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Four Lessons Learned From 4 Years of Solo Travel

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This month makes 4 years since I began solo traveling the world.

nathan aguilera

In these four years I’ve done some truly amazing things. I’ve visited nearly sixty countries (58 I think at last count) over four continents. I’ve crossed dozens of items off my bucket list, managed to maintain a serious long-term relationship for the first two and a half years of my travels, dove the best dive sites in the world, actually lived in both Thailand and Mexico, and met so many truly incredible people who do amazing things.

I’ve made really close friends I likely never would have crossed paths with had I not embarked on this crazy adventure.

The same month also marks my second anniversary of blogging. If you want to catch up on my thoughts after my first year of blogging, you can read that here. I’m sure I’ll be writing more about my second year soon(ish).

When I started to write this post I wanted to do 40 lessons from 4 years on the road. Or maybe 44 (you know, for the alliteration).

I was certain I’d at least learned 10 or 11 lessons for each year I’ve solo traveled the world.

But the more I thought about it and the more time I spend on the road, the more I realize that I’ve learned the same lessons over and over.

Maybe I’ve learned more than 4, but let’s leave it at 4 (for the alliteration).

1. We’re all more alike than we are different.

Different colors, different religions, different languages. Some people eat things others think are weird. But these are all surface differences. When you remove this top layer, I’ve discovered that people are mostly the same. We work, we have friends and family, we have things we’re interested in and passionate about.

The more I travel the more it seems to me that viewed as a collective whole (when you’re looking at an entire society), we tend to look very different, the differences are more pronounced. But, when you take the time to get to know someone one-on-one, you see that there are actually more similarities than there are differences.

Also, it doesn’t matter where you visit — babies, food and music are all universally adored.

“All anyone truly wants is good food and drink and someone to share it with.” – random unattributed quote I found on the internet

Nathan Aguilera

Also, from a DNA perspective, you’re literally 1% different (at most) from the furtherest stranger in a country you’ve never heard of that you’ll never meet. So, point 1 is completely accurate because science.

2. We’re all just out here trying to make it. 

Families, jobs, friends, commitments, school, deadlines, trying to date. On and on and on. Everyone has relationship drama, families they love and care about, and close friends that mean the world to them.

My friends back home in Oklahoma City are having many of the the same issues as my friends in Kenya, Thailand, Italy and everywhere else I’ve been

Almost everyone I’ve met is out there doing their best, trying to do better, trying to do right by their family and friends, trying to get ahead and making the most of what they’ve got, whether it’s a little or a lot.

Trite, I know. Both these first two lessons are cliché and Pollyanna to the point of being reductive. But I swear, the more I travel, the more I see them.

I reflected a bit more on these two lessons in a guest post on my friend Amanda’s site. It’s a bit different than most of the writing I do on my own site, but it’s also a style I’m considering shifting toward. Here’s that post if you’d like to check it out. I’d love to know what you think of this style of writing.

3. The more I learn, the less I know. 

I’ve been fortunate to spend a lot of time learning about different cultures, places and people. From volunteering to work with orphans in Kenya, trekking the mountains of Nepal, visiting the mosques of Turkey, to exploring the temples of Myanmar – all of these were profound learning experiences.

Nathan Aguilera

But, the more I learn, the more I realize I don’t actually know that much at all.

And that’s okay.

Whether it’s things I thought I knew about the world, different cultures and people, or even myself – I’m constantly reminded that I don’t know much at all.

As long as you still want to learn and keep an open mind, I think admitting how little you actually know is okay, healthy even.

It’s much better than thinking you know everything.

4. For now, this is right for me. 

I get asked all the time — “when will you quit traveling? or “how long do you plan to keep this up?”

The answer? I don’t know. I have no idea.

I do know that, for now, this is what I should be doing. Many think travel is scary or uncertain, but I feel like I’m actually pretty good at it (I have, after all, had a lot of practice). It’s what I know at this point. And, for the most part, I enjoy it.

I like the freedom to be able to work on the road and go where I like. I can’t picture myself back in an office anytime soon.

When I go home to visit all of my friends, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit jealous of them. They all have nice houses and nice cars. They’ve each made big leaps in their professions.

nathan aguilera

But none of that is for me, not at the moment anyway. I’ll never rule that life out completely, but I’m not the least bit into the idea right now.

It reminds me of a quote I heard once:

“What we lack in pay, we make up for in lifestyle.” 

This quote has always stuck with me, always rung true.

The career and mortgage will always be waiting for me if I ever feel so inclined. I know how to find it.

For the time being, I have no plans of stopping traveling.

I’m already making (rough) plans for this summer in Europe, crossing off a list of things I have to see or do (and eat) before I leave Mexico.

I’m looking forward to see where this next year on the road takes me, both personally and professionally. And I’m very grateful and supportive to all of you that follow along, chime in, offer suggestions and encouragement, and motivate me to keep going.

I hope to meet as many of you as possible so always feel free to reach out, either here or on social media, if you see I’ll be in your area.


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