I have spent the last fifteen years gallivanting around the world and oh boy, I gotta tell you friend, I’m simply not the same person I was when I first hit the road.

Not even close.

The things I’ve seen and the experiences I’ve had across the many places that destiny led me to explore have fundamentally shaped me into an entirely new human being.

I hit the streets of India as a cheeky 19 year old with $3000 to my name, some battered camping equipment, and a dream that I hadn’t even fully mapped out yet.

The path that I would forge over the next decade and a half was one I couldn’t have even imagined back then, and whilst it was filled with troubles and turmoils, I wouldn’t change it.

From textbook moments of euphoria to long periods of being cold, broke, anxious and just generally having a tough time, my travels around the world were a quest in which I sought to find Will 2.0.

There is no greater odyssey you can undertake, and no greater opportunity for personal development than to travel. Being on the road, and recording my observations, thoughts, near-misses and how-tos, has been my life’s work and given me a true sense of purpose. And SURE, whilst starting a travel blog may not be for you, hitting the road is a potentially life changing experience for ANYBODY – especially if you take the time to journal whilst you do so. So let’s jump in friends, here’s what’s up…

So let’s delve into exactly what the road has done for me, and give you an idea of what it may do to you, too.

This is how travelling the world changes you for the better – which will hopefully give you 14 more glorious reasons to get out there today…

Will sitting in a zen yoga pose on top of a colourful rickshaw/ tuk tuk in India
Class is in session.
Photo: Will Hatton

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14 Ways that Travelling the World Will Change You

1. Traveling makes you more open-minded

Before you travel, your world is smaller.

I was from a pretty small town and even if you’re from a bigger one, it’s likely you’ve only interacted with people who are quite similar to yourself and you may not know much about other cultures or religions. Travelling the world will tear down any conscious or subconscious judgments you may hold. By immersing yourself in new worlds, your worldview WILL change. Stereotypes will melt away, and you’ll find yourself accepting and even falling in love with things you may have been taught were wrong or unusual growing up. 

will laughing with hunzair women in hunza valley

Both the locals you’ll meet along the way and the fellow travellers you’ll share crowded hostel bunks with will shift your perspective as you journey across the world. It was straight off a slackline in North Thailand where I realized that it was possible to work online and travel forever, and it was in off-the-beaten-path countries like Pakistan and Iran that I came to see that these countries that had been demonized in the West are actually comprised of some of the most hospitable and friendly people on the planet.

2. Traveling teaches you new life skills

As a budget backpacker, you are constantly learning new life skills. Keeping yourself healthy and happy in a foreign country where you barely know anyone or anything will quickly teach you how to get out of your comfort zone and become more practical and hands on.

a Pakistani man selling to a tourist wearing boots and a backpack over a colourful blanket
Haggling for some crystals in the mountains of Pakistan.

You’ll figure out how to navigate a land where you don’t speak the language, and perhaps even pick up on a bit of it along the way. You’ll master the art of haggling, which is a skill which will serve you well if you’re applying for a job or starting your own business. You learn to tend for and fix your gear, to consider your routes, you learn the value of planning and the importance of trusting your intuition.

If you’re applying for a job and your similarly qualified competitor has never left the country, whilst you’ve been all over the globe, it’s a no-brainer who the recruiter will be inclined to choose.

For those of you building something online while on the road, the skills you gain will be even more in line with mainstream careers. Running a travel blog, or starting any one of the hundreds of other digital nomad career paths, will teach you SO MUCH and when you have your own skin in the game, rather than making money for a company you don’t really care about, you’ll be surprised how much more fun it is to push yourself.

man cooks under the fire while camping out in nature
Look Mum, I’m cooking!
Photo: @willhatton__

3. Traveling builds your confidence

When I first hit the road as a shy 19-year-old, to call me introverted would have been an understatement. Flash forward 15 years later, and I am an entirely different person. I have pushed myself so far, and so frequently, out of my comfort zone that these days, I can even talk to pretty girls. Dun dun dun! Seriously though, I was an incredibly shy kid with a lot of self-worth issues and being on the road enabled me to stack up an undeniable pile of proof that I AM capable, I am worthy.

Will in a tent with four local men whilst hitchhiking and camping
Getting high with a bunch of dudes I met in Iran in a park.
Image: Will Hatton

When you’re out in a foreign land on your own, you’ll have no choice but to speak up and talk to strangers to survive. Slowly but surely, you’ll find that you no longer care what people think – something so many of us get wrapped up in while living in the Western world.

The road allows you to become whoever you want to be – and that alone is enough to break down all the walls you’ve built up around yourself.

4. Traveling strengthens your gratitude practice

Traveling can be TOUGH. If you are traveling cheap then you are often going to be uncomfortable but this is a GOOD thing. You learn to appreciate the little things; a cold glass of water, air conditioning, a stranger’s smile, a bus being on time, a cuddle with a dog. Strengthening your gratitude practise is one of the best things you can do for your mental health.

Man topless with tattoos looking at a list.
I like to spend an evening a week on my whiteboard practices; laying out lessons, things I’m grateful for, goals and habit tracking.

A gratitude practice IS the same as building a muscle; you have to put the reps in. You have to make the effort to NOTICE things to be grateful for, to write them down, to celebrate them.

5. Travel will help you find new hobbies and passions

Before I started backpacking, there were many things I had never done. I had never slacklined, I had never played chess with somebody who didn’t speak English, I had never hiked deep into the mountains on a multi-day expedition. I have both found and honed so many new hobbies on the road – from my failed attempt at learning the harmonica, to my current interest in Hyrox fitness racing (I plan to do four races around the world in 2024).

Will's first fitness competition in Sydney.
My first fitness competition, Hyrox Sydney, in nearly a decade, it felt good to compete again.

Travelling helped me fall in love with fitness – pushing my body and mind to its limits in far-flung lands whilst hiking or doing 100 burpees every day for 100 days (I did this, I won’t be doing it again) led me to discover a deep passion for investing in my fitness, wherever I travel; I find a gym, I go for a run, I take part in some random class – whether it’s yoga or pilates or F45. Fellow broke backpackers on the team have found themselves delving into the arts, crocheting and making jewelary, others are passionate about videography, and one much-loved rascal amongst us enjoys creating DJ sets all around the world incorporating various animal noises he records in the wild.

Prior to hitting the road, I had no idea what a travel blog even was. This hobby, which began as somewhat of a newsletter to friends and family sent out from Internet Cafes, has turned into my life’s work and biggest passion. I now live a life of location and financial freedom due to that decision to turn my irregular newsletter into the website you’re currently reading.

6. Travel teaches you to value experiences over things

It won’t take long for you to find yourself becoming less materialistic. Suddenly, designer cars and watches, or whatever other sparkly thing it was that caught your eye as a kid, pales in comparison to sitting around a crackling campfire in the mountains and sharing a smoke with new-found friends whilst the sunset paints the mountains in gradually more gorgeous shades of pink and purple.

Mountain in New Zealand
The type of “thing” you’ll begin to crave.
Photo: @willhatton__

From swimming in turquoise waterfalls in Laos to watching the sunrise crest over Himalayan peaks while travelling in Nepal, I can assure you that the best things in life are not things at all.

It’s the fleeting moments of wonder that make you really, truly feel alive and which you’ll remember as the years rush by, and rush they shall amigo – so get on out there, grab life by the fucking horns and experience as much as you can.

7. Travel expands your comfort zone, which is where growth begins 

backpacker will sitting on top of a loaded bus while hitchhiking in nepal
Photo: Will Hatton

REAL travel- AKA budget backpacking – is not comfortable, my friends. I mean, sometimes it can be – there ain’t nothing like discovering your Couchsurfing host has an actual spare bedroom!

A lot of the time though, broke backpacking is not comfortable. From hitchhiking on the tops of rickety old buses to sleeping on floors and squeezing yourself into the crevices of third-class trains, vagabonding will often push you to your limits.

…But that’s exactly what it should do.

Because it’s in those moments where you’re forced to reckon with discomfort, where you’re forced to think about why you’re doing this, that’s when travelling the world begins to change you forever.

These are the stories you’ll look back upon years later, not the nights you spent sleeping soundly in some jazzed-up resort. 

Whether it’s spending 20 hours crammed between goats somewhere deep in Southeast Asia or tackling your fear of eating alone, it’s in the moments you would never find yourself in at home that will end up jumpstarting your journey to personal growth.

8. Travel shows you we’re all the same

No force brings humans together better than that of travel. As you connect with people from all kinds of backgrounds (most very different than your own), you’ll quickly see that a lot of the prejudices you had experienced back home are dead wrong.

backpacker drinking beer with locals in myanmar
Enjoying a beer w/ a new friend in Myanmar.
Photo: @willhatton__

At the end of the day, we really are all the same. Everyone wants to feel loved, safe and happy. We all strive to find our purpose, to connect with others and to create a life we can be proud of.

70+ countries later, I’ve found that people are mostly good – no matter where you are in the world. From the mountains of Pakistan to the fairly dodgy cities of Venezuela, you’re bound to find more who are willing to help you than who are out to hurt you.

9. Travel shows you your true self

Many new travellers hit the road thinking that they can run away from their problems. If there’s one thing I can stress to you is that this could not be farther from reality.

What you’ll actually find is that travelling the world makes you confront your true self. For years, I wrestled with this as I careened across the globe, and formed habits which helped me with my awareness and introspection. I can truthfully tell you that journalling, habit tracking and affirmations have changed my life for the better.

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    Now, when I travel, I try to do so with the goal of pushing myself out of my comfort zone and growing as a person, recently I went on an ayahuasca retreat in Peru and this was an incredible experience. I already have a second plant medicine retreat booked for later on this year.

    When you are on the road and spend enough time alone, crucially without numbing yourself on your phone, your deepest fears, insecurities and strengths will be laid out in front of you – regardless of whether you eventually find yourself with a medicine man deep in the Peruvian jungle. Illusions will be shattered and you’ll come to grips with pieces of yourself that you didn’t even know were there. To be on the road is the best way to get clear on who you are, who you could be, and where you are going. I strongly recommend that you consider writing your own manifesto whilst travelling, it’s a powerful grounding experience.

    10. You’ll gain a deeper appreciation for family, community and friends

    The hardest part about full-time travel and living abroad is being far, far away from family and close mates. This may seem obvious, but for some (myself included) it took leaving home for me to really appreciate who I left behind.

    Many of my familial relationships were on the rocks when I set out, but more than 15 years later, some of these bonds are now stronger than ever.

    Travelling the world gave me a deep appreciation for family that I doubt I would have been able to find otherwise. It changed the way I look at my relationships – while you may be a world away from your hometown, don’t be surprised if you (at some point) find yourself closer than ever to the ones who never left.

    11. Travel massively expands your “food world”

    From fried scorpions and racks of juicy lamb chops to sweet and sour frog mixed with basil, the wide open road is about to change your palate forever (if you let it). Even if you don’t consider yourself to be a foodie, I implore you to jump at every opportunity to experience culture through cuisine.

    Eating Okonomiyaki in Osaka Japan on a street food tour.
    Photo: @audyscala

    You’re sure to find things you’ve never even heard of, from street food dishes at dirt cheap prices, to feasts in family homes made up of ingredients that don’t even exist in your home country, there is a wide world of edible exploration to be had no matter where you jet off to.

    You may find yourself deep in love with entirely new foods altogether – and while every backpacker deserves a gluttonous day of home comforts every once in a while, your budget and your taste buds will thank you for prioritizing local delicacies.

    12. Travel helps you become more independent

    Perhaps the single most magnificent thing about solo travel is how it forces you to rely on yourself. Sure, you may not be entirely alone often, but you will undoubtedly find yourself in a wide world of situations that only you can conquer.

    A girl smiling and hitchhiking through Japan.
    Photo: @audyscala

    Even if you’re the most symbiotic person back home, the road will command that you figure out both the bad and the good all by yourself. In no time at all, you’ll find that you’re a lot more dependable than you may have given yourself credit for.

    You CAN take a night bus alone. You can be your own dinner date. You can go on a hike in the woods without a partner.

    Confidence and independence go hand in hand – the more you survive by yourself out in the wild world, the more self-assured you’ll become. 

    13. You’ll learn how to say no

    People pleasers – this one is in fact for you.

    If you find it difficult to tell people “no,” or to turn down experiences for a fake fear of missing out, then travel is exactly the antidote you need.

    My 15+ years on the road have drilled this into me – and taught me to mostly put my needs before anything else.

    man riding a motorbike slowly across a bridge in gilgit baltistan pakistan

    I have a looooong history of compromising on my desires and values to appease others, especially romantic partners, and this is something I’ve gotten better at after strengthening my ‘no, actually, I don’t want that’ muscles whilst traveling.

    In learning how to say no to others, you will be saying yes to yourself, and that’s a damn important skill to master. 

    14. Travel will teach you greater introspection skills

    Perhaps one of the most monumental ways that travel has changed my life is by giving me the power of introspection.

    To be honest, I never really engaged in much self-reflection before I hit the road. I was constantly thinking about the next rush of dopamine, or living in the future, without taking any time to sort out what was going on in my head. The past few years in particular have played a crucial role in my personal development journey, namely in the form of what has now become an integral part of my daily routine: journalling.

    will journalling by a bukhari in hunza valley pakistan

    Starting my days with a journal prompt has done more than any therapist ever could, and has helped me process what feels like several lifetimes of experiences and emotions. Even if you’ve never engaged in journaling before, even if you feel that it “isn’t for you,” I implore you to give it a shot. Grab one before you hit the road, start with a list of prompts, and let your inner thoughts flow. 

    There is no better place to bring this practice into your life than in an unknown destination many thousands of kilometres from home.

    Final Thoughts on How Travelling Changes You

    And that, my friends, is how travelling the world will change you.

    Or at least a few of the many ways it’s changed me.

    In reality, I could write several books on the subject and I’m positive that still wouldn’t cover all the ways that my life has transformed in the past 15 years.

    Travel has given me purpose – it’s made me more introspective and patient. It’s taught me what’s truly important in life, shown me what isn’t, and what frankly never was. I went from a shy, somewhat adrift teenager to a man with dreams, drive and decision making abilities.

    I deeply appreciate those I love, and this magnificent life I get to lead. A life that would have never been possible had I not chosen to take that leap, with nothing but three thousand pounds, a battered tent, and something that halfway resembled a plan.

    But I’m not special – travelling the world WILL change your life too if you let it.

    So get out there. Scared, broke, lost, or alone – the road is waiting to reward you if you just give it a chance.

    Will chilling on the terrace with two white dogs
    Perhaps I’ll see you out there?
    Photo: @willhatton__

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