THERE is more to traveling than just late night parties and spiritual-Zen orgies around a bonfire with someone playing a guitar. Whether you realize it or not, traveling is a good way to learn new skills that you have to perfect in order to survive, skills that probably would go undiscovered were you to have remained at home. So, this blog post is dedicated all the real life skills travelers can learn away from real life.
Real Life Skills Travelers Can Learn Away From Real Life #1: Driving a Motorbike
For someone coming from California, learning to drive a motorbike never crossed my mind. I had my 1992 Honda Prelude. There was no need for motorbikes. Of course, that didn’t stop some of my friends from owning these awesome beasts, but for myself and other travelers like me, we were never expected to learn how to drive a motorbike. But enter South East Asia. My first experience driving a motorbike was learning to drive a scooter in Thailand. So, not only did I have to learn how to drive the tiny engine that could, I had to learn how to drive it on the wrong side of the road. To say it was scary yet exhilarating would be an understatement.
Of course, on that trip, one of my friends fell over on the motorbike and burnt his and another of our friend’s leg on the exhaust pipe. If you’ve traveled around South East Asia, you probably have the same mark of pride. The infamous motorbike exhaust pipe burn. It also has other names of course. The Saigon Kiss. The Philippines Fire. The Thai Burning Touch. But I digress. Eventually, I also learnt to drive a 4-speed manual motorbike, which was even more nerve-wrecking the first time I had to sit on top of these things because they were more powerful than the automatic scooters. Now, I’m a pro at driving both scooters and manual motorbikes on both sides of the road, on sandy beaches, on backwater muddy dirt roads, pretty much, everywhere. Would I ever pick up this skill if I hadn’t traveled? Definitely no!
Real Life Skills Travelers Can Learn Away From Real Life #2: Negotiating
Negotiating is the way of life for locals and foreigners alike in a lot of the developing world. Especially for foreigners because the prices the locals will quote you will most likely be triple or five times what a local would pay. If you’re Bill Gates, you probably wouldn’t care about losing a few extra dollars. But if you’re trying to skimp your way through a year of travel, a few extra dollars can mean the difference between a nice hotel and a roach hotel.
When I first started traveling, I was so nervous to negotiate. How would I know what price to start at? How would I know when to walk away? That was 5 years ago. Now, I can walk up to a stall, and without fail, walk away of it with the price I want. Translating this to the away-from-travel life, I can say it definitely helped me when it comes to contract negotiating, or negotiating with business partners on deals. Of course, they require a little bit more fitness, but the concept remains the same. If I didn’t travel, I would say my negotiating skill would be quite timid, which would be typical for Asian-Americans in the US, which is ironic considering Asian people in Asia can negotiate like a master salesman.
Real Life Skills Travelers Can Learn Away From Real Life #3: Socializing
This one is more for the introverts. For extroverts like myself, being outgoing has never been an issue. But for the turtles, if you’re going to travel, and remain shy, it will most likely be a very lonely trip for you. Thankfully, traveling forces everyone to step away from their comfort zone and see what it’s like on the other side of a friendly smile or a kind hello. And I can say, you never know who you might encounter along the way. The number of friends I’ve made have been countless. The numbers of memorable conversations I’ve had with random locals in the streets have been copious. The exaggerations can go on and on.
If you’re at home, you’re trapped in this wonderful comfort zone of your daily life. Because of that, you are never forced to go beyond than what is necessary. But, if you’re an introvert, and the internet sucks so you can’t check out your Netflix, then your only option while sitting at a hostel halfway from home is to stare at the ceiling or talk to the insufferable travelers around you. The former might work out for the first couple of days, or even weeks, but if you’re traveling for a long time, the latter becomes a necessity. And when it happens, and you know it will, you will look back years down the road and smile at how much you’d grown.
Real Life Skills Travelers Can Learn Away From Real Life #4: Sleeping
Wait what? Sleeping? Yep, you damn well know it. You see, if there’s one thing about traveling, and especially if you’re grunge traveling like yours truly, you have to learn to be able to catch some z’s wherever you are, whether it is on a plane, a swaying boat, the hard surface of an airport, or even standing up while on a train because all the seats are sold out. You can try to be fancy and posh and refuse to sleep on anything except a nice comfortable mattress, but such spoiled attitude will be quickly driven from you as you struggle to maintain some resemblance of a normal sleeping schedule. If I didn’t travel, I would have never developed the skills to catch that crucial 15 minute nap before going out, or that 2 hour nap on the early morning bus rides. You know what? I’m gonna catch a quick nap right now before I continue on with #5!
Real Life Skills Travelers Can Learn Away From Real Life #5: Patience
Well now, that was a nice way up call. We had about ten dolphins swimming next to our boat for a good 10 minutes. They were swimming between the two sides of the boat as they chased it, frolicking in their merry dolphin way. Woops, sorry. I’m making you a little jealous. Anyway, back to the blog post. Thank you for your patience. Oh, well, would you look at that, that’s another skill travelers can learn to develop while traveling. Patience is the mother of all good times. If you’re coming from a country where everything runs on time with neatly printed schedule, traveling in less time-constringent countries will be your worst nightmare. The buses never run on time. The trains are always late. The ferry schedule that you found online which was posted a few months ago is already outdated. A sixty kilometer drive that would take half an hour at home would take two plus hours. Traveling not only expects patience from you, it demands it. Not only that, you learn to be patient with people whom you cannot communicate with, because you do not speak their language and they do not speak yours. You learn to just let life go and take what may come. By the time you return home, you would have learned to become so patient that you can watch the grass grow and be okay with it. Well, with a beer or a glass of wine in your hand of course. For me? Rum and coke please. And yes, add the calamansi as well.
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