6 Things I Learned About Myself After Travelling for 6 Weeks

September 23, 2014


As you guys know, I’ve been all over the map recently. I spent a week in Victoria, drove to Edmonton and back, spent nearly two weeks in Toronto, went on a road trip to Portland, flew to New Orleans for a conference, and took a secret trip to see that old someone special in between it all. Every city has surprised me, given me new memories and filled my stomach with delicious food. As of very early Monday morning, however, I’m finally home in Vancouver for a few weeks and it feels so good to be here.

Part of me feels like I should take some time to just be at home and further reflect on everything I’ve done over the past few weeks. I’ve visited with old and dear friends, moved Baby Bro to another province, watched people get married, followed my own heart (then felt it break), done some public speaking, been inspired by others and made new friends. To do it all, I’ve been on 2 ferries, 11 planes, driven for 60+ hours and taken countless cab rides. A lot has happened in a relatively short period of time! Fortunately, I took note of certain lessons I was learning along the way, so I was able to write most of this post on my long/final flight home. (And thanks to Mr. Money Mustache‘s advice at FinCon, I slept on it and edited it the next day.)

Here are 6 things I learned about myself/my life after travelling for 6 weeks:

1. I don’t know where I want to live forever. If you remember how many times I’ve moved, and how many different cities I’ve lived in the past few years, you probably think I’m crazy for saying that – but it’s true. The more I travel, the more I see how other people live and the more I fall in love with new cities. There’s a part of me that has always assumed I’d end up back in Victoria (my hometown) one day, at least whenever I had kids – but who knows when that’ll be, or if it’ll happen at all. (And even if I have them, there’s still nothing saying that life will take me there.) I like my life in Vancouver, right now, but I’m not sold on the idea that it’s where I will live forever. Who knows where I’ll finally “settle”. I’m guessing that finding a partner and building a life with them will be part of what shapes the answer to that question. But I know I’m always open to change, which is both scary and exciting.

2. I don’t need a lot of stuff to be happy or to feel “at home”. I’ve learned this lesson a few times before, starting with when I moved to Toronto with just a hockey bag full of belongings (how Canadian, eh?). With each trip I go on, I find myself back in that situation of only being able to bring enough contents to fill a small suitcase. I believe that living out of a bag for so many days, weeks, and months has largely influenced how I feel about all the “things” in my home, and is what eventually made it so easy for me to do a massive declutter/purge of my belongings. I don’t need a lot of stuff to be happy or to feel “at home” – even in a foreign city. If I have a bed to sleep in, access to water and food, some clothing, a tool to communicate with (phone or laptop), a journal to write in and at least one book, I am happy. If I’m in the company of at least one family member or friend, I feel at home.

3. Conversation is my favourite way to connect with people – and that’s a bit of a contradiction. As a writer, I obviously feel like I can communicate more clearly through the written word. Writing gives me both time and the opportunity to self-edit, so I can analyze my choice of words rather than ramble on and say the wrong thing. I also love to read, which I’ve said more than a few times here before. However, I’m most inspired by the conversations I have with people – those one-on-one interactions, where we can ask a million questions, dump everything that’s been on our minds out onto the table, and share insights and ideas. I don’t mind texting, but I love calling people and talking on the phone. Want to Skype or chat on Google Hangout? Even better. And if we’re in the same city, I am going to ask you to meet me for coffee or a hike! The more long distance relationships I develop (and when you travel, it ends up being most of them), the more I treasure the conversations I get to have with people. (Plus, it’s usually just nice to hear someone’s voice.)

4. I have an amazing family and group of friends. I didn’t need to travel around for 6 weeks to learn this lesson, but it is a realization that I came to and felt during dozens of moments throughout my trips. As I said above, I feel like the majority of my relationships are maintained via long distance now. Yes, I have friends in Vancouver, but the people I’m closest to live all over North America – from Victoria to P.E.I. in Canada, and scattered between San Francisco and New York in the U.S. (Sometimes I daydream about going on a crazy road trip to see you all!) Over the years, I’ve learned how important it is to check-in with everyone I love, in order to maintain those relationships. During this past trip to New Orleans, however, I finally realized just how lucky I am that everyone supports my crazy travelling lifestyle. Instead of making me feel guilty for always being on the go (which I don’t think will last forever), my family and friends support me by asking “Where to next!?” and making time to see me when I’m in their city. Thank you for giving me that room and freedom to grow. <3

5. I have changed (and am continually changing) my life for the better. On the day I travelled home from FinCon last year, I had a panic attack. I can still remember how scared I was, sitting on the MetroLink riding to Lambert Airport, dripping in sweat, choking back tears and trying to breathe. When it finally got to my stop, I rushed off, dropped my bags and just sobbed. (I also texted Clare for help.) It was the most emotionally and physically draining experience I’ve ever had, but it was also extremely eye-opening. One year later, I can’t imagine going through something similar – not just because I don’t want to experience that again, but because I have dramatically shifted the way I live and work, since then. I eat better, work smarter, sleep longer and workout more frequently. I listen to my body, trust my gut instinct and do what feels best. Overall, I’m just taking better care of myself, and am continually trying to improve my habits and my life. (Thanks, panic attack!?)

6. Wherever I go, there I am. The more new places I travel to, and the further I push myself out of my comfort zone, the more I realize: there’s no getting away from myself or whatever situation I’m in. Some of this goes back to learning how to live in the present moment. As I’ve learned from David, there is no other moment you could possibly be in, so you might as well take in the experience. I didn’t realize I’d learned this lesson until the day I took a few wrong turns, got lost in a new city and found I was, surprisingly, not stressed out about it. There were also the two times I nearly missed my connecting flights, but knew I had no control over what would happen and could catch other flights later. And then there were all the unknowns that come with each day you’re in a new city/outside of your normal routine. I’ve learned how to take each moment as it comes, so I can be more flexible. There’s no point worrying about things that haven’t happened yet. You just have to embrace what you’re given; play the cards you’re dealt. Aside from that, though, this lesson also serves as a reminder that I can’t use trips as a way to run from my problems. I’d never felt like I had done that before, until partway through New Orleans (which was booked long before my breakup, but still). For the first two days, I held my sadness in and told myself the trip would make me feel better. On Friday, I finally realized that I just had to feel everything I was feeling, even if it meant staying in bed and missing out on a few things. I removed the guilt/fear of missing out and just took the afternoon to be alone/be sad. And you know what? I haven’t shed a tear since. You can’t go on a trip and expect it to make you feel better, if you’re unhappy; it can help you grow, but you’ll still just be you in a new environment. So, no matter where you go, you’re going to have to deal with what you may be running from, eventually.

What are some personal lessons travelling has taught you?

  • Charlotte September 23, 2014 at 4:32 am

    Such wise words, Cait. I love how introspective these points are yet they’re all somehow universal. Thinking about you after your breakup, that’s never easy. That said, it sounds like you’re on a really wonderful path moving forward and I’m sure that being home and settling back into a routine again will help.
    PS It was so great meeting you when you were in Toronto! xo

    • Cait Flanders September 24, 2014 at 7:20 am

      Being at home is helping immensely, Charlotte – thank you! And it was great to finally meet you too. Hope you’re having a good week!

  • debs @ debt debs September 23, 2014 at 5:23 am

    Great reflection and sounds like you had a good time at NOLA (Though sorry to hear about the breakup that had you down). I’m inspired by your minimalism journey. It’s so much easier when it’s just you. I’m there in my head, but need to put it into action. Also more difficult due to others in the household are not quite there yet.

    • Cait Flanders September 24, 2014 at 7:22 am

      Yes, I’m starting to see that you’re probably right about it being easier for me because I’m single – the physical aspect of it, anyway. But I still think you have control over your internal thought processes. So, keep being inspired and let that work it’s way into you. :)

  • Bet Crooks September 23, 2014 at 5:28 am

    “Sometimes I get this crazy dream
    And I just take off in my car
    But you can travel on ten thousand miles
    And still stay where you are.” Harry Chapin

    Hug your friends a little closer and hold on. Better things must be coming.

    • Cait Flanders September 24, 2014 at 7:23 am

      Thanks, Bet. I’m sure they are on their way.

  • Aleksandra Sagan September 23, 2014 at 5:47 am

    After high school, I spent the next six, seven years moving between Toronto-England-Vancouver and I feel like I learned a ton about myself thanks to moving nearly once a year during that time.

    I always joke how I can easily fit my life into two suitcases, and I like it that way.

    But, I do have to say, after years of constant moving, it’s been nice to get back to Toronto now and not know the next time I’m going to move again. I’m up for it if the right opportunity comes along, but I’m just enjoying some stability now.

    • Cait Flanders September 24, 2014 at 7:24 am

      And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that! I think I’ll be in Vancouver for a few more years, for sure… and I’m happy to be here. It just doesn’t feel like my forever home, you know?

  • Addison @ Cashville Skyline September 23, 2014 at 7:35 am

    It was so cool to meet you at FinCon, Cait! As a frequent traveler, I can really relate to these six things you’ve learned. Learning about oneself is an ongoing process, but an important one. I have also made several major lifestyle changes over the past year and I’m so much better for it! Living in the moment is worth it. Kudos to you for making yourself a priority :)

    • Cait Flanders September 24, 2014 at 7:25 am

      I loved meeting you too, lady! As made evident by my weird email, haha.

  • Kayla @ Shoeaholicnomore September 23, 2014 at 8:06 am

    Great reflections. You have learned so much about yourself, its amazing! Loved reading your thoughts and lessons so far.

    • Cait Flanders September 24, 2014 at 7:25 am

      Thanks, Kayla. I guess I should get back to talking about money now, eh? ;)

  • Kasey September 23, 2014 at 9:55 am

    Great post, Cait! (and so timely). This is my favourite part: “this lesson also serves as a reminder that I can’t use trips as a way to run from my problems” (and something I need to remember more).

    • Cait Flanders September 24, 2014 at 7:27 am

      I got your back, friend. See you Sunday for a walk/more chats about this. :)

  • Dayle September 23, 2014 at 10:48 am

    I have never been a major traveller… maybe 1-2 trips per year, nothing overly far (yet) and have never travelled for work.

    That being said, on my recent trip to Boston my boyfriend’s flight got cancelled so I ended up spending the 4 days/3 nights there by myself. I was surprised at how fast the time went by and how much fun I still managed to have.

    I learned that I have grown/matured a lot over the past 10 years. At 20 years old I would have most definitely freaked and tried to come home. My 20’s have taught me how very independant I am, and how important it is for me to have my alone time. This trip just highlighted it.

    • Cait Flanders September 24, 2014 at 7:33 am

      I love that, Dayle! You truly are one of the most independent people I know, and I know that just based on the conversations we’ve shared. But I love that a solo trip helped you see it for yourself. :)

      (Also, at 20, I probably would’ve tried to come home too.)

  • kelly September 23, 2014 at 10:55 am

    love ur blog and great words of wisdom…thank you

    • Cait Flanders September 24, 2014 at 7:33 am

      Thanks for reading, Kelly. :)

  • Nadia September 23, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    Awesome insights!

    It’s been awhile since I took a trip that wasn’t to see family. I love my family but a vacation that is just a vacation would be cool. Hoping that the boyfriend and I can take a fun trip next year.

    • Cait Flanders September 24, 2014 at 7:34 am

      Make it a priority, Nadia! You’ll never regret it. :)

  • NZ Muse September 23, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    That I am stronger than I ever thought.

    That I DO know where home is.

    That food is the hardest thing to leave behind about travel.

    • Cait Flanders September 24, 2014 at 7:34 am

      Ha, amen to the last one. Thanks for sharing, lady.

  • Jessica Moorhouse September 23, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    This FinCon trip definitely taught me a thing or two. The main lesson being how much I’m really starting to feel like Toronto is home (not just a temporary place I’m staying at for a bit). Still miss Vancouver, but man was I so excited to see that CN Tower when my plane was descending.

    • Cait Flanders September 24, 2014 at 7:35 am

      What a great feeling that must’ve been, Jess! I felt the same when I saw my car. Ok, that’s not quite the same thing, lol.

  • catherine September 23, 2014 at 6:43 pm

    I so wish I could have attended FinCon, maybe next year. I know in my heart Halifax is home but nothing against my child I wish we had taken the leap before she was born to move somewhere else even for a few years.

    I also love to chat and you better believe if you’re ever in the Martimes you have a blogger friend or two (Jordann) to look up in Halifax!

    • Cait Flanders September 24, 2014 at 7:36 am

      It’s on my list! I’d love to see you guys in your element + visit my good friend in P.E.I. But then I’d also have to go up to Newfoundland… and really, just see the whole East Coast. One day! Until then, we could always Skype?

  • Erin @ Journey to Saving September 23, 2014 at 7:26 pm

    I loved reading your thoughts on what traveling has taught you! I’m not well-traveled at all, so it was interesting. I have a long way to go, as I tend to freak out a little when things don’t go according to plan on a trip. I’ve been making an effort to go with the flow, as there really isn’t any use in worrying about things out of our control. I am 100% with you on not knowing where I want to live, and that’s mainly why I want to travel around! There are so many fantastic cities out there, it’s hard to choose.

    • Cait Flanders September 24, 2014 at 7:45 am

      I remember that feeling (freaking out when things didn’t go as planned) very well, Erin. The slightest change used to upset me. But the more trips you go on, the easier it gets… Mine and Carrie’s #1 tip is to EAT the second you feel hungry! Hanger is a real thing, and that’s what causes both of us to get upset on trips. Also, I’ve never given much thought to living in the U.S., but you guys seriously do have SO many fantastic cities to choose from. The more I travel around down there, the more jealous I get. Canadians are limited to a few big cities, and I don’t know that I’m sold on any of them. ;)

  • Leanne September 24, 2014 at 2:43 am

    Cait we’ve been saying it FOREVER but we really should Skype sometime soon! Thinking of you xx

    • Cait Flanders September 24, 2014 at 7:45 am

      YES, please! I’ll email you right now. xx

  • Travis @Debtchronicles September 24, 2014 at 5:26 am

    These are some important lessons to learn in a short period of time, my friend. For me, I have to have roots. I need to have an anchor shoved deep into the ground to feel secure in whatever I do. I can dash away for a bit and do something (like fincon, or a vacation, or travel for work), but eventually I need to return to my anchor and feel “secure” again. Crazy introverts, huh? :)

    • Cait Flanders September 24, 2014 at 7:46 am

      Not crazy at all! I have that feeling too, and my place right now is definitely my anchor. I just wish I felt like I could dig down and push it in a little further, ya know? I’m not quite there yet. :)

  • Kassandra @ More Than Just Money September 24, 2014 at 7:22 am

    Traveling helps to challenge my thoughts and expand my curiosity. For a long time, I thought Montreal would be my final home but as it turns out, love played the ultimate role in getting me to move to NY. I also know that NY is not our forever place so it’ll be interesting to see where we end up next.
    FinCon was revealing for me in a lot of ways so I’m glad this year’s experience for ended on a much better note than in 2013 and despite working through the pain of a break-up. You seem to be in a very good place overall in life at the moment so continue to savour it.

    • Cait Flanders September 24, 2014 at 7:48 am

      Thanks, Kassandra. I can’t deny that I’m feeling pretty good these days – despite the sad day, in there. Any thoughts on where you’d end up next? :)

      Also, HOW did we not meet at FinCon!?

      • Kassandra @ More Than Just Money September 24, 2014 at 12:34 pm

        I definitely want to live in a lower COL area so that rules out my dream state of California but a girl can hope.
        I have NO idea and I never saw you either! Let’s make it a point to rectify this at FinCon in 2015 or sooner if either us visits the other’s home turf :)

        • Cait Flanders September 25, 2014 at 7:15 am


  • Carrie Smith September 24, 2014 at 10:46 am

    It was SO nice getting to hang out (and room) with you for a few days while in New Orleans! I miss your laugh and the calm personality you have that keeps me grounded. I love the lessons you’ve learned these past few weeks of traveling (and man have you done a lot of it).

    One of the biggest things that traveling has taught me, is enjoying the trip home. I never get tired of climbing into my own bed, or my own bathtub. The best part about going away is coming home!

    • Cait Flanders September 25, 2014 at 7:11 am

      That also means you’ve built a good life for yourself, my friend – one that you are happy to go home to. This made me smile. Miss you so much!

  • K @ One More BROKE TWENTY-SOMETHING September 24, 2014 at 12:18 pm

    I love traveling alone. I think it allows me the chance to disconnect from life and other stressors and just focus on being where I am in the moment and getting from place to place!

    • Cait Flanders September 25, 2014 at 7:13 am

      I hadn’t thought about it that way – that you’re disconnecting from regular life, but throwing yourself into a new one where you can just live in the moment. It’s always nice to hear from others who like to travel alone. :)

  • Savannah September 24, 2014 at 12:27 pm


    This was such a great post. Breakups are hard, but you’re strong and independent. I love to travel, but I love to go home to my roots.
    Also, next time you’re in Edmonton I definitely want to take you to Credo for coffee, sooo delicious.

    • Cait Flanders September 25, 2014 at 7:14 am

      Mmm, yes please! Someone recommended it to me, but I didn’t make it there. I’m sure I’ll go back sometime in 2015. Will miss Baby Bro too much, otherwise. :)

  • M@PennyThots September 25, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    These are great things that I learn when I travel too. It seems that every time I travel, there is something new that I learn about myself. It is one the reasons that I do chose to travel.

    • Cait Flanders September 27, 2014 at 6:46 am

      There’s always something new to learn about yourself – you got that right. :)

  • Melanie @ Dear Debt September 25, 2014 at 5:16 pm

    Cait, I was so happy that we could meet! I am so sorry someone broke your heart and you had to endure that pain. I love your introspection and reflection here. I agree with all of them — especially about not knowing where you will end up. I feel like NYC has my heart, but I moved to Portland for love. It’s weird to be in love with a man, and a different city. I hope we can move back there, but then I think about growing old there, and I don’t know if that will work. So many questions. I guess the beauty of life is that the answers will reveal themselves. I hope we can hang again, before next year’s FinCon! You are so awesome. Keep your head up high, lady.

    • Cait Flanders September 27, 2014 at 6:47 am

      I have a feeling I’ll be back in Portland before the next FinCon. Would love to spend more time with you too, lady! Have a great weekend. :)

  • Michelle September 26, 2014 at 6:10 pm

    We are still searching and tossing ideas around of where we would like to end up. I guess that is the best part of traveling-the Unknown…

    • Cait Flanders September 27, 2014 at 6:47 am

      Yep. :)

  • weenie September 29, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    Great post, thanks for sharing! Sorry to hear your heart was broken but sometimes, these things just go on to make us stronger.

    I think as we get older, we continue to discover things about ourselves because we change – we need experiences and ideas from which to change from or to. It’s great that you have discovered these things about yourself – I think I was pretty clueless about myself when I was your age! :-)

    • Cait Flanders September 29, 2014 at 10:06 pm

      Thanks, Weenie. I also write them down so I won’t forget them. ;)