Stories told to me by budget travelers in Southeast Asia started to unite around a theme: Find yourself by learning to live without. Lacking possessions and money and even being picky about which experiences these wanderlusters chose lead this group to thoughtfulness and revelations.

Something that stuck with me from my travels in Malaysia was a discussion with a Canadian woman I met who had been traveling solo for almost a year. Her name is Christine. She stressed using “travel to find yourself” and added that budget travel was the way she was successful in finding out who she was.

Christine meant that traveling with few possessions — and often little cash — meant that she was able to see what mattered to her within the frame of her own life, her life back home. When she returned home she thought some things didn’t matter as much anymore, and some things gained tremendous value. As you might have guessed, the things that gained meaning were relationships, family and community and the things that lost meaning were possessions and money.

When she was about to return home she had this to say:

“Sometimes it takes a while to realize that everything you need and everything you were looking for is right at home where you left it. This adventure is over, but there’s a new one waiting for me when I get back. It’s been an amazing year, but now it’s time to go home.”

An American woman named Ania I was introduced to via a mutual friend shared a blog that resonated those feelings Christine had about possessions vs experiences as well as being confident in yourself. She said she has always been confident in herself, yet traveling solo forced her even more so to be confident in her abilities. Ania has been on the road since October 2016.

“Experiences over objects. Your clothes still fit, wear them. Your camera still takes pictures, use it. Sure nice things are great, but they are completely unnecessary. Spend your money on experiences because those you will remember forever.”

These themes were echoed by a Dutch man named Johan I met on a tour of Halong Bay. Finding inner peace within was one of his lessons learned. His stories about making the right decisions of when to stay and when to leave a place and when to save money vs when to splurge led to incredible experiences like seeing a whale shark and swimming with a sea turtle in Thailand. He made me realize that you should never stay somewhere that doesn’t make you happy. Find your inner peace and you are one step closer to finding who you are and what makes you happy.

Thinking back to my time abroad, I realized I formed meaningful relationships quickly with some amazing travelers. The people I remember most from my travels are people who are much like myself, or are the opposite. Their personalities stand out against my attitude or flutter in harmony with my worldview. All these amazing people I meet in my travels have steered the course of my thoughts, thus altering my life. Thank you, travelers.

What have you learned about yourself while traveling? What stories do you value?