13 Life Lessons Learned from My i-to-i Travel Experience

by Terrah Lozano · 4 comments

Post image for 13 Life Lessons Learned from My i-to-i Travel Experience

(Photo: Brazilian Favela Recife, Brazil)

In this article, I provide some insights in the form of life lessons I learned from my travel experiences. Travel to me is a vital component of living a fulfilling life experiencing the world.

You probably know someone who has spoken about having a travel experience. It might be you, it might be your son or daughter, or someone else close to you. I hope through writing about my experience it enables you to approach this conversation from a different view.

If you are hesitant and afraid of allowing yourself or your loved ones to travel, please be open to obtain a new perspective of the life experience you or they could gain from it. The hesitations and fears will never be eliminated, but through proper research and education, I hope that you are able to contain them. One such program that I utilized that may help contain your fears was i-to-i.

A little background information…

During my junior year of college, I did a 6-month study abroad program in Europe where I was based in Rotterdam, Holland. When not studying, I would travel and spend my time in several countries including Ireland, England, Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Spain, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Turkey, Denmark, and Holland. I thoroughly enjoyed the unique cultures of each of these countries and it was then that I came down with the ‘travel bug.’

Everyone should have an experience like this in their lifetime, especially while in college. It should actually be a required experience because it is a real eye opener to look at your life from a different, outside view perspective.

You re-think everything and learn to follow your heart. This is a great characteristic to have while going through life. This study abroad experience, for me, was the start of a never ending travel bug that, like many others with similar experiences, will never go away (thankfully).

After my initial study abroad experience, I completed several more trips including going back to Turkey and visiting Mexico.  However, after all this, I wanted a unique experience.  I came across the prospect of Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) and a company that offered a quick way for me to get this certification by doing my training online. This company was i-to-i.

Photo Copyright Terrah Lozano Salvador Brazil

Photo Copyright Terrah Lozano 'Sarong of a Brazilian Flag' Salvador, Brazil

Through i-to-i, I immediately completed all the requirements including TEFL certification, several inoculations, visa work, red cross CPR training and many other travel related tasks. (Seem a bit overwhelming? Don’t worry because i-to-i
provided a checklist depending on the country and program you chose to get it all done.) I then decided to enroll in one of the volunteer programs offered through i-to-i.

In late summer of 2004, I was off to Brazil for an 8-week volunteer experience teaching English to Brazilian teenagers. I had also scheduled in an extra few months of solitary travel afterwards (which I recommend for you as well) in which I traveled around the vast country of Brazil visiting its towns including Olinda, Jericoaracoara, Recife, Joao Pessoa, Salvador, Lencois, Ilheus, Rio De Janeiro, and many others along the way.

Like all travels, my experience in Brazil led to many unexpected turns including discovering a favela (a Brazilian slum) in which the community lived and thrived on a landfill. I was able to visit this community as a side project each week to visit the children and bring food. These experiences were incredibly humbling and can never be replaced.

Now, here are 13 life lessons I gained from my i-to-i travel experience:

  1. Walking away from your daily life gives you an opportunity to really find who you are and what your passions truly are.
    • I have the opportunity to get to know something new about myself each time I travel. When you are experiencing something new you see yourself in a new light. You enjoy things you maybe never saw yourself enjoying and this is how you find your passions. You are able to look inward and find yourself.
  2. Being away from the modern conveniences of the first world and the routines of home take you away from your comfort zone.
    • I know of nothing as powerful as this to aid in changing your life and discovering what is truly important to you in your life. I learn this each time I travel. You never know what you are capable of until you challenge yourself outside of your comfort zones.
  3. The innocence of children is breathtaking.
    • A few Tibetan proverbs come to mind that capture this idea perfectly, “Children are our real teachers. Listen carefully and they will teach you about the lost world of carefree being in the present moment.” and “Just become like a child that discovers the beauty of the world every moment again and again.” I never witnessed this so much as my experiences with the children in the favela.  They were happy and carefree, never noting any bad luck upon their life. It is always great to be reminded of being in the present moment, because that’s all we have.
  4. The benefits you receive by helping others are priceless.
    • I felt great and I felt I was contributing to the world while taking food to the favela regularly. I felt more fulfilled in doing that than I ever felt by doing something solely for myself. This is a great feeling to give to yourself and others.
  5. The day you feel you are really doing something that will affect and help things is a great day in your life.  It is wonderfully uplifting.
    • I felt this through my experiences with volunteering in Brazil. You realize that there is something bigger than yourself that you can participate in. This applies to life in general. You have to have something you are passionate about and that makes you want to jump out of bed to make living worthwhile.
  6. It is very important to have an appreciation and a love for where you are from. Always remember where you come from.
    • A quote from Carlo Goldoni I stumbled upon while traveling in Brazil taught me this, “A wise traveler never despises his own country.” Although a person may enjoy traveling for the sake of traveling and enjoy being exposed to new cultures as part of their particular life needs, it is important not to ignore your own roots and your country. Although you may not agree with what your country is doing all the time, you must remember your roots because they are what brought you down this path. You wouldn’t be here now if it weren’t for those experiences.
  7. “A man travels the world in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.”-George Moore.
    • This quote tells me to understand that whatever you need is always found within yourself and never in a place outside of yourself.  I think of ‘home’ as your self. I find that a common reason people travel is because they are looking for something only to find it was within them all along. You travel to travel, not to find something.  The result is typically that you find more within yourself than you ever imagined possible.
  8. As a friend I met along the way once said “We must travel to see the world to meet ourselves.”
    • Having experiences that are unique to you allow you to really meet yourself. Similar to lesson #1, this reiterates that having new experiences allows you to see yourself in a new and different perspective. You see how you react to certain situations and may find more courage or ambition than you ever knew you had.  I learned this especially when traveling alone.
  9. We must learn how to relax, to truly be.
    • Only in this state can you have the bliss we all desire. It is commonly said that Westerners are unable to relax because of their obsession with work. We tend to ‘live to work’ instead of ‘work to live’. When you are without so-called ‘important’ distractions of Western life, it is very easy to allow yourself to let go and just ‘be’.

      Photo Copyright Terrah Lozano Salvador, Brazil

      Photo Copyright Terrah Lozano 'Capoeira Dancers' Salvador, Brazil

  10. Live life to the fullest, celebrating everything life has to offer.
    • I learned this when being introduced to new sights, new sounds, new cultures.  You see so many people, especially in a rich culture like Brazil, really living.  I never danced more than when I was in Brazil. Of course this lesson is something you should incorporate always, not just while traveling.  There are new things to experience wherever you are and whatever you are doing.
  11. Teaching others gives you patience.
    • Before my teaching experience, I never thought of myself as a teacher.  I wasn’t sure how I would be because of my impatience.  After spending time teaching and seeing your student understand whatever lesson you are teaching, you truly understand the value of patience and it stays with you in other experiences you have in life. You are able to pass on your knowledge to help someone else experience life. It is a tremendous feeling.
  12. “Life´s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting …holy shit…what a ride.”-Author Unknown
    • Do everything you want now, not later; and never be afraid to break your comfort zones. For you it may be traveling or changing jobs or going after a passion you have always had.  It doesn’t matter what it is; the only thing that is important is doing it. It is sometimes scary to just ‘go for it’ but you will not regret it.  I remember when I was on the airplane to Brazil I was thinking “What the hell am I doing?” But those feelings soon subside once you step off the plane and see the wonder that lies ahead.
  13. You are never fully prepared and you must be open for whatever will come once you arrive.
    • This is for everything in life. You can spend months or years preparing for an adventure or change in your life but there will always be things you didn’t think of or new adventures that open up. In each of my travels there was something I didn’t bring or think of, but there were always solutions. If you are open, you will be aware of the solutions to your problems as they present themselves. You can rely on your innate human intuition to guide you in your decision making. At some point, you just have to take the leap and have faith in yourself.

So, that’s what I learned.

Although there are many ways you can have life experiences such as the one I discuss in this article, I find travel to be the most rewarding and fulfilling.

If you are interested in learning more about the tools I used for my experience, please visit i-to-i. Using i-to-i is a convenient way to complete your TEFL certification and through their networks you can find volunteer work and jobs that can help you get a great life experience.

It’s your turn. Have you had any travel experiences you’d like to share? Have you been afraid to travel? Please share your story by commenting below and engaging in the social media provided.

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mirianthomas November 1, 2009 at 6:16 am

Dear Terah,

Hello from Mirian Thomas. Your In-country coordinator here in Brazil from volunteerbrazil. Thanks for your testimonial about us and this wonderful country Brazil. Your were a great volunteer my love. We miss you down here for sure. Kisses,


insptheride November 1, 2009 at 2:07 pm

Your words mean a lot. Brazil will always be in my heart as a country I
love and will definitely visit again. I wish you all the luck in your new
endeavor with http://www.volunteerbrazil.com/ and hope that many can have
the same great experience I had while with your company.


Truden November 17, 2009 at 1:57 pm

Interesting, did you plan to continue this article?

InspTheRide November 18, 2009 at 5:22 am

Glad you found the article interesting. If what you mean by continue the article is to write more on travel, I may write more in the future on this topic. ~ Terrah

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