15 Practical Life Skills that Travel Teaches You

15 Practical Life Skills that Travel Teaches You

Book your own flights? Check. Basic math at lightning speed for budgeting? Check. Figure out how to use a map? Check.

It’s easy to romanticise travel.

Just imagine the prospect of touching foreign soil and experiencing cultures you’ve yet to discover. That first breath of fresh air in a new city seems like the most invigorating oxygen you’ve ever inhaled. Even getting lost becomes magical instead of harrowing. Plus, you’ll surely go home with irreplaceable memories and life lessons.

Ahh, yes, life lessons — or more specifically, lessons that alter your life. Sure, travel does this, but as they say, it’s the small things that count. You might not notice it while you’re out and about, but travel actually teaches you practical life skills for daily survival. Think practical skills that seem small but actually change how you live your life in big ways. Here’s proof.

1. Managing money

To travel, most of us save for it. And if you think that saving isn’t a life skill, then good luck with paying the bills, preparing for retirement, and being a financially stable adult.

Travel doesn’t just let you develop the discipline to save; it hones you into becoming a well-rounded spender. When you travel, you create a budget, you save, you haggle when possible, and you even learn to calculate steadily between varying currencies and exchange rates. Now ain’t that neat?

2. Planning away

Even if you’re one to throw caution to the wind, travel will always bring out the planner in you. You can’t just up and go. Think about it. Even when you pack your clothes and decide when to leave, you’re already subjecting yourself to some form of planning. Master itinerary makers know this well. If travel has taught you to commit to a physical planner (whether digital or a notebook) and make spreadsheets for your trip, then congratulations — you’re partly a responsible adult!

3. Asking questions

You know how we’re reassured as graders that there isn’t anything wrong with asking questions? Or when, growing up, we were always told that smart people are inquisitive? The thing is, some people still find it difficult to ask for assistance even when they badly need it. Travel will push you to ask for directions, to ask if you’re in the right queue, to ask if what you’re eating has that one ingredient that will make you a big, red, allergic mess. And please, don’t make shyness an excuse. Even if you’re terribly introverted, you should be able to call for takeout and talk to waiters and waitresses, flight attendants, guards, tour operators, tour guides, locals…and the list goes on.

4. Filling up forms and documents

In case you didn’t know, you have to fill out e-forms each time you book and confirm a flight. Every functioning adult should be able to fill up any form that any agency or office requires them to submit. And boy, does travel ask you to do this a lot. It doesn’t matter that it all tends to be very complicated; you just have to deal with all those numbers and dates. You not only have to fill up forms, you also have to make sure that your personal documents are all in order — just in case you need to submit them, too. No documents, no travel. It’s that simple.

And yes, you also have to know important personal information by heart. If you can’t memorise them, better keep them noted in your phone or tablet.

5. Living with mistakes

When it comes to managing expectations and actual outcomes, there’s no better teacher than travel. If you travel, you’ll definitely get disappointed and tired at some point. And you WILL make mistakes. But the grown-up thing to do would be to accept the mistake, learn from it, and move on with a little more wisdom. But most importantly, be accountable for your own mistakes! You can’t expect mom or dad to always pick up the pieces for you.

6. Navigating your way

As you grow older, you’ll discover that somewhere in your consciousness is a homing device that lets you find your way around a place. If you’re one of those poor souls born with little to no sense of direction, then a map will do. Now you just have to make sure that you actually know how to use one.

7. Learning that common sense…

…isn’t as common as you think. But travel ingrains this in you, especially if you’re venturing out alone or if you’re touring a place where you don’t understand a single word…because, really, you have no choice. Common sense can’t be taught. It’s more of a skill acquired through time and experience, through trial and error. It’s like Spiderman’s spidey sense, and it should go hand in hand with street smarts and a sharpened gut feeling.

8. Packing light

This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, but generally, it’s better to pack light YET still have everything you might need. And successfully pulling that off every time you pack for a trip is a life skill. Sometimes having back-up for your back-ups help, but it also leads you to having excess baggage. Remember, you’re going to have to lug everything around once you land. Learning how to pack properly and appropriately will help you loads now and later on in life. It’s a skill you’ll always be able to use.

9. Mastering first aid

Here’s another useful skill that you’ll be able to use FOR LIFE. Knowing first aid and the basics of critical care will benefit you, your travel buddies, your loved ones, and even strangers who might need help. So be sure to read up on it, watch some Youtube videos, or even attend some seminars! You never know when you’ll need to perform first aid, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Let’s get the ball rolling with a simple first aid question that not a lot of people know. Do you know what to do when someone is stung by a jellyfish? Contrary to popular belief, you don’t pee on the sting site. You grab a bottle of vinegar and pour that over the affected area instead! And you never wash the sting site with fresh water — that only pushes toxins deeper into the skin.

10. Whipping up something good

When you’re travelling for a long period, chances are you’ll also learn how to cook. That’s the way to go, especially if you’re on a budget and the place you’re staying in has a kitchen anyway. Knowing the basics will help, but whipping up the fancier dishes will tell you that you’ve levelled up in terms of legit life skills. Save the instant noodles for when you really need it.

11. Taking public transportation

If you don’t take public transportation, you’re probably some rich kid whose family owns its own private jet. Cheers to your sweet suite life. But for us mere mortals, public transportation is the norm while travelling. And knowing how to take it in any country is a true survival skill. Once you’ve mastered the art of public transport, treat yourself to a rental car service for a job well done. Also, take time to enjoy walking around places with nooks and crannies you’ve yet to discover!

12. Observing cleanliness and decent hygiene

Gone are the days that being messy is excusable. Those times should have been left behind along with your toddler years. But lucky you if you’ve found loving, tolerant travel companions who don’t mind your less-than-stellar hygiene habits. Really, though, travelling teaches you to clean up the best that you can with whatever is available. It also teaches you to always keep your things in check and your area spotless.

13. Budgeting (and being on) time

I always say: When you travel, you snooze, you lose. Being on time is of utmost importance when you’re on the road. Be a few minutes late, and you miss your flight. Tour operators won’t wait around for slowpokes and lazy loafers. Those picture-perfect scenes depend so much on the sun’s ever-changing light so you always have to be on time, even for leisurely sightseeing. Take a hint: When you get an appointment for passport renewal, you’re given a timeslot you can’t miss. You always have to budget your time from start to finish.

14. Fighting through fatigue

Another #adulting skill you’ll pick up from travelling is fighting through fatigue. Travelling and being on tour means a lot of walking and exploring, so you just have to push yourself to keep on going. It’s like that even at work. Officegoers know full well how difficult it is when you’re just tired and brain-drained, but you have to accomplish the day’s tasks. Such is life. But also, know when to rest. It’s all about balance, after all.

15. Improvising all the time

When you travel even with a really well-thought-out itinerary, sometimes things just don’t go as planned. Your bag can suddenly give up on you because of all the weight it has been carrying. The temple might not allow you to enter because what you’re wearing isn’t what they’d consider proper attire. The restaurant you booked might have closed early for the day due to unforeseen circumstances. And you, my friend, must learn to cope by improvising your way to a good time.

Bonus: Working on yourself and the relationships you want to keep

Since we’re keeping it real here, this is a bonus skill that you learn when you travel. Ultimately, travel tests your patience. It tests your travel buddy’s patience, too. So you’ll find yourself arguing at times, but the adult thing to do would be to work on yourself and see if you’re at fault in any scenario. Travelling with friends or loved one also lets you assess your relationships. Working on yourself and on your relationships is definitely a survival skill. Some will even say it’s one of the keys to a long, happy life.

So the next time you travel and learn a new skill, don’t think that it will just go to waste. It might just come in handy for this thing called #adulting.

Also read: Here’s Why Travelling Brings Out the Best in People

About Author

Alyosha Robillos
Alyosha Robillos

In Russia, Alyosha is a boy's name popularised by literary greats Dostoevsky and Tolstoy—but this particular Alyosha is neither Russian nor a boy. She is a writer from the Philippines who loves exploring the world as much as she likes staying at home. Her life's mission is to pet every friendly critter there is. When she isn't busy doing that, she sniffs out stories and scribbles away on the backs of old receipts. She is an advocate of many things: culture and heritage, the environment, skincare and snacking, to name a few. She will work for lifetime supplies of french fries and coffee. Or yogurt. Or cheese, preferably Brie.


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