3 Ways Long-Term Travel Makes You Better at Life.

Mar 14, 2016

Traveling long-term changes you. Maybe some more than others but everyone who has traveled long-term comes home different. While it might be very self-serving to say so, I’m pretty sure it makes everyone a little better at life. I have no proof but here are a few ways I think long-term travel changes most people. 

Travelers make better decisions faster

Traveling a whole lot for a long time guarantees that you’ll regularly be in many situations where you need to figure things out and make the best decision possible with limited information, usually under stress. The quality of your decisions impacts you immediately and often they either result in a good experience or a really bad one. With frequent practice and immediate gratification or disappointment, you get better at evaluating information and coupling it with your instincts to make better decisions. The additional stress of needing to make decisions quickly forces you to speed up the process. The more this happens the better you get at it.

For me, gaining trust in my instincts has been a tremendous help. I’m a big fan of having all the facts and vetting the information presented before making a decision, but that’s not always possible in life and is almost never possible when traveling. Using my instincts to fill in the gaps or recognize a danger or pitfall has saved my butt on more than one occasion. Sometimes its as trivial as saving a few bucks on a ride or taking a chance on a place to stay and other times it’s those instinctual decisions that have helped me narrowly avoid a gun-to-the-head robbery or assault in a back alley. Whatever the importance, long-term travelers get plenty of chances to practice making tough decisions.

Travelers are better at coping

Sometimes, you just gotta get mad and get over it so you can move forward. Travellers do this better than most.

I personally believe traveling long-term is the sweetened condensed version of actual life. The normal cool stuff that happens in life as well as the piles of crap that occasionally hit the fan seem to happen way more frequently when traveling. Its like taking 10 years of little ups and downs and compressing them into one year. The density of it forces you to appreciate the ups and let the downs slide off your shoulders better than the average person. Like anyone else, travelers simply must move on without spending too much time dwelling on life’s little misfortunes, it just happens more often for travelers and we have no choice but to be efficient at it.

Travelers smile more

There are plenty of reasons to smile when traveling and in my experience, travelers smile a whole lot more than your average person and that’s a good thing.

Scientific studies (too lazy to cite any, so Google it for yourself if you need proof) have found that smiling is good for you and makes you view things more positively. A more positive outlook rubs off and often helps the average traveler navigate tricky social interactions. For example, whenever Jen and I need to bargain hard to avoid being overcharged or need someone to do something they might not want to do, we smile our way through it. It’s a simple tactic that is super effective at disarming people and helping you get what you want.

Smiling is an uplifting habit that changes your state of mind. You have to work at it sometimes and try to smile even when you don’t feel like it but the more you practice the easier it becomes. I’m sure you know a few people in your life who smile less and I’m willing to bet that they are generally a little more negative. They probably see things to be worse than they are and find interactions with others to be more difficult and less fulfilling. I can certainly think of a few people I know and at times, I can be one of them. It’s not always easy to put on a cheesy or even half hearted smile but it is incredibly effective at shutting out negativity, boosting your energy and improving your overall performance in life.


Traveling certainly isn’t the only way to be good at these things, and a host of others for that matter, but it is an effective way to practice life skills regularly. It’s important to keep that in mind when you find yourself job hunting at the end of your adventure as potential employers imagine your trip as a long vacation. You may not have been gainfully employed but that doesn’t mean you weren’t honing your skills and becoming a better person.

Think I’ve missed something or strongly disagree? Let me know!


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