No matter who you ask, everyone will say that extensive travel will change you. How? What exactly changes? Some of the ways you change after a long trip are immense and indescribable and you can’t put them into words. But sometimes the ways you change are tangible and noticeable and are things that impact your day-to-day actions. Traveling has changed me in a million ways—some of them monumental, some of them much smaller. Here are 13 little ways travel changed my life!

As of 2012 I couldn't remember which was the Balkans and which was the Baltics... // Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina

As of 2012 I couldn’t remember which one was the Balkans and which was the Baltics… // Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina

1. I am a lot better at world geography

Simply put, I know where a lot more countries are. I have a much better grasp of the (relative) sizes of countries and distances between cities (especially in Europe). If I don’t know where a place is, I will look it up immediately.

St. Petersburg // Russia

St. Petersburg // Russia

2. I care a LOT more about current world news

Stemming from my trip to Russia in June 2014, after protests in Ukraine and the annexation of the Crimea by Russia, I check world news everyday. I have an improved understanding of diplomatic relations between countries, what’s going on where, who is the leader of which country and who they’re currently arguing with, which country has elections coming up, and—most importantly—how any and all current events might affect travel to the region.

lake-bled-slovenia.jpg

Lake Bled // Slovenia

3. I can’t sleep in a house alone

During my year studying abroad in Nottingham, I slept in a room with 3 other girls and in a flat with 11 other people total. I stayed in hostel dorms almost the entire year, minus my visit to family friends in Sweden, a B&B in Portsmouth over Christmas Break, and somehow (magically), a single hotel room in London over Christmas. Ever since then, I seriously struggle to sleep in a large empty house when I know it’s just me there. I lived with 5 girlfriends my senior year of college, and I would never be able to fall asleep unless I knew that at least one other person was home. It’s just an eerie feeling now. It’s too quiet and too empty after hostels.

Hanging out by myself in Portugal! // Cabo da Roca, Portugal

Hanging out by myself in Portugal! // Cabo da Roca, Portugal

4. I’m comfortable in public alone

I used to be worried about going places and things by myself. I simply don’t have that problem anymore. I went to lectures and shows on campus (after my study abroad) that I probably wouldn’t have gone to earlier, since I didn’t have anyone to go with. I’m no longer embarrassed to go places alone. It’s wonderfully freeing.

maja-gibraltar-cliff-africa.jpg

Gibraltar

5. No more toxic people

Travel changes your perspective in so many ways. But one of the best things travel has changed about me is that I learned to let go of the toxic people in my life. It wasn’t always easy, but sometimes you just can’t put effort into friendships and relationships when you get nothing back. Or all you get back is drama and stress and anxiety. As Oprah once said, “surround yourself only by people who will lift you higher.”

foreign-money.jpg

6. I’m much better at budgeting and handling money

I was pretty good with money before I started traveling. I’ve always been frugal and I’ve always been a saver (not a spender). But I am absolutely unstoppable now! I budget trips better. I’m far more aware of where my money goes, and how much I should be working/saving in order to make a trip happen. I try to minimize my essential expenses. I spent $23 on non-essential expenses in October 2015! I come up with little ways to save. I have improved greatly with money now that I travel. I save as much money as possible to travel as much as possible!

london-union-jack-england.jpg

London // England

7. I can talk to people I don’t know

This is possibly one of the most important points on this list: prior to my first independent trip with my best friend in 2011, I really struggled with talking to people, making new friends, basic social conversations, etc. I’ll never forget watching a show at the Royal Shakespeare Theater in Stratford-Upon-Avon and talking to a lovely couple from Liverpool—not about anything important, but just casually talking. It was life changing. Now I can walk into a hostel common room and make friends with just about anyone! I am no longer so extremely shy (although I’m still definitely an introvert) and I can be very outgoing and social when I feel like it—even when I don’t know anyone! The things solo travel can do to you!

Flying over Victoria Falls in a microlight // Zambia

Flying over Victoria Falls in a microlight // Zambia

8. I’m far more confident

Traveling has made me believe that I can do anything. I am so much more empowered, independent, and confident now than I was before I started traveling—especially after my solo travels. I say yes. Yes to lots of things I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing before! Making your own decisions (and following through with them), getting outside of your comfort zone, standing on your own two feet, all of it has changed the very core and essence of my being. I am simply not the person I was a few years ago because of my experiences traveling.

maja-szechenyi-baths-budapest-hungary.jpg

Szechenyi Thermal Baths // Budapest, Hungary

9. I don’t really wear makeup anymore

There was some point during my year studying abroad (I think around Christmas Break) that I just gave up wearing makeup everyday. I’ve never worn much makeup—I’ve never even owned foundation—but I’d always wear a little mascara and usually eyeshadow. But one day I was just too tired and it was too early and I didn’t care, so I just didn’t wear it. Gradually over the next few months, no-makeup became the norm, and wearing makeup was something I did when I wanted to look fancy, feel special, and have fun. I feel beautiful in my own skin and I love that. To me, that’s empowering (although of course if you feel most beautiful in makeup, more power to you!). Also similar, I wash my hair and shave a whole lot less now. Not that I don’t shower everyday! But my hair gets washed every 3 or 4 days (instead of every other day), and I’ll go a week or two (or three) without shaving my legs. For some reference, in high school I used to shave my legs every other day. Even in winter. I don’t know why.

badlands-road-south-dakota.jpg

Badlands National Park // South Dakota, USA

10. I can go with the flow

I have sometimes been put into circumstances I can’t control outside of my comfort zone while traveling (surprise surprise!). As a notorious planner, it is hard for me to just go with the flow and not have a plan. After so many occasions where I have no control over what’s going on (see: getting sick in Russia), I have started to learn how to go with the flow and make things up as I go along. It’s not easy (and it’s something I’m still working on), but it’s a big difference.

montenegro-roads.jpg

Somewhere in Montenegro

11. I’m a much better (safer) driver

I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been on the winding roads in Montenegro where I thought I would fall over the cliff and die, or because tickets (and accidents) are expensive, but I am a better, safer, more cautious driver now than I was even a year ago.

maja-kotor-fortress-montenegro.jpg

This picture took like 5 minutes of heavy breathing before I could actually take it… // Kotor, Montenegro

maja-grand-canyon.jpg

…As did this picture… // Grand Canyon National Park, USA

12. I realized I am actually kind of really scared of heights

It hasn’t been really until about a year ago that I discovered that I’m scared of heights. It had never been much of a problem before. But I get very scared/nervous/panicky now. The pictures that I take usually involve 1-5 minutes of coaxing before I can get there. I attribute a lot of this to when I was the only person visiting Pembroke Castle in Wales, and I slipped on a staircase in a tower and would have broken everything if I hadn’t managed to grab a rope/railing on the side. And no one would have found me for hours, since I was the only one there. Or maybe it’s just been naturally increasing for years. Either way, I don’t like heights.

maja-north-shore-lake-superior-minnesota.jpg

Lake Superior // Minnesota, USA

maja-minnehaha-falls-minneapolis-minnesota.jpg

Minnehaha Falls, Minneapolis // Minnesota, USA

13. I love and appreciate my home (Minnesota) so much more

It’s true what they say: absence makes the heart grow fonder. I have fallen so much more in love with my home, Minneapolis, than I ever thought possible. I appreciate Minnesota and the Midwest and America to a much greater degree now than I did before I traveled. Minneapolis is truly unique, and everyday I am so grateful that this is where I got to grow up. After traveling, I will never take advantage of being in my beautiful hometown ever again!

Over to you! What ways (small or big) has travel changed your life?