This is a guest article by Ana Maria Villanueva-Lykes.
Exploring what this beautiful world has to offer has taught me a lot of things, not just about how to rack up rewards points or how to travel with a toddler, but life lessons that I take with me wherever I go. Here are 5 of my lessons learned from miles traveled.
1. Assumptions can get you lost.
I used to be arrogant enough to believe that English is the universal language, assuming that non-English speaking countries would at least know some basic words. Armed with foolish naiveté, I went looking for the Old Quarter in Hanoi—1,000 year old streets offering everything from silk to silver. I hailed a taxi, confident that the driver would know where the Old Quarter was. He took me to the mall.
I wasn’t about to give up, venturing on foot and asking passersby for directions. Each time, I was met with the same quizzical stare. I was stumped. It never occurred to me that no one called Phố cổ Hà Nội the Old Quarter. I never made it to the old streets, but I did find a charming market and went home with a beautiful silk ao dai.
I always try to keep an open mind when I’m in a different environment. I’ve learned that my truth may not always be other people’s truth.
2. Delays can be a call for respite.
After a long and grueling flight to Honolulu from the States, we were dismayed to discover that our connecting flight to Guam was delayed. We still had a long way to go, but even when we finally arrived at the A.B. Won Pat International airport, we were told that our flight to Manila was also going to be delayed…for a day.
That night, we were booked at a 5-star hotel and slumbered sweetly in custom designed beds, making us feel like we were still flying 45,000 feet up in the air without the constricting seatbelts. In the morning, we woke up to the view of the ocean and treated to a lavish breakfast and a leisurely tour of the city. We haven’t gotten to our final destination yet, but our vacation had already begun.
An unexpected detour can be a reminder to stop and smell the roses. Things don’t always go as planned. And that’s okay too.
3. Giving things a chance.
The Marshall Islands is an island country often overlooked in the Pacific Ocean. The group of atolls doesn’t have any 5-star resorts or even a stable infrastructure to boast of. Many say that you have to be ready to “rough it” if you step on the islands. I did, and I was greatly rewarded. Although the atolls didn’t offer me a resort paradise, I got better accommodations: my own private lagoon. A country of 1,152 islands, the Marshal Islands has many of these little pockets of paradise minus the noise of commercialization.
You just have to look beyond the surface, and in my case, a dense forest that leads to a cemetery and beyond that, an uninhabited beach cove of powder white sand so pristine and quiet that you can almost hear the sea turtles sing.
I’ve learned to expect the unexpected and to give things a chance. The fear of the unknown can hold us back from some incredible blessings.
4. Travel is a love story.
That’s what a Spanish hippie once told me when I revealed that I was a travel writer. We had been sitting outside, looking at the waves ebbing on the edge of the Corn Island in the Caribbean. Watching the water sparkle like jewels under the sun, I agreed in silence, thinking how travel is about discovery, rediscovery, departures, and coming home. I thought about the pains involved with it and the rewards. Then I thought about how love is also a journey of joys and sacrifices, a trail of trials and triumphs and replied back, “love too, is a travel story.”
Through every mile covered, there is always a story waiting to be discovered with an open heart.
5. We are all as different as we are the same.
In Guam, one of my favorite dishes is called kilaguen, in South America, it’s ceviche. In the Philippines, it’s kilawin. Even Hawaii has its poke. There are many other variations in other countries. Each one is different by way of ingredients or preparation, but the idea is the same: raw fish cooked in acidic marinade.
I find that the whole concept of differences and similarities extends from taste to tradition. We may speak in different tongues, we may worship different gods, or no god at all, we may have different looks, but we all still speak the same language: the language of love, the language of need, the language of laughter. And that’s what makes our world beautiful, I think.
Our differences makes us want to go and see what’s out there, but in our similarities, we find home.
Ana Maria Villanueva-Lykes is an expert at getting lost—blissfully to a new experience or a strange world. And she has written about her experiences in over a thousand published articles and counting. A widely published writer, photographer, and editor in several countries, she learned the language of machines first before she ventured to master another language—the kind that worships words and worlds. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, a Master’s in Creative Writing, and a doctorate in potty training.