How Travel Made Me a Better Person

Brooke in Arizona
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It’s never easy to admit your flaws, let alone shine a light on them for the entire interwebs to see…. But I dare say that with each of these confessions, there would be at least one other person (presumably oodles of people) who can say the same or something similar for themselves. Maybe not? Regardless, here goes nothing…

Before I travelled overseas a decade ago I was a very sheltered, privileged Westerner living in the ‘exotic’ country of Australia. NB: it’s not quite as exotic if you live there, as is the case for anyone in their home country. While I have previously written on how I self-fund my travel escapades, I know the importance of recognising not everyone can have such fortunate circumstances – but I strongly believe that our fate is not determined by our circumstances we inherit, but those which we create for ourselves.

Before travelling the world solo I was afraid to eat food I hadn’t prepared myself, I would dread boarding a plane thinking I would become claustrophobic, and I was convinced I would die unhappy and alone if I didn’t constantly have a boyfriend. I’ve been single for over a year now and just quietly it has been great.

It wasn’t until this year of solo travel at the budding age of 22 that I realised just how much travel has changed me, my lifestyle, and how travel made me a better person. I’ll be completely honest by saying that I’m slightly ashamed to admit some of my former characteristics, but in the spirit of full disclosure here’s how travel has made me a better person…

Brooke Saward founder and editor

I learned the Importance of Independence

At some stage in your 20’s (perhaps slightly earlier) you’re bound to feel the inevitable desire to leave the nest. But that little voice inside of us screaming “run while you can!” is often negated by a more responsible voice reciting “responsibilities”. Responsibilities – a job, car loan, family, etc. are a fact of life. But when you do go, you soon realise that everything you left behind is there as soon as you come back, often unchanged. But we have changed. Travel is the most direct way of throwing yourself in the deep end and realising what life would be like if you had no one to rely on. Touch wood your life doesn’t come to this, but if it does, you know you’re prepared. You know you can go it alone.

Before setting off on my year of solo travel, I must confess, I was anything but independent. I lived at home with my parents, had a superwoman mother who would zip in and out of my room like a cleaning fairy and a dad who would move mountains if I asked him to. If I hadn’t left home when I did, I could have happily stayed there forever… but it was time. I needed to leave the nest.

I love when things go wrong

I’ve always blamed my zodiac sign as an explanation for why I am always so organised, prepared, and inherently writing lists. Truth is I don’t really believe in zodiac signs. I find them interesting, but I don’t believe in astrology. But for whatever reason it is, I have always liked to have my days, hours and minutes planned. I don’t like to waste time and I hate it when things go wrong — at least I did. Travel has taught me to embrace change, marvel in the unexpected, and take every chance of adventure I get. Just the other day I went to the airport a day early than the flight I had booked with nowhere to stay that evening, no way of calling anyone (I had no one to call anyway), and no local currency. The sales staff at the airport were laughing at my calmness and I laughed with them. It was nothing a night inside the airport couldn’t fix and a lot of blogging hours later.

I stopped being frightened of food

Before travel I would describe myself as having fallen victim to orthorexia. I was scared to eat anything I didn’t know the nutritional content of – not just counting calories but also watching my protein intake vs. carbohydrates, saturated fats, and constantly making mathematic schemes in my mind for how to subtract and additions with exercise later. I was a mess.

Brooke Saward Skydive

I got out of my comfort zone and became a thrill seeker

Jumping out of a plane over the desert? Sure. Bungy jumping off the highest bungy in the world? No Problem. Bike riding the deadliest road in the world? I still can’t believe I did that. Before travel I was scared of the unknown. I was fearful of anything that held a potential risk because I always lived by the notion that I was too young to die – so why risk it. But after traveling the world and trying so many things I NEVER would have before, I can now say I know what it’s like to feel alive.

I became confident in my own skin

I’ve never been an introvert or someone who is inherently shy, but I’ve also had my fair share of body issues / unhappiness with my appearance / always trying this and that to look like the depiction of beauty I had in my mind (often influenced by magazines and what is on tv). Somehow, somewhere along the way, I gave up caring. I didn’t actually realise this until I was one day looking through old photos from home and I realised how different I looked – I was much thinner, wore far too much makeup, had dyed my hair to jet black, and wore a very cautious smile. I was sitting there on the other wise of the world – unwashed hair, no make-up, no care in the world, and I hadn’t yet realised I had become confident in my own skin. Hah! The things travel does to you without you even realising…

I learned tolerance, patience, and an understanding nature

If there’s one thing I think everyone will take away from travel it’s to be a more patient and tolerant person. After waiting hours in line to climb the Eiffel tower, trying not to flinch as people in Asia skinned animals in front of me, patiently trying to speak with people in hand gestures on one too many occasions and many more instances, I have inherently become a much more patient and understanding person in the process.


I don’t waste a second of my day

When it’s time to wake up, I’m up. Within minutes I’m dressed and out the door – ready for a day of exploring my new destination. Before travel I was a person who would gladly spend an extra hour in bed on my phone or laptop – browsing the interwebs in search of meaningless information. But now my priority is to see and do as much as I can without waiting around for the world to come to me. I don’t take the time to do my hair and make up every day, because for me that is ‘dead time’ – I don’t gain anything from it. I simply go out, seize the day, and come back in the evening to tell the tales on my blog.

I actively seek new friendships

Before travel I was very comfortable with what I had – particularly the friends and family I had around me. I have always had a very good close circle of friends who I could rely on, so I have never seen the need to go and find new ones (friends that is, my family are pretty stuck with me). But after traveling the world and meeting so many new people wherever I go, I’ve learned to seek new friendships even if they are essentially ticking time bombs as I know they’ll only be around for a few days or a week at best. But one of these days when I stop for a minute I’m going to realise I have thousands of friends in nearly every country around the world – and that’s pretty darn special if you ask me.

I realised what is most important to me: Being in Control of my Own Life

Being in control of your life and your own happiness is one of the most freeing feelings in the world. Right now I choose the hours I work, choose the days I have off (which are none, but its nice to have the luxury of choice), choose where I call home (even if its temporary) and choose virtually every aspect of my life. As a full time travel blogger, I’m living my dream – travelling the world full time. No complaints here!


 I know Who I am, I Like Who I am, and I am Happy

For some reason there’s a stigma against being happy with yourself. I’m not buying it. When you finally reach that point in life where you are happy with yourself, your outlook on life, your way of living, and the people you have around you, it’s as if no one can take it away from you. Sure, I still have days where I’m not as happy as others – that’s human – but generally speaking I’m happy with who I am, what I believe in, and how my life is running its course. Of course I don’t want to be single and a nomad forever, but for right now I’m heading in the right direction.


Happy travels!

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    September 29, 2014 at 11:02 pm

    Such an encouraging post. You’ve done everything I’m not yet brave enough to try (or finance…). Very nice to see how you’ve progressed!! I still hold hope that I’ll be able to do the same one day. Thanks for sharing.

    September 29, 2014 at 10:48 pm

    This is a beautifully written post! I firmly believe that travel expands our understanding of the world if we just let it. You have obviously embraced new experiences and cultures and you will carry the richness and the lessons with you for the rest of your life.
    Enjoy the rest of your travels!

  • Coluna da Primogênita: Viajar é… | words of leisure
    September 29, 2014 at 8:01 am

    […] – O blog World of Wanderlust é um dos mais interessantes que conheço sobre viagens. A Brooke Saward é uma menina (22 aninhos!) australiana que tirou um ano de sua vida para viajar sozinha ao redor do mundo. No seu blog, ela compartilha essa experiência incrível. E nesse texto, ela fala o que ela percebe que mudou depois de começar a viajar (o texto é inglês): How Travel Made Me a Better Person.  […]

    September 25, 2014 at 4:54 am

    I totally agree with you on all those points, I went travelling when I was 22 and it totally changed my point of view on things.

    I’m gutted I can’t meet you on 28th, just wish you were staying a bit longer or coming to Bristol (hint hint)!

    Best of luck with your new plans and your place in Berlin 🙂

    Jess x

    September 23, 2014 at 7:35 pm

    This is an amazing blogpost. Thank you Brooke, you are so inspiring!

    Dan @ WanderlustDan
    September 21, 2014 at 1:52 am

    Your personal posts are ALWAYS super inspiring, Brooke. Keep it up girl!!

    September 20, 2014 at 8:16 pm

    I haven’t travelled as much as you but what I have done has taught me a lot to appreciate life and the people we have in it. I love to experience other ways of living and push myself out of my comfort zone. I never thought that I could camp in Venice during a huge thunderstorm or share a room with 10 other people I don’t know but I did 🙂
    Love your honesty!

    September 20, 2014 at 6:10 pm

    Spot on, I feel the exact same way!!

    20 year old traveller with a thirst for adventure

    Kim Cohen
    September 20, 2014 at 5:59 pm

    Hey Brooke,
    I’m so sorry your Bolivia trip didn’t go as planned, I travel solo all the time and it’s shocking to me to read your post on you not making it to the salt desert which is such a big dream of mine to do this year, but I’m happy I read your post, i’ll plan better thanks to you.

    On the up side of things, there is bloggers challenge award right now, for bloggers to post there Top 5 Favorite Destination by, they are randomly picking someone to win a brand new iphone 6 just for posting your 5 Top Destinations to go back to, I nominated your blog! DO IT! Would love to hear your top 5 locations! Safe travels

    September 20, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    Reading these all seem very similar to what my husband and I have learned this past year. We got married a few months ago and moved to London and have been traveling over Europe. You truly do learn so much about each other and yourself! (Especially when things go wrong!!)


    Luc @ Skeeter and Scout
    September 20, 2014 at 2:09 pm

    Good on you girl. Definitely some inspiring words

    L x

    September 20, 2014 at 11:55 am

    I relate to so much of this post! Although I haven’t traveled the world like you, my move to a city three states away from “home” forced me into many of the same changes. Lovely post 🙂


    Portia Large
    September 20, 2014 at 9:45 am

    I’m inspired. The more I read your blog the more I realize it is my time to travel, to let go of expectations, life ideas and fear. Thank you for giving me the push I need to consider traveling solo!

    September 20, 2014 at 2:08 am

    I’m glad that traveling has changed your life! It definitely always develops people for the better.

    September 20, 2014 at 1:37 am

    Man I want to travel now! I need to start living every moment; when it’s time to get up I need to get going! thank you for this post! Very Inspirational.

    Marie Away
    September 20, 2014 at 12:37 am

    There is definitely a certain stigma against being happy with yourself. It’s seen as being normal to constantly be working towards something rather than to appreciate where you are in the moment (not that working toward something is a bad thing!). At times I still feel like I can’t tell people that I am happy where I am, without roots or certainty about the future, because I might disrupt their image that they are more put together since they are married, with a house and a baby.

    Thanks for your post, you inspired me to feel more confident in admitting that I am happy!

    September 20, 2014 at 12:07 am

    This sounds wonderful! I can relate to many points, but especially to “seek new friendships”. I got a bit bored and tired of Uni last year and when I came back home from my travels, I knew I had to switch gears up a bit and start actively looking for new friends. It’s not that I am shy – I am a very extroverted person and I find it easy to talk to strangers – but I turned rather passive and lazy in finding new friends.
    It’s always great to experience a new side of yourself while traveling and learning something from it. 🙂 really like your post!

    September 19, 2014 at 9:34 pm

    Wow. I really need to travel a lot more like you, so that I can improve myself like you did.

    Best holiday destinations
    September 19, 2014 at 7:30 pm

    Nice pics .Thanks for posting nice blog.

    September 19, 2014 at 7:27 pm

    You and I are very alike… especially in terms of not wasting a second of the day when travelling. Whenever I travel with my boyfriend, he always complains that I never let him sleep… but sleep is for the weak, too much to explore…

    that last shot is so adorable!

    Alex, Backpacking Brunette
    September 19, 2014 at 7:00 pm

    Brooke, this post definitely hit home with me…”But when you do go, you soon realise that everything you left behind is there as soon as you come back, often unchanged. But we have changed.” Those are exactly the words I needed to hear. Thank you for sharing such an intimate post.

    September 19, 2014 at 5:47 pm

    What a fantastic post 🙂 You write so beautifully! I can relate to majority of your previous ‘flaws’. I hate these flaws in myself right now… but you’ve made me realise that I can, and hopefully will, overcome them!
    I am embarking on my first solo trip at the end of this year (17 y.o. Aussie gal) and I am so darn excited I can hardly contain myself!! haha
    At one point I have to change planes 6 times in 30 hours and although I am pretty familiar with airports in general… do you have any tips for a young solo chick navigating through all this?
    Thanks so much Brooke – stay excellent <3

    zaby @ Zaby's Perspective
    September 19, 2014 at 5:11 pm

    i love how you are able to get out of your comfort zone. that is very interesting

    September 19, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    Awesome post Brooke! Thank you for sharing! It’s amazing to see how travel can change a person, and make them much happier. I think (I know) I need to go somewhere: I have a lot of things I need to change about myself! 😉
    By the way, I am glad that you enjoyed the bike ride down the deadliest road and are safe – You are so brave! Congratulations! :)x

    September 19, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    You have written an excellent peace again 🙂 I feel exactly the same way…

    September 19, 2014 at 4:11 pm

    Love it how traveling can change you! great article

    September 19, 2014 at 3:54 pm

    I’ve learned a few of these things myself from traveling, especially being happy with who you are. While I was traveling, I didn’t necessarily care about my outfits, my hair or the way I looked. The second I came home I was immediately conscious of my lack of fancy clothes and great hairdos. I guess sometimes it just takes getting away from it all to get a better perspective. Thanks for this piece!

    September 19, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    I love these, and relate to so many of them. Travel really is such a positive learning experience!

    September 19, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    With every little to big trip I’ve taken in my life, I’ve felt I grew a little bit each time. I truly believe that you can only be happy in life if you’re happy with yourself first. It’s a different kind of independence you get when you travel. Great article.

    September 19, 2014 at 2:42 pm

    What a lovely, wise young woman you are. I hope many, many others your age will be inspired by this post to make braver choices.

    Nick Galluzzo
    September 19, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    Brooke, this is spot on. Since traveling and teaching abroad I’ve made very similar realizations.

    I used to be scared of traveling solo – how would I get by? Make friends? When you’re traveling, everything just comes together. There is no better way to learn about who you really are.

    I’ve really enjoyed following your blog the last few months. Keep it up!

    Nick Galluzzo

    Liz B. @ Umami Life
    September 19, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    I really enjoyed this post! It definitely spoke to my own experiences as a traveler, especially the tendency to actively seek out new friendships. Sometimes in the day-to-day grind, it’s easy to gloss over the many hard-working, ambitious, wildly diverse people are out there making it happen. In my last trip (to Seoul!) I met a couple where one party worked a Yale fellowship in China but was actually studying to be a rabbi; the other person worked for a crazy cool start-up. How fascinating is that?! Thanks for blogging! – a clean eating bento blog.

    Sky Envy
    September 19, 2014 at 12:04 pm

    Great post Brooke! You really do learn a lot with traveling which makes you a better person. Sometimes we think the world is too small if we only stay in one place. Traveling gives you a better perspective of the world and how you are as a person. You not only learn and experience other culture, you learn to adapt, be independent and also be thankful of what you already have. You get that ‘first hand experience’ that you see in TV or read in books. Thanks for sharing.