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To Francesca, who no matter the weather, the mood, or the time, would always be down to party.

I learned a lot on the road. How to hail a taxi, how to barter for a cheap souvenir, and how to dry my passport after spilling beer on it, the usual stuff. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all about school. I completed my high school degree, my undergraduate, and I’d like to return to complete my graduate degree… eventually. No matter how many years or dollars I spend on my education though, there are simply some things that school will not teach me. Here are the five things that I learned from a year of backpacking, that I failed to learn in 15 years of school. Class is in session.

1. How to budget properly.
“Okay, if I have this steak dinner, I probably won’t have enough to go parasailing next week.” Travelling forces you to learn how to budget, because it’s preventing you from having an early end to your vacation. Most travellers depart with a fixed amount of money – so you’ve got to learn fast how to spend it wisely.

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2. How to make friends with strangers
As amicable as the school environment is, it doesn’t often force you to walk up to a person and introduce yourself. Without this essential skill, you’re in for a lonely journey. If you’re lost or scared, you can always start with the big three. “Where are you from?”, “Where have you traveled to?” and “Where are you going?” have never lead me astray.

3. How to be comfortable with yourself
You see your friends at home every day, not often having the chance to meet new people. Old friends – while fantastic – are often quick to point out negative flaws in your personality, often just in a joking manner. While this is good for realizing and working on your faults, it can often lead you with an eroded sense of self worth. When you meet new friends every day, they often complement you on positive aspects of your personality. That refreshing change can help you feel comfortable in your own skin, and learn to love aspects of yourself that you might not have known existed.

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4. How to speak another language
Immersing yourself in a language and learning by trying is a much better method than drilling through verb conjugations. Enough said.

5. How to work without structure
Free from rules, regulations, deadlines, assignments, and appointments, I was in control of my time and how I spent it. At first, it was difficult to complete work without external deadlines set by academics. After some trail and error though, I can successfully complete tasks within my own time frames – and I’m a lot less stressed doing it too. Simply, I’m no longer driven by dates, but by self satisfaction… and occasionally chocolate.

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