Wisdom Gained From Traveling Around the World

Gary Arndt of the the Everything-Everywhere blog put up a nice post recently called All I really need to know I learned from traveling around the world. It’s a play on the bestselling book about the wisdom gained in kindergarten, with some great quotes on living simply, being observant, keeping your cool, and walking in others’ shoes. These are principles I tried to live by before I ever took a plane across an ocean, but being a long-term traveler sure honed them for me.

Word traveler + genius

I say in all seriousness that I gained more true knowledge in my first year-long trip around the world than I gained in four years of college. At a fraction of the price. It wasn’t just the life lessons and daily problem-solving practice. My brain also swelled with history that became more than dates and names, geography lessons that would stick with me instead of just remaining in my gray matter long enough to ace an exam. My most frustrating subject in university—macro economics—suddenly started making sense. I discovered the dark side of charities, the impact of microfinance, the perils of protectionism, and the challenges facing environmentalists. Every day I saw the false correlation between money and happiness. (Poverty sucks badly, but making enough to get by leads to a pretty decent life.)

One frequent fear you hear from Americans who’ve been brainwashed about the importance of a career path (usually by much older people who work in Human Relations or Recruiting) is the fear of a “gap in the resume.” Somehow, by taking a break from the treadmill for a few months or a year, you will be cast from the labor pool, never to return.

That’s bunk. For every person I’ve heard from who has struggled to get a good job upon returning, I”ve heard from a dozen who have either jumped right back in where they left off or have started doing something else they enjoy more. Then there are those who make their own career on the other side of the world somewhere instead—the old rat race started looking less attractive.

Part of it is timing, of course. It’s been tough to get a job the last two years in the U.S. and Europe no matter what. You would have been better off staying on the road. When things start improving, like they are in the U.S. right now, you won’t be at a disadvantage compared to the people who have been pounding the virtual pavement in a job search. They’ve got a gap too, but your gap is far more interesting.

Sure, you need to frame your experience the right way on your resume/c.v. after your travels and you’ll have better luck with a more open-minded hiring manager. But the truth is that what bosses want most are the skills that budget travel forces you to master: adaptability, problem-solving ability, creativity, the ability to learn a new task quickly, getting along well with others. Managers want people who can meet goals. They want people who aren’t lazy. They want people who can get from point A to point Z of a project without someone having to instruct them the whole way on how to get there.

When it comes to all these attributes, long-term travelers have the desk jockeys beat by a factor of 12. So when you return from your life-changing journey, you’ll probably know if you want to go back to the same field you were in or not. If you do want to, put on that nice suit you had custom made in Bangkok or Hoi An and stride into interviews with your newfound confidence and knowledge. That person on the other side of the desk wants someone like you, so don’t sell yourself short.

Everything you need to know you learned while traveling around the world.

  1. Austin Lehman Adventures

    Thank you so much for this blog post. Traveling after college does have those moments when I think maybe it is time to join “the rat race” but reading this reconfirms my idea that its ok to play another year or so before starting “real life.” I agree too. My masters in business taught me great concepts that could maybe one day cross my path, traveling taught me about real life, right now, on life’s terms. Loving every minute of it.

    • tim

      I’m leaving this comment up because I know this is a legit tour company, but all the more reason to use a real name and e-mail address. Letting it slide once…

  2. South America traveler

    I could not agree more. Traveling is not only a way to learn from another cultures and interact with the entire world but also is a really amazing way to expand your vision about the world and even make your mind and body stronger.

  3. Jeri

    I got back to the states last October after traveling around the world for 15 months. It took me four weeks to find a job, which was a little scary at the time, but I’ve got friends who have been out of work for six months or more and they’ve done pretty much nothing but look for a job that whole time. Depressing. Maybe I got lucky but I’ve got to think standing out from the pack and having good answers for those interview questions helped. Those ones like “What would you do if…” and “Tell me about a time when you were faced with a really difficult problem to solve.”

  4. Burbian

    There is truly no better education than to travel. Whether it be around the US or overseas. I have never been more intrigued or inspired than when I got to travel after college. If you have the means, and you have children, 13 or older I’d say, take your family SOMEWHERE ELSE, doesn’t matter, just not where you live. Adventure is just the trip, not the destination. True story. It can change your life.

  5. Mary fr

    Yes, it is true that while traveling you learn more than in university, because in this case the life is our lecturer :)

  6. Christine

    It is true, traveling teaches you so much. When I decided to move from Sydney to London, my eyes opened up to a whole new world. Great post!

  7. John Deniel

    It’s a great article . We are inspired of it

    There’s a family story that on my first trip abroad at the age of

    ten – to exotic Belgium, no less (I still recall the raw air and

    the excitement buzzing in my head as I stepped on to the coach

    outside my junior school one dark morning) – the headmaster

    wearily and somewhat incredulously informed my mother, as we all

    tumbled out of the bus on our return, that I hadn’t sat down all


  8. Shamis

    Traveling around the world is a experience of its own. It shows us that is so much to explore that what is right here in our country. It makes us learn and interact with other cultures which in return we get a better understanding of our world.

  9. Kristina Beckett

    It’s quite fantastic that you are able to travel around the world and capture all of this excitement. Your blog is above wonderful and I am pleased to hear some of your viewpoints. Especially your take on skills in the workforce. As a fourth year undergrad student, I’m constantly approached with the question, “why are you an International Studies major? What will that do for you? That’s not going to get you a job.”

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *