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In my final year of high school, I made it my goal to save up as much money as I could to travel to as many places as I could in 2019. I ended up saving up all the money I needed just from working at McDonald’s for a few months. I took a month to travel through Thailand in January and two months to travel through Europe in March and April. Those trips were life-changing and taught me so much about myself, the world and who I would like to be when I’m older. During my trips, I kept journals so I wouldn’t forget about all the incredible lessons I was learning. Today, I am going to share some of these life lessons with you. 

All strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet.

When I was traveling, I met some of the most wonderful, inspiring and hilarious people. I cherish each and every one of my relationships and still connect with them often. I was so surprised to have connected with people of all ages from all over the world. Whether traveling or not, sparking up a conversation with a stranger can lead to an amazing relationship and connection that you would’ve otherwise never experienced.

Watch every sunset you can

Whenever you have a chance to watch the sunset, take it. Sunsets have the magical ability to bring clarity, peace and gratitude into your life. We are always so busy and moving at such a fast pace within society, that if we took the time to just clear our mind and take in a sunset, we are able to see how beautiful life truly is.

Eat whatever you want to eat

I cannot stress this enough: we only have one life to live. I don’t know about you, but I do not want to be eating salads for the rest of my life. In foreign countries and in-home countries, try new foods, experience new tastes and experiment with food that you might consider disgusting. Also make sure to consume your favorite foods when you can because like I said, life is too short to pass up on foods that fuel our happiness.

Mind the gap

If you know, you know.

Go to every market you can

In Canada, I personally don’t often think of going to the market. However, during my trips, I was market obsessed. The environments, contrasting smells and the liveliness of different markets are so special. Markets are for the most part cheap, with awesome deals and incredibly tasty foods. My favorite market finds were banana roti (Thai pancakes), chocolate-covered strawberries and a $1 cute green Hawaiian crop top!

Always say yes to shows and entertainment

My favorite memory from Barcelona was a Flamenco show! It was a bit pricey but so incredibly worth it. The energy and passion the dancers put into the hour and a half long show was incredible. It was such an amazing experience that I wouldn’t change for the world. If you have the opportunity to go experience a unique performance, take it. Remember, memories over materials.

Watch your pockets

If you are in any touristy area, just make sure your valuable items are locked in a backpack or stuffed in your bra. I was pickpocketed on the street of Las Ramblas and caught the man in the act. I basically slapped his hand away and yelled at him. If he was successful, he would’ve gotten my mini camera, ID, credit card and some euros. Never walk and eat because you will be a major target without hands in your pocket!

Slow down and breathe often

Take in the views around you and just stop for a moment. My traveling partner, Indigo, and I would call these “breathing moments." We would just stop, take a few huge inhales and exhales, and really try and grasp the moment we were in. Life moves so incredibly fast, if you don’t take time to stop and appreciate it, it’ll be gone before you know it. Live for every single moment.

Happiness is best shared

I am an independent person sometimes but honestly, this lesson is so important. Celebrating big moments, adventures or daily activities with others is so much better than just celebrating alone. Don’t get me wrong, appreciating it yourself is just as important, however, seeing your friends or strangers smiling and being excited with or for you is such a fulfilling feeling.

Understand things will go wrong

As we all know I’m sure, life will throw some curveballs at you; this is bound to happen. I think it is important to understand that things will go wrong but instead of stressing or dwelling on the negatives too long, shift your thinking. I know it’s incredibly hard but trying to look at the benefits and how you will grow from this can ease the stress. Reassure yourself at that moment that everything happens for a reason and tomorrow is a new day.

Treat yourself every once in a while

I think it important now more than ever to realize this concept. We work ourselves so hard as that is what is considered normal today. It is important to take time and acknowledge the hard work you have done. Even just living is hard enough, reward yourself for that.

Go outside

Nature is one of the best things life has to offer. Go outside and experience as much as you can.

Embarrass yourself

Most of us are often always scared to embarrass ourselves in front of others. Again, life is way too short to focus on this. Most of the time, the people we are scared to be embarrassed in front of, we will most likely never encounter again. Why not just let go, be free, be wild and enjoy yourself?

Turn your phone off

I promise this is the last time I will stress this; LIFE IS SO SHORT. I am halfway to forty right now. In the blink of an eye, I will not be able to be in the so-called “best years of my life." So, it is imperative for our logged-on generation, to log off often. Look up, look around, have conversations, spend time doing the things you love and try new things.

Seek Discomfort

I have already written a whole other article on this concept alone so definitely go check that one out because this is probably the biggest life lesson I have ever learned. My favorite memories and moments from my trips and in life were when I stepped outside of my comfort zone. Our comfort zone restricts us from feeling new feelings, experiencing new experiences and living the life we deserve. Take time in your daily routine to step out of your comfort zone and experience the intense, positive emotions that come with it. Remember, on the other side of fear hides ultimate bliss.

I learned so many valuable lessons from my travels and experiences. However, that’s not to say I don’t learn new lessons every day here while in Canada. I cannot wait to get back to traveling once COVID-19 leaves us alone. Traveling has changed my life in so many ways and I cannot stress how important it is to travel and learn about the world and yourself. While we are still getting through this pandemic, I hope these lessons will inspire you in one way or another.

Maya Allen

Wilfrid Laurier '23

Maya is a third-year communications major and global studies minor. Her passions include traveling, helping others, staying active, cooking and Harry Styles.
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