6 Life Lessons I've Learned from 6 Months of Travel

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

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This is the edited text version of Lois' talk about Life Lessons Learned While Traveling during St. Paul Pasig's World Tour Event for their Social Sciences Month celebration last October 28, 2011. Lois spoke to more than a thousand high school students ages 15-18 and shared how travel is the best learning experience she's ever had.


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Hi everyone, I'm Lois- and I'm a travelholic. I've been obsessed with travel since 2008. This year I went on a backpacking trip around 9 countries for 6 months with less than 100,000 budget along with friend and former colleague Chichi. Travel has taught me many life lessons including the 6 that I will share with you today:

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Lesson #1: Conquer your fears

Travel teaches you to conquer your fears. I'm not afraid of heights or public speaking. But there's one thing I'm deathly afraid of: DANCING! At age 5, I had decided to quit ballet school and taken up karate instead. So you can imagine that I did not have have the grace nor the confidence to bust a move. But travel taught me to conquer my big fear of dancing. How? Let's watch this video to know why:




Now let me invite all of you to conquer your fears by dancing with me!


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(Amazingly, all students stood up and danced the Americano including teachers and school staff! It was a high energy crowd and they continued to dance even after the music had stopped! What an amazing moment!)

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You face your fears every day when you're traveling. Imagine walking through alleys in a strange city where no one spoke English! And to top it off, the road signs are in a script that look like a jumble of worms! You constantly fear getting lost and having to rely on the kindness of strangers.

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Travel has taught me to conquer my fears and seize every waking moment as an opportunity. An opportunity to learn new things, to grow and mature and most of all to live my life to the fullest.

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Lesson #2 Impossible is Nothing

6 months, 9 countries with less than 100,000PHP. It seems impossible, doesn't it? But for 1 year, we prepared for the big trip by saving money, selling most of our stuff and planning our itinerary. Of all the tasks we had to do before the trip, the toughest was to tell our parents and ask for their blessing.

The sad part was that my dad had to find out from someone else about my travel plans. He was disappointed that he was among the last to know. I finally told him I had quit my job. That I was dead set on going on a long term backpacking trip and how passionate I was about travel. He calmly asked me: "Anak, allergic ka ba talaga sa trabaho? (Are you allergic to keeping a job?)  Aren't you afraid? What if something happens to you?"
I answered my dad: "I'm not afraid of something happening to me. I'm more afraid that nothing happens to me. Nothing magical or amazing or breathtaking. I'm more afraid of a life that's not well lived."
But it ended well when my dad just hugged me and told me he supported my decision and loved me very much.

A lot of people tell me: "You're so lucky you get to do what you love which is to travel. I could never do anything like that!" But I have to remind them that when you say that you can’t do something, what you really mean is: “I can’t because I’m not willing to take a risk or put in the necessary effort.”

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Lesson#3 Dream BIG

Our big trip to travel around Southeast Asia all started with a dream. Up until the moment we boarded that plane to our first country, we couldn't really believe we pulled it off! But we had the audacity to dream big and the perseverance to take small but consistent steps in achieving it.

Never allow your logical mind to talk you out of pursuing your dreams. Your dreams are YOURS. Trying is the only way to know if they are possible to achieve.

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Lesson#4 Create your own Experiences

Travel allowed us to experience the world with our own senses. Not through television, the internet or other people’s stories. We learned that the world is so much different from what the media leads us to believe. When we were in Myanmar, we didn't feel unsafe in a country that's ruled by a military junta. We didn't feel discriminated in Indonesia even when the news were saying that women travelers were sometimes harassed. In India, where you get the general idea that it's dirty and impoverished, there were so many fantastic sights that were worth traveling and coming back for.

And the best revelation? Contrary to what I believed, the Philippines is not 'same same' with the rest of Southeast Asia. Some landscapes may look familiar. But the culture, history and the ways of the people are so perceptibly unique that you can't mistake one for the other!

When you travel, invest in experiences rather than souvenirs. They cost almost nothing but their effect is much more lasting than a refrigerator magnet or a bottle of dead sea salts.

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Lesson #5 Become a Global Citizen

Travel exposes you to different cultures. When we were in Banmaw, Myanmar, we met 5 Burmese college girls while visiting a monastery. They invited us to have tea with them and we struck up a conversation. We asked them about their dreams- to finish college and live a 'simple life' and where they wanted to travel- Yangon, the country's former capital. Even though there was a language barrier, we shared stories of our lives, family and love. The surprising part was when they insisted on paying for our tea and snack! Their generosity was shocking because we knew they didn't have much.

What I realized from this experience is that people all over the world have the same basic needs and wants. It does not matter where we come from, what we look like, how we talk, or what we believe. Through traveling, I have learned that we are all different peas stemming from the same pod, often with similar hang-ups, aspirations, fears and desires.

We are more the same than we are different.

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Lesson #6 Represent your country

When you travel you're not just a random stranger. First and foremost, you are a FILIPINO. We are all ambassadors of the Philippines. What we say or do reflects back to our country.  So when we go out into world, let's make sure they get a good impression.

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38 sole trails

  1. and I just love the dance steps! I would want to explore and experience what you girls have suggested after all, life is too much too short to waste on the non-essentials! 

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  2. Exactly Dr. Wends! Life is too short indeed. Thanks for your comment. I know you will have many beautiful adventures coming up. Share ha :-)

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  3. love the last lesson - never fail to leave a good impression. =)

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  4. may you continue to inspire more people to conquer their fears and to go see the world... great post Lois :-)

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  5. go girl! <3 this is indeed very inspiring. i wish i have even half of your courage. kudos!

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  6. Thanks so much Chyng. I'm so glad we managed to be good ambassadors and were able to 'recruit' a handful of fellow travelers to come visit the Philippines.

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  7. Thanks so much Flip! That's exactly what I set out to do! Thanks for being one of our inspirations and for the support all throughout our journey.

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  8. I'm sure you have it in you Rain. It's just a matter of time ;-) Thanks for your kind comment.

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  9. Ang galing talaga! Good job, Lois! :D

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  10. Awww thanks means a lot coming from you Nina! Thanks for inspiring us even in the beginning.

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  11. pwede kayong maging life coach. nice job Lois!

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  12. way to go lois! nice lessons you shared to the students... and to us. thanks!

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  13. you caught me here... "I'm not afraid of something happening to me. I'm more afraid that
    nothing happens to me. Nothing magical or amazing or breathtaking. I'm
    more afraid of a life that's not well lived."

    great read! happy travelling! :)

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  14. Life coach talaga Dong? Hmmm.. bagong career ba? Sige mag iipon muna kami ng life experiences :-)

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  15. Appreciate that Calvin! Just sharing what we've learned because we feel so grateful for being able to have those experiences.

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  16. Thanks so much for reading this! Super emotional lang diva? 

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  17. Great piece, Lois! I don't think I can express how much you and Chichi have inspired me in the last few weeks. Thanks for sharing your travel stories with us and cheers to living BIG dreams! :D

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  18. Thanks for taking the time to write a thoughtful comment Alexa. We appreciate that so much. Glad we inspired you. Now go inspire someone else too! :-)

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  19. as usual, jaw-dropped sa success nyo. so proud of you.
    can't agree more, i like the post. sharing this on my page.

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  20. Pay it forward? I'm working on it. And also planning a big trip. Thanks, ladies! =)

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  21. Aaron Dave FranciscoNovember 17, 2011 at 8:09 PM

    This is nice. The post that I will keep as reference for my future travels. Thanks!

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  22. Nice naman talaga.

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  23. Sugarcanenomad RicaNovember 21, 2011 at 9:57 AM

    Lesson #6 Represent your country -- this is something most of us forget. I know  a few people who are just too "stuck" in their first world experience and they actually forget about where they come from when they travel and talk to the people. You girls are paying it forward :) Keep up the good work!

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  24. I like what you have said, "I have learned that we are all different peas stemming from the same pod, often with similar hang-ups, aspirations, fears and desires.
    Nice post it made me want to go on a backpacking trip too.

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  25. Thanks so much for believing in us James! And thanks for sharing this heartfelt post.

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  26. Thanks Kat. Glad to know you were inspired!

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  27. Thanks so much Aaron! I hope you share your travel learning with us!

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  28. Thanks Killerfiller! Glad to know you were inspired!

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  29. Awww thanks so much orangewit :)

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  30. Thanks a lot Rica for your kind comment Rica! That really means a lot to us. Hope to run into you again in the future! Keep up your good work with sugarcane nomads as well :)

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  31. Thanks Dawn! I'm so glad we've inspired you to go backpacking yourself! Do share your adventures and insights with us soon!

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  32. You had me at "I'm not afraid of something happening to me. I'm more afraid that nothing happens to me. Nothing magical or amazing or breathtaking. I'm more afraid of a life that's not well lived."

    So inspiring!!! Nakakahiya man pero I almost cried! That's how inspiring you are.

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  33. Very inspiring article and reflects the wonderful benefits of traveling! Being the accountant that I am, could I ask if the P100k budget was met?  And does it include everything (apart from opportunity cost i.e. lost earnings)

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  34. lesson #5 is unnecessary: global citizen? is that like citizen of the world? perhaps if this simply means knowing your place as a guest in these places you visit, and therefore you are the one who must adjust to their way of life, then fine. but if it approaches to some abstract entitlement that the world owes you just because you can afford to go places, ayayay...

    but i very much agree with lesson #6.

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  35. It is very easy to finding us as we are at your city or nearest places. Just remember us and we will cash your check very short period with a very low cost.

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