrases of our destinations language. We believe that it’s the polite thing to do and find that if you at least try to speak the language people will generally go out of their way to help you.

Of course, some of our best travel experiences have been mixing with the locals in small restaurants and pubs, where sign language and gestures have made new best friends.

I have treasured memories of being hugged by burly Germans in a small worker’s pub in Berlin after a night of playing pool, and celebrating Christmas with our neighbours in Thailand where we shared goodwill while not a word was spoken.

Sign language works in so many situations, at the market, while sitting on public transport and can always produce a laugh and a smile.

Suddenly you’re brave!

Our bravery began when we quit our jobs and headed off into the unknown. Since then we have found ourselves in many situations that have taken us way out of our comfort zone, including standing up to the visa scam on the Thai/Cambodian border at Poipet.

We have learnt that we are tougher and more resilient than we ever thought possible and that is a fantastic confidence boost.

Travel improves patience

We have learnt to be more patient. Many Asian cultures revolve around saving face, if you show anger and impatience you lose face and people will lose respect for you, making them unwilling to help you. It’s a valuable lesson, one that promotes tolerance.

By being patient, you may have to wait a little longer for things to get done but they will get done. Getting angry doesn’t move things faster, it gets people’s backs up and in the end, you have to endure the awkwardness of apologising for a confrontation.

Ros and Alan's experiences include a trip to Machu Picchu

Ros and Alan’s experiences include a trip to Machu Picchu

Treat people the way you want to be treated

We have been to many countries and seen tourists behaving badly, it’s embarrassing especially if they come from your home country. We see people being rude, not abiding by local customs and treating locals like inferiors.

We always make sure we research local customs before we travel and abide by them; we treat people with respect and that earns respect back. Again, people will be more willing to help, and you are always rewarded with a smile.

Remember you are guests in their country. Would you like tourists to disrespect your country and customs?

Expect the unexpected

When you travel things don’t always go to plan! Recently we went to catch a bus that didn’t show. Luckily, we were close to a train station. A train to our destination was departing in 20 minutes and we got to travel through the night in a flatbed sleeper while experiencing train travel through Thailand.

Sometimes the unexpected becomes a better experience than the expected.

Plan but don’t over-plan

Don’t over plan! We used to be the champions of over-planning, but we have come to realise that if you over-plan you may miss out on that obscure attraction or surprise destination that becomes one of the highlights of your journey.

Leave room for those unexpected travel delights.

Avoid negative people

Avoid negative people, especially those who say, “you can’t do that, or that will never work”. If you listen, you will miss out on so many wonderful opportunities and experiences.

Follow your heart, remember that you can’t evolve without taking a risk, and it may just be a turning point to a brand new life.



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