Life Lessons: What I Learned in 2015 While Traveling

January 1, 2016,

10 cities, 10 lessons. I spent two months exploring Europe and wanted to share some of my reflections and some of the life lessons I learned. Whether or not you’re traveling, every day is an adventure and every day you learn something new. These lessons are not necessarily earth-shattering. They can be more subtle but are just as important (if not more). Happiest When Exploring doesn’t only suggest we are happiest when exploring physical spaces or new locations. Exploring is about discovering yourself, making sense of or examining your own habits, your worldview, what you consider “normal” and then challenging them and living beyond them. And travel is often the catalyst for that reflection or change.

Without further ado, here are the 10 lessons I learned in my two months of travel.

Barcelona // Life Lessons: What I Learned in 2015 While TravelingBarcelona

In Barcelonaaaa (cue George Ezra), I learned to appreciate just being in a foreign city. Because it was my second time in Barcelona, I felt less pressure to do all the sightseeing one is supposed to do when traveling. I had done the bulk of it my first time. This time, I did a lot more experiencing: strolling the cobblestoned streets, sitting and people watching, taking long lunches and attempting much more Catalan than my first visit. 

Sevilla // Life Lessons: What I Learned in 2015 While TravelingSeville
In Seville, I learned that bad weather doesn’t have to equal a bad trip. It was raining from the moment I arrived and as my host explained it, when it rains in Sevilla it pours. Expecting clear blue skies and to be welcomed by the shining sun, I instead experienced a rainy and grey long weekend in Sevilla. Even the parks and gardens had closed down due to the rain. I could have easily let the rain and grey skies ruin my time in Sevilla. Instead, I took my time taking in all the details of the many beautiful and intricate cathedrals and also learned that pearly grey skies make for beautiful photos.

Lisbon // Life Lessons: What I Learned in 2015 While TravelingLisbon
In Lisbon, I learned that falling in love with a city is actually possible. Before visiting Lisbon, I never knew what it meant to truly love a city. Of course, I’ve enjoyed past travel experiences and enjoy my city, Montreal. But in Lisbon I actually fell in love: with the hills, morning runs by the Tagus River, the old ladies who hang out on their balconies (and smile at you so genuinely), the abundance of health conscious businesses, the beautiful street art and even the (dangerously) slippery ground. This is what Carrie Bradshaw must have meant when she realized that New York City was her great love.

Porto // Life Lessons: What I Learned in 2015 While TravelingPorto
In Porto, I learned that Harry Potter is real (well, sort of). Porto is a magical city and is said to have inspired J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. As a lifelong fan (I started reading the books when I was 9), visiting Porto was indeed magical. The university students wear black robes like Hogwarts students and the famous bookshop, Livraria Lello in the old city centre will have you remembering the first time you read about the magical bookstore, Flourish and Blotts.

Paris // Life Lessons: What I Learned in 2015 While TravelingParis
In Paris, I learned to listen to my intuition. Upon arrival at Port Maillot, I entered the subway to get to my airbnb. I didn’t have a ticket yet so I stood in line to purchase one at a machine. I decided to use a machine rather than go to the service counter. I considered myself an experienced traveler by now (or so I thought) and thought I’d be able to figure out the foreign machine on my own (after all, I speak and read French!). When it was my turn, a young lady with a nametag (but no uniform) approached me. She offered to help me with the machine, insisting that I purchase some sort of weekly pass for 60 euros. I knew something was strange but what exactly, I didn’t know. I told her that I wasn’t ready to make that commitment and would only buy a single ticket. This all happened very quickly. All of a sudden, a man in a uniform appeared and shooed her off. In his lovely accent, he told me she was “a bad lady” and was trying to rob me. This was probably the closest I had come to being “robbed” and thankfully, my intuition (or perhaps my common sense) was there to support me and to remind me that it’s okay to stand your ground and spend a little more on a single ticket.

Amsterdam// Life Lessons: What I Learned in 2015 While TravelingAmsterdam
In Amsterdam, I learned that there is no such thing as too much food.

Christiania Door // Life Lessons: What I Learned in 2015 While TravelingCopenhagen
In Copenhagen, I learned that it’s okay to give yourself a day off. I had been traveling for about 30 days, spending more than 8 hours a day – – outside rain or shine, walking 10 to 20 (usually more) km a day and working on my blog (and doing work as an online assistant) every evening into the wee hours of the night. Not to mention all of the planes and buses, trains and subways and the lugging around half (more like equal) of my body weight in luggage from city to city. And then one day in Copenhagen, I got so sick I had no choice but to take the day off and stay in. That day I napped, I sipped bubbly water, I read, I relaxed and I healed. I even watched a (mindless) movie. And I learned that it’s okay – no, it’s vital – to give yourself a day off. If you don’t, your body will give you a reason to eventually.

Budapest // Life Lessons: What I Learned in 2015 While TravelingBudapest
In Budapest I learned that my opinion matters and is just as valuable as the opinion of others. I had been traveling on my own for a while (until Paris) but when I joined up with my sister in Amsterdam, I quickly fell back into the habit of becoming the “little sister” and forgetting that I even had an “Erica” way of doing things, being or experiencing. But in Budapest, I opened up about the way I was being unfair to myself and to others by neglecting my opinions, my insights and my heart. The time on my own allowed me to know that my opinions, my interests and insight matter and that they allowed me some pretty awesome experiences – so how fair would it be for me (or anyone!) to shut that off when with other people?

Europe // Life Lessons: What I Learned in 2015 While TravelingRome
In Rome, I learned that if you feel good and are happy – don’t question it too much. Just enjoy it. And to laugh, a lot.

Puglia // Life Lessons: What I Learned in 2015 While TravelingSouth of Italy
While driving across the South of Italy (Puglia & Campania) with my father, I learned that even if I don’t need anyone to carry my heavy luggage or walk with me when night falls (#toughchicksunite!!), it’s nice to  take the passenger seat every once in awhile. Life Lessons: What I Learned in 2015 While Traveling


Thank you for exploring and learning with me in 2015.

As a thank you, I partnered with GPSmyCity to offer 20 readers one City Walk map of their choice, for free! The City Walk app is a responsive map of the city you download (available for over 500 cities worldwide!). The map enables you to locate yourself and even track your walk – all without Wi-Fi. Included in the map are excellent self-guided walks (with themes like historical, shopping, etc.) OR you can add in your own locations to create unique walks! I already wrote about the app a couple of months ago – you can read that post here for more details about how the app works and why I love and use this app in every city I travel to.

Contest closed on January 19 – Thank you to those who participated!
Visit my Instagram account for a last chance to participate AND future contests! 

CityWalks APP // Giveaway

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  • Reply Laura H January 2, 2016 at 6:18 am

    Subscribed! So fun…love to get one for Vancouver or Sam Francisco!

    • Reply Happiest When Exploring January 2, 2016 at 6:40 pm

      Yay! Thank you for participating Laura – looking forward to emailing you with that promo code 😀

      • Reply Laura H January 18, 2016 at 6:16 pm

        Hope it’s not too late but would love the Vancouver one (over San Fran!) thanks so much!!!

        • Reply Happiest When Exploring January 18, 2016 at 10:00 pm

          hey again Laura! not too late, I’ll send you Vancouver instead 😀 they will be coming soon… just waiting for all the participants 😀

          • Laura January 28, 2016 at 4:14 pm

            Ah, sorry again! Can I change it to Victoria, BC? Just booked a trip there and that would be great to have when we are there!!

          • Happiest When Exploring January 28, 2016 at 5:12 pm

            hey Laura! I JUST got the promo codes yesterday from the company and am sending them out today! I have Vancouver for you!

          • Happiest When Exploring January 28, 2016 at 5:13 pm

            The good thing about the app is that it never expires so you will be able to use it whenever you visit Vancouver… <3 // Sorry about that!

  • Reply Ilena Ciricillo January 2, 2016 at 6:55 am

    I loved this post! We do learn so much when traveling-about our world, for sure and more importantly, about ourselves. How wonderful!

    In 2017 I will be traveling to a few countries in middle Europe. I would love the interactive map of…PRAGUE!

    Thank you and have a great 2016!

    • Reply Happiest When Exploring January 2, 2016 at 6:38 pm

      Thank you!
      Wonderful – your name & city choice has been noted 😉

  • Reply Laura January 2, 2016 at 10:56 pm

    “In Rome, I learned that if you feel good and are happy – don’t question it too much. Just enjoy it. And to laugh, a lot.”

    MY FAVE!!!!

    I’d love the Nashville city map!!

    • Reply Happiest When Exploring January 3, 2016 at 12:51 am

      You got it, girl!
      Thank you <3

  • Reply Jessie D. January 3, 2016 at 5:08 pm

    You are a wise one girl!!! Great blog! Its crazy what you learn when traveling eh?! I suppose I shall participate in this giveaway, I choose Dublin since I’m considering going to Ireland and Scotland this year hehe!!

    • Reply Happiest When Exploring January 4, 2016 at 4:17 pm

      Hehe thanks Jess! Oh wow… that will be amazing! Okay, you got it! I will send you the info asap 🙂

  • Reply Celia January 4, 2016 at 5:28 am

    You definitely learn a lot when traveling. That’s why we’re eager to travel even more as we learn so much.
    As I’m leaving for Vegas soon, would love that one:)

    • Reply Happiest When Exploring January 4, 2016 at 4:16 pm

      You got it ;)!

  • Reply Tracy January 5, 2016 at 2:12 am

    Great post!
    I’d love a map of Chicago 🙂

    • Reply Happiest When Exploring January 5, 2016 at 10:22 pm

      Thank you!! Perfect – taking note & will get back to you ASAP!

  • Reply Sylvia O. January 6, 2016 at 6:22 pm

    I would love the Lisbon map! I have never been to mainland Europe (only London), so I’m excited to try a new city.

    • Reply Happiest When Exploring January 6, 2016 at 8:23 pm

      hey Sylvia! Lisbon is a beautiful city – I am sure you will enjoy it. I have taken note & will send you the promo code for your free Lisbon map when the contest ends 🙂 thank you for participating!

  • Reply Melissa Hughes January 7, 2016 at 11:41 pm

    Love the blog. Thanks for the contest opportunity as well. My full name is Melissa Hughes and I choose Austin, TX for my map. Much love and happy travels!!

    • Reply Happiest When Exploring January 8, 2016 at 6:27 pm

      Hi Melissa!
      Thank you for participating – I am taking note for Austin! When will you be visiting? I haven’t been yet but it sounds like there is sooo much fun stuff to do there! 🙂

  • Reply Katie Johnson January 17, 2016 at 3:30 am

    Wow- such a good post! Great info, and now I just wanna hop on a plane and head to Europe! <3

    • Reply Happiest When Exploring January 18, 2016 at 9:57 pm

      Hey Katie! thankssssss girl – I hope do, too!

    • Reply Happiest When Exploring January 20, 2016 at 12:22 am

      Katie – what city would you like a map for?! <3 I see you subscribed, girl! Thanks!

      • Reply Katie January 20, 2016 at 2:15 am

        I’d love a Seattle, WA map 🙂

        • Reply Happiest When Exploring January 20, 2016 at 5:25 pm

          You got it, girl 😀

  • Reply Bailey Vaillancourt January 18, 2016 at 5:20 pm

    Love this! My full name is Bailey Vaillancourt & I would love a map for San Diego, CA 🙂

    Thank you!

    • Reply Happiest When Exploring January 18, 2016 at 9:55 pm

      Hey Bailey 🙂 Thank you sooo much for participating! I’ll send you over the promo code very soon!

  • Reply Christopher January 26, 2016 at 2:36 am

    Awesome work ! Keep it up everything is looking really good and is very interesting !!!! Would love to have a map of Montreal if possible =)

    Thank you and keep it up !!!!

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