How Travel Has Changed My Life

When I was eighteen years old, I had been saving for several years and finally strapped on my backpack and departed on an around the world flight. It changed me in an irreparable way because I have barely been able to stay in one place since that time. And the more I do, the more I desire. This post is a guest post by Melissa Jennewein explaining how travel has changed her life for the better. Thank-you for sharing Melissa.

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The Ways that Travel has Changed My Life

Travel will change you. It will change you in subtle ways, and it will change you in dramatic ways. Sometimes it will change you in ways that you don’t fully recognize or even comprehend in the moment, but after some time on the road, you will start to notice these things that seem to magically appear into your reality. After reflecting on two years of backpacking solo through over 25 countries, I realized that travel has indeed changed my life in so many ways, and for this article, I have compiled a list of the Top 10 ways in which travel has challenged and therefore changed my life.

Losing my consumer “must have” things attitude.

Before I started backpacking around the world, I owned many things. I had a lovely flat in Los Angeles, California, that was filled with art, furniture, clothes, electronics, and many useless knick knacks. After donating all of these “things”, and living a life with just the bare minimum needed to survive, my perspective on consumerism changed and I began to see what really mattered in life, and no surprise here – it was never those “things”.

Learned to communicate in new ways.

I have always enjoyed language as it is through this that we, as humans, are able to communicate and share with each other. When I left for my travels, I only spoke English fluently and un poco Espanol. After spending some time in Europe I can now speak conversationally in 3 other languages and have learned the art of playing charades (which I always loved) and sign language which can be quite useful when you meet someone that does not share the same language. This has been a fun and often humorous way to meet more of our fellow humans on this planet and I have learned to enjoy every moment of it.

‘Scary’ places no longer scare me.

Coming from a military family where my father fought in many foreign wars, and with all of the news about terrorists, during my travels I decided to visit some of these places to form my own opinion. What I discovered is that yes, many cultures and traditions are much different than my own, but they are in no way like what I have been conditioned to believe they were. My experience was quite the opposite actually. I lived with several culturally diverse families and even though many of their traditions did not mesh with my own, I learned to appreciate the differences and gain a new perspective of the culture and these places and the people no longer frighten me.

Learning to sail a boat.

I have always wanted to experience the freedom of sailing and letting the wind take you in the direction that it pleases, and during my travels I had the opportunity to do just that. On a 52 foot catamaran, I learned how to tack and jibe, tie various knots, read GPS and wind charts, and to be comfortable being in silence for extended periods of time. Sailing taught me patience, it taught me calmness, and it taught me to quite literally “go with the flow” which are lessons that automatically bring peace to my soul and I am grateful for.

The Vegetarian Diet.

Before I started traveling, I would eat just about anything which for me was a good thing because when you are venturing into new territory, you are also venturing into new foods. However, it was during my travels through North Africa where I witnessed the mis-treatment of animals used for food first hand. It was this direct experience that led me to change my mind, and my diet. I started a vegetarian diet and am enjoying all the lovely fruits and vegetables without the guilt of supporting the mistreatment of animals that can surely be found in most flesh factories and on some farms.

Growing my own food.

When I was in Bavaria (southern Germany), I volunteered on a farm for some time with an amazing family who taught me all about permaculture. It was hard work, but when it came time to enjoy the fruits of my labor, I really enjoyed the food much more and have found a deeper appreciation for it and the earth which sustained it. Not only that, but I have found a sense of freedom in knowing that I can provide nutrients for myself and know for sure that they are organic, and chemical/genetic modification free.

Building alternative living and sustainable shelters.

Learning how to build yurts in Germany, tree houses in France, and earth ships in Guatemala have been incredible experiences for me. Building shelters that are in harmony with the planet and creating them from the ground up has opened up my imagination to so many possibilities for the future of how we might one day live with the earth, instead of destroying it every chance we get. Using natural, found materials as well as recycling old tires, bottles and cans, plastic containers and more, I learned how to create amazing structures that made me feel more connected with the earth and shelters that I actually enjoyed being in for extended periods of time. These new structures gave me the sense of living with the environment instead of being separately contained from it and packaged neatly in a box.

Free from media influence.

I imagine that anyone who has traveled extensively knows this one all too well. Being free from the influence of television and creating your own experience of life daily is absolutely the best way to live in my opinion. I am no longer controlled by advertising and agenda driven news that is created to keep me separate from myself, but rather I am in tune with what moves my heart and soul, and to me, this is true freedom. Being present in the moment and free to decide what experience I would like to have next is more exciting to me than what the latest fashion is, what Miley Cyrus is up to, or what America thinks about whose voice is the best (or the worst).

Learned to appreciate all people.

Before travelling, I had many opinions about what people were like in the world – mostly from stories I had heard, or from programs on television. Sadly, I must admit that not all of my opinions were even close to correct. I have learned that there all kinds of people from all kinds of places, and that there are people with good and bad intentions everywhere. I have learned to appreciate all people in the world based on their actions, and not on a stereotype that usually is not true to begin with.

Met a spiritual guru who showed me the matrix.

This is quite possibly the one thing that changed my life more than all of the others during my travels thus far. I met a guru who I ended up spending roughly a year with, travelling between Europe and the North Africa Sahara; a man who showed me a path to see the matrix that we live in. I saw how experiences can either paralyze or propel people. I learned how to break through my own unique limitations and integrate past experiences into my system to create limitless possibilities. I began to see patterns and behaviors in myself and others that were both destructive and creative, and learned how to elevate myself to a higher state of consciousness and thought which in itself is priceless.

It is through travel that I was able to have a better understanding of myself, this planet, and other people and beings. I was able to create my own reality and see what moved me, what inspired me, and what kept me going. Traveling is the best education that you can invest in, and I hope that this list has inspired you to go out and find what it is that you love. I’ll leave you with this disclaimer though – it may not at all be what you thought it might have been before. So go out and enjoy this ride we call life!

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melissa jennewein

About the Author

Melissa started her solo backpack trip around the world in 2012 after a series of traumatic events fueled her desire to live her life to the fullest. A former preschool teacher and administrator, Melissa loves to design programs to teach children how to see their full potential, chase their dreams, and harness the power that resides in each and every one of them. She is a writer, dancer, dreamer, designer, editor, and adventurer who has traveled to over 25 countries with just a backpack, her macbook and camera, and a desire to gain a global education. Being so completely inspired by what she has found and continues to find, she started writing and sharing these experiences with the world on her blog It is her hope that in doing so she would encourage others to chase their dreams not matter how impossible they may seem to be. Melissa believes that we are all magnificent creators and dreams of a day when the world falls gracefully into balance and harmony. You can follow her on: Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, or YouTube.

By | 2014-05-15T08:08:31+00:00 May 9th, 2014|Thoughts and Inspiration|3 Comments


  1. Alessandro 28/06/2014 at 11:58 - Reply

    I just found your blog and I’m glad to say that it’s just amazing. You have a such nice way to share your experiences and a lot of useful advices also. A question I have which maybe you can help me is: do you know any channel I could use to connect to other people doing that kind of trip (especially across Europe)?


    • Jamie 28/06/2014 at 14:27 - Reply

      The forums on Couch Surfing seem to be the best thing I have ever used to find like minded travel people. I’m glad you like the site.

      • Alessandro 28/06/2014 at 14:55 - Reply

        Thank you, Jamie.

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