As I prepare to embark on my biggest journey yet, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on the last few years of my life.

It was on my 25th birthday that my whole attitude towards life finally changed. Instead of wasting my time being negative and believing that I was too old to do anything, that somehow life had already passed me by, I suddenly realized that every day I wake up is a chance to start over or make a change.

That’s what led me to finally start traveling just a few months later.

It’s been a few years now since I first hit the road on my own, determined to start doing the things I wanted to do and to create the life I wanted to live. I took baby steps, spending my time traveling around the western United States before flying to New Zealand for a year.

Even so, the traveling I’ve done thus far has already changed me in so many ways. Traveling has taught me a lot about life, about other people, and about myself. It has given me some of the greatest gifts imaginable. These are the seven things travel has given me:

Confidence

Traveling has given me more confidence than anything else ever has. I struggled a lot in the past in relation to my appearance and general self-worth. I underestimated myself for so long and I let others underestimate me as well. I’ve always been extremely shy, so being around people was really hard for me.

Traveling, doing things on my own, and meeting an endless stream of new people solved a lot of those problems. Now I know what I’m capable of and I’ll never underestimate myself again.

Independence

I’ve always been an independent person in the sense that I like to do things on my own and be alone, but traveling has taught me true independence: being able to take care of myself. Before, I neglected myself, my health, my finances, and all of the “adult things” we have to do in life. Since I started traveling, I’ve learned how important it is to take care of all those annoying details, and now I actually enjoy the feeling of doing all of it by myself.

Positivity

We can’t be positive and happy and rah-rah-rah all the time; that’s just not realistic. I’m the type of person that doesn’t really appear to be outwardly happy (I guess because I don’t run around smiling all the time?). But the difference between me now and me 2+ years ago is that now I am definitely happy on the inside, which is what really counts. That’s because I’ve learned how to be positive and optimistic.

There are so many bumps in the road while traveling, but the crazy roadblocks usually lead to awesome adventures. I’m happy because I know that when things go wrong in the present, it doesn’t mean things won’t go right in the future.

Motivation

I lacked motivation for a long time after high school thanks to my bouts of depression. I just couldn’t seem to find a reason to do anything for a while there. Life seemed like it was always going to be the same, and I didn’t know how to change it.

Once I started traveling, I realized life can change (drastically so) with a little motivation to make things happen. So now any time I’m in a rut, I reach deep down for that ecstatic feeling I get when I’m out on the road, and motivate myself to take the next step towards whatever it is I want.

Trust

I’m trying to figure out when it is that I stopped trusting people, but I’m pretty sure it’s just in my nature to assume the worst and protect myself (animal instincts, perhaps?). All of the amazing, wonderful, and generous people I’ve met while traveling have shown me that you can trust others, and most of them are pretty good.

The trust I’ve learned isn’t just about trusting that people won’t steal from me or that someone won’t physically hurt me; the trust I’ve learned means I can open up to people and trust them with my thoughts and feelings.

(Sidenote: trust is a great thing but that doesn’t mean you should automatically trust everyone while traveling – be alert, be aware, and be safe!)

Freedom

Freedom probably seems like an obvious addition to this list. Traveling has given me the freedom to move about the earth and explore the world any time my heart desires (which is always). I have the freedom to go where I want, when I want, and to do what I want. Travel has also given me the freedom to just be myself and to find others who share my passions. On an even deeper level, travel has given me the freedom, simply, to live.

Acceptance

And finally, the seventh thing travel has given me is acceptance. I’ve always been accepting of other people, of other cultures, and of other beliefs, but I’ve never been particularly accepting of myself. I guess this really all goes back to confidence, but I had a hard time accepting my flaws and weaknesses, or accepting that I wasn’t perfect. Now I accept the things I don’t like about myself, knowing I can either change them or find a way to make them work.

7 Incredible Things I Gained Through Travel via @traveldazeco #travel

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Traveling, no matter how little or how close to home you may be, really can open your eyes and teach you so much. I encourage everyone to go out on an adventure, and then another one and another one, and see how it might change your outlook on life.

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This post originally appeared on Travel Daze and has been republished with permission.