What Things Can You Learn Only through Traveling?

There are some things you simply have to do yourself to appreciate. Reading about ice skating beneath the Eiffel Tower will never be an adequate substitute for the bitterly cold smell of Seine and roasted chestnuts wafting past your frozen nose while your skates bump and jostle over ice that has seen too many tourists and too few Zamboni runs. But it doesn’t matter because you’re in freakin’ Paris!

World traveler Clayton Cornell recently posted on HuffPo his top 20 things he learned from traveling around the world. Here are the first five (abridged).

#1) Most of the world’s people are friendly and decent.

Except for the French.

Some stereotypes really hold up, but on average, most of the people I’ve met around the world are extremely polite, friendly and helpful. They are generally interested in why I chose to visit their home. They are eager to assist if it’s obvious I’m lost or in trouble. They’ll go out of their way to try to make sure I have a good stay in their country. And, contrary to what most Americans tend to think (see #3 below), they often don’t know much about the United States (or necessarily care).

#2) Most places are as safe (or safer) than home.

I remember confessing to my mother recently that I had a big night out in Budapest and stumbled back to my apartment at dawn. Her reaction was: “But don’t you worry about being drunk in a foreign country?”

Ha ha, not at all mom! I’ve never felt so safe!

The only place I’ve been violently mugged was in my home city of San Francisco. Many of the people I know there have been robbed at gunpoint, and on more than one occasion there were shootings in my neighborhood.

In one incident just a block away from my apartment (Dolores Park), a man was shot five times and somehow escaped, only to collapse about 10 meters from our front door. You can still see the blood stains on the sidewalk.

#3) Most people don’t know (or care) what America is doing.

I think the whole America vs. the rest of the world debate has been summed up perfectly in this post:

=> 10 Things Americans Don’t Know About America

I couldn’t have said it better:

Despite the occasional eye-rolling, and complete inability to understand why anyone would vote for George W. Bush, people from other countries don’t hate us either. In fact — and I know this is a really sobering realization for us — most people in the world don’t really think about us or care about us.

I’ve met people that didn’t even know that San Francisco (or California even) had a coastline (now there’s a sobering conversation for you. So much for thinking that’s the center of the world eh?).

One thing is true: Americans are not well represented on the travel circuit. It just doesn’t seem to be culturally important to us, unlike say, the Australians, who never go home.

#4) You can travel long-term for the price of rent and a round of drinks back home

My favorite question from friends at home has been: “how the hell are you still traveling?” Well, for what you spent at lunch I can live on for a whole day in Indonesia. That’s all there is to it.

– Monthly rent for a shared apartment in San Francisco could be: $1,100 per person.
– My average monthly expenditure during the last year of travel: $1,200 / month*.

That’s $40 / day, and includes some ridiculous and totally auxiliary expenses. For example:

  • 10 days of Scuba diving in Utila, Honduras – $330
  • Kitesurfing gear rental in Mancora, Peru – $100 for two days
  • Flight to Easter Island (50 percent subsidized by my dad) – $400
  • Acquisition of 4 Surfboards, + Repairs and Accessories over the year – $750
  • Purchasing a bunch of gear, like a new netbook ($380), wetsuit ($175), boardshorts ($55), camping gear ($100), a SteriPen water purifier ($125), summer sleeping bag ($55)
  • Riding the NaviMag Ferry through the lake district of Chilean Patagonia from Coyaiquhe to Puerto Montt ($200).
  • Taking a total of seven nearly cross-continental flights (like Brussels=>Greece) during my four months in Europe.

#5) Saving for a big trip is not as hard as you think.

Most people think I’m rich because I’ve been traveling for a year. What they don’t realize is that, although I didn’t leave at the time (this was five years ago), I was able to save enough money for this trip within a year and a half of graduating college.

My first salaried job paid $29,000 per year — not exactly ballin’ by U.S. college-grad standards. But by pretty ruthless budgeting , I was able to save $1,000 a month for the 15 months I worked there.

Guess what? That’s $15,000 or 12.5 months of travel at $1,200 per month.

Are there sacrifices to be made? Of course. But it’s worth it.

 For his complete, unabridged list, please click on the link above.