12 Life Lessons Learned in 12 Years on the Road

12 Life Lessons Learned in 12 Years on the Road

The journey is the reward.

For the past twelve years, since I entered college, I’ve been on the road – traveling (business and pleasure), studying, living in different cities, working for different companies (and myself), and meeting remarkable and unusual people everywhere in between.

Today I want to share twelve life lessons I’ve learned along the way.

  1. Everyone has the same basic wants and needs. – When you get to know people with different ethnic backgrounds, from different cities and countries, who live at various socioeconomic levels, you begin to realize that everyone basically wants the same things.  They want validation, love, happiness, fulfillment and hopes for a better future.  The way they pursue these desires is where things branch off, but the fundamentals are the same.  You can relate to almost everyone everywhere if you look past the superficial facades that divide us.
  2. What you do every day is what’s most important. – The difference between who you are and who you want to be, is what you do. You don’t have to be great to get started, but you do have to get started to be great.  Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.  Remember, people seldom do things to the best of their ability; they do things to the best of their willingness.  Follow your heart, and do something every day that your future self will thank you for.
  3. You can’t always be agreeable.  – That’s how people take advantage of you.  You have to set boundaries.  Don’t ever change just to impress someone.  Change because it makes you a better person and leads you to a better future.  Being your true self is the most effective formula for happiness and success there is.  Sometimes you need to step outside, get some air, and remind yourself of who you are and what you want to be.  And sometimes you just have to do your own thing your own way, no matter what anyone else thinks or says about you.  Read The Magic of Thinking Big.
  4. You’re not perfect, but you’re great at being you. – You might not be the most beautiful, the strongest, or the most talented person in the world, but that’s okay.  Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not.  You’re great at being you.  You might not be proud of all the things you’ve done in the past, but that’s okay too.  The past is not today.  Be proud of who you are, how you’ve grown, and what you’ve learned along the way.
  5. You DON’T want perfect people in your life. – Even though you probably sometimes get confused, you don’t really want your friends and lovers to be perfect.  What you do want is people you can trust, who treat you right – people you can act silly with, who love being around you as much as you love being around them.  It’s about finding people who know about your mistakes and weaknesses and stand by your side when others walk away.
  6. Life is change.  You must embrace it. – Everything in life is temporary.  So if things are good, enjoy it.  It won’t last forever.  If things are bad, don’t worry because it won’t last forever either.  Just because life isn’t easy right now, doesn’t mean you can’t laugh.  Just because something is bothering you, doesn’t mean you can’t smile.  Always focus on the positives in your life.  You have a lot to look forward to.  Every moment gives you a new beginning and a new ending.  You get a second chance, every second.  And don’t forget, just because something doesn’t last forever, doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth your while.  Read The Power of Now.
  7. Your scars are symbols of your growth. – Don’t ever be ashamed of the scars life has left you with.  A scar means the hurt is over and the wound is closed. It means you conquered the pain, learned a lesson, grew stronger, and moved on.  A scar is the tattoo of a triumph to be proud of.
  8. The truth is always the best choice. – Respect and trust are two of the easiest things in life to lose and the hardest to get back.  Never make a big decision when you’re angry, and never make a big promise when you’re overjoyed.  Never mess with someone’s feelings just because you’re unsure of yours.  Always be open and honest.
  9. It’s the small, free things that matter most in life. – It’s nice to have money and the things that money can buy, but it’s also important to make sure you haven’t lost track of the things that money can’t buy.  Maturity is not when you start speaking and thinking about the big things, it’s when you start understanding and appreciating the small things.  Read The Happiness Project.
  10. Everyone’s story is more complicated than it seems. – Every passing face on the street represents a story every bit as compelling and complicated as yours.  It’s not always the tears that measure a person’s pain, sometimes it’s the smile they fake.  Not all scars show.  Not all wounds heal by themselves.  You usually can’t see the pain that someone feels.  Don’t judge a person negatively for their past or feelings without a full understanding of their situation.  Just because you don’t agree based on what you see, doesn’t mean you’re right.  And don’t be so quick to point out the flaws in other people’s lives when you are not willing to look at the flaws in your own life.
  11. Giving up and moving on are two different things. – There is a difference between giving up and knowing when you have had enough.  It doesn’t make sense to hold onto something that’s no longer there.  Accepting what is, letting go, and moving on are skills that you must learn when facing the realities of life.  Some relationships and situations just can’t be fixed.  If you try to force them back together, things will only get worse.  Holding on is being brave, but letting go and moving on is often what makes us stronger.
  12. You are not alone in being alone. – To lose sleep worrying about a friend.  To have trouble picking yourself up after someone lets you down.  To feel like less because someone didn’t love you enough to stay.  To be afraid to try something new for fear you’ll fail.  None of this means you’re dysfunctional or crazy.  It just means you’re human, and that you need a little time to right yourself.  You are not alone.  No matter how embarrassed or pathetic you feel about your own situation, there are others out there experiencing the same emotions.  When you hear yourself say, “I am all alone,” it is your mind trying to sell you a lie.  There’s always someone who can relate to you.  Perhaps you can’t talk to them right now, but they’re out there.

And remember, sometimes a break from your routine is the very thing you need.  Sometimes you need to take a step back to see things clearly.  Traveling is one of the best ways I know to remain psychologically grounded.  If you’ve been stuck in an emotional rut for awhile, without any positive change, perhaps it’s time to take a short hiatus – get out of town for a few days, experience something new, and stimulate your mind.

Photo by: Matthew


  1. says

    This post has a particularly profound edge to it. An extra splash of realism, maybe?

    My favorite is #2 and the first line: “The difference between who you are and who you want to be, is what you do.” It’s such an easy one to overlook–one that seems too simple to be effective, and yet, it’s really the one thing to remember: each little action builds on the last one. XO

  2. says

    I’m fairly new to the world of traveling. However, what you wrote in here makes perfect sense. The best takeaway point from here is that you’re not alone.

    I spent many nights in hostels, buses, trains, and planes, where I felt I was all alone. All it took for me was to look at the person a few rows and I quickly noticed that others were alone too.

    Life on the road is amazing– both the ups and the downs. I’m a strong believer of the classic St. Augustine quote about how the world is a book and those that don’t travel, never get off the first page.

  3. Hamzah says

    Absolutely true…all of them. Point no. 3 struck me like a bolt. Never change your stand to agree on something (which contradict your principles) just to please your business partners. It turned to be a costly mistake.

  4. Nio says

    I connect with this post even more so than some of your other recent material. Thank you for the life lessons.

  5. says

    Beautiful way to start my Monday. Every lesson discussed is inspiring and true. Have you ever posted about loss, especially loss of a child or a friend who died too young? I often think about children who pass of cancer at too young an age or a friend of mine who died in her 40’s after a two year fight with cancer. I would love some enlightenment in how to deal with this, perhaps in a future post.

    Again, thank you as always.

  6. says

    Wonderful post! Thank you so much. I only discovered your site a couple of weeks ago but I am truly, truly appreciating what you have shared and are sharing. There is an honesty and straightforwardness about it that I REALLY appreciate.

    Bravo, and keep it up!


  7. Vinod says

    As usual great post… realistic, inspirational, and some of the tips are quite practical. (looking forward to the next weeks post) Tkanks.

  8. Leon (South Africa) says

    As always, inspiring! I took 6 months off work and traveled to South America, did a CELTA course and learnt to speak Spanish. It is so wonderful to embrace life again!

    Thank you guys for this motivating reminder!

  9. Miranda says

    Beautiful post. Thank you for posting something meaningful and useful that everyone can relate to. I loved #12- I always lose sleep worrying about something or another and its nice to read that I do that because I am human. I also understand that I am not alone. I just wish that there was a way we could all find those people out there experiencing the same emotions- but that would be just to wonderful of a world! Thank you never the less, things just fell into place today. I always print out your emails and place them all over my desk at work. Its simply inspiring and encouraging.

  10. says

    Hi, just when I felt at my lowest (a long term relationship ended) with a man I loved with my every fibre. I would have done anything for him, and in turn, compromised all of my beliefs, my morals, many things, but it was toxic, and I finally ended it several months ago. I am grieving mostly the person I became, weak, needy, co-dependent, I lost my soul and endured months of pain in an effort to begin my healing. Well, today I am so much healthier again, and found your site at a very good time in my life. I love all you write, and I thank you for the strength your writings give me, and also a reminder to stay on the path to wellness. I have been “single” for almost one year now, and love myself again, and have become a better person for my lifes painful lessons. I am proud of me. I look forward to your next email.

  11. kim Sanderson says

    Every time you write something new and I receive one of your email updates I forward it to my daughter, my son and his gf. We now regularly discuss these as a family when we get together. The other day I was out with my daughter and in her purse she carries the “questions” you posted a few weeks ago. She has photocopied them and has them on a ring in her purse! As a family, we greatly enjoy your insights. Thanks

  12. says

    Great post. And that’s true that you can’t always be agreeable. If everyone in the world likes you, you are probably doing something wrong. =)

  13. says

    “giving up and moving on….”

    I think it’s serendipity that I came across this on the day I questioned myself for the 100th time whether or not I should remain in a job that I no longer love.

    Thank you.

  14. MichelleK says

    Love reading your posts every week! A friend forwarded me your website when I was going through a tough time last year, now regularly I find myself sitting on your site for a few hours (!) a week. Love your work! xx

  15. CW says

    This helped me so much! I almost didn’t go to work today…I spent this weekend crying about an idiot who basically made me feel like I wasn’t good enough so he chose “Allison” instead. You guys are so on point…I’m not alone…I’m stronger for moving on. I’m glad I went to work…I was feeling so lost but by lunch time I was smiling and laughing.

  16. Christine says

    I loved this post (I love all of them, but this one has spurred me to actually send in a comment)! I’ve spent most of my adult life overseas and plan on returning soon. This blog was beautiful and so true on how to get the most out of life outside our comfort zones in traveling as well as day to day life. Thank you.

  17. Nijaz M says

    Thank you for all the practical knowledge you provide in your articles. I am using it and I am seeing a valuable return in my life.

  18. prachi says

    Thanks. Right now I am going through a tough phase that’s leaving me feeling a bit lost, and I can relate to most of the things that you have discussed here. Thanks a ton. Needed it.

  19. says

    Great advice! I especially identify with #3–you definitely can’t be agreeable all the time. I always seem to be the voice of dissent in my circle! :-)

  20. neo says

    As someone in their early 40’s who has done a great deal of traveling and soul searching over the past decade, I connect wholeheartedly with almost everything you have said here.

  21. says

    These are great tips from my perspective and are filled with wisdom. I used to justify judging others because I was so hard on myself. Ugh! Talk about self-punishment! I choose now to see everyone in the light of the present moment. No judgements at all, although I still catch myself judging, at least by being aware I can release it immediately.

    I have been feeling like a trip would be good. I think I’ll start planning one now. Thanks

  22. Lynnette says

    Awesome blog! Thank you=) I just shared some of your advice to my facebook friends =) I will be a regular visitor on your blog from now on =)

  23. Shraddha says

    I’m so glad to have stumbled upon your website. It inspires me everyday and I try to share it with as many people as possible, at the same time practicing what I’ve imbibed here.

    Your website makes me feel happily in charge of my life and fully responsible for what I do with it. Can’t thank you enough. Please visit India!

  24. believer says

    Whenever I’m lost, I come here to your blog and it helps me get onto the right path again. Thank you so much!

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