Why Travel is so Important to Me (or some of the life lessons travel has taught me?)
So, what are some of the life lessons travel has taught me? Travel is WAY more than just a leisure activity to me. Yes, I love to get away from the mundane, daily stressors of everyday life, but to me, travel is something more. Travel is a part my very essence and being, and without it, I just don’t feel completely myself. And while that may be weird to some, it is normal for me. I mean, as far back as I can remember, I always wanted to travel and see what was just around the bend, so to speak. And as I got older, my desire to travel further away from home only grew.
So, if I am to be brutally honest (and anyone who reads my blog regularly knows that I try to be as honest as humanly possible), I don’t want to travel, I NEED to travel. And when I don’t travel, I feel depressed and not completely myself. The best way I can describe it (and it’s hard to describe because it’s more like a state of mind) is that it feels like I am a missing just a huge chunk of myself. Like somehow, some essential essence of my being is totally gone. And as a result, a lack of travel just leaves me feeling like an inauthentic and unfulfilled person, who is basically just a shell of her former self. And seriously, who wants to feel like that?
And it’s not just travel actually. I also need to draw and write and release my creative spirit if I want to feel understood and fully entrenched in the greater world around me. And while it may have took me a REALLY long time to figure all this out, I am glad I finally did so that I can be a kinder, happier, and more productive member of society. But such self- actualization only came as the result of my extensive travels.
So the more I traveled, the more I discovered about myself; who I am, what I like, the people I want to surround myself with, my dislikes, my values, my moral code, and lastly, what I want to do with my life. And many of these realizations are not small in stature but fundamental to the creation of an essentially happy existence. However, these gargantuan discoveries were not just limited to enhancing my sense of self. My travels also unraveled, for me, some of the great mysteries of the world. As a result, I developed a better understanding of my place in the world and how I can be a better, global citizen. And I want to share some of these realizations with you so that you can understand why travel is really an essential part of the entire, human experience.
8 Life Lessons Travel Has Taught Me
- Appreciation for Cultural Differences – Before I started traveling, I didn’t even really understand what cultural differences were. Yes, I knew that people spoke different languages and did things a little differently around the world, like people eating with chopsticks in China, but I truly believed that most of these dissimilarities surface level. Surely, at a fundamental level, we all possessed the same values and thought in identical ways. Well, my travels have since exposed me to some of my rather naive conceptions about the world around me. Yes, we are all human and have all the same, fundamental needs, like food, shelter, love, companionship, etc., but people across the globe tend to think, act, and value things differently, depending on where they live in the world. And it’s hard to wrap your head around such a notion, until you experience it first hand. The best example I have is of the thought process of some people, who live in countries like Peru. Here, when asked if they would like $50 today or $250 tomorrow, most people would respond that they would like $50 today. At first, I completely didn’t get it.
I could not comprehend why someone would not just wait an extra day to get an extra $200. Then someone explained to meet that the people here have to live on a day to day basis and never know if tomorrow will come. Life circumstances force them to live in the now and as a result, most citizens give very little consideration towards planning the future, which is not the case in the United States. Here, whether you are saving for college or retirement or both, citizens are always planning for the future because they believe it will come. Accordingly, Americans feel the need to be prepared, financially, for whatever future comes their way. I mean, come on, we even have an AARP (American Association of Retired People) magazine so that people can make the most of their “Golden Years) magazine.Whereas in countries like Peru, I doubt if retirement is even a tangible concept that people consider. And that’s okay because life in the United States is completely different from other cultures across the globe. But that’s exactly why travel is so important. It allows us to understand variations in cultural thought processes and comprehend why such beliefs may result in a set of behaviors that are vastly different from our own. As a result of this type of understanding, we become more tolerant and accepting of people who think and act a little differently than ourselves.
- How to Ask for Help – This realization is simple but is so monumentally huge to people with independent spirits, like myself. For me, I was always taught that asking for help was a sign of weakness. Instead of bothering someone with my silly questions, and embarrassing myself in the process, I should suck it up and figure out life on my own. Well, the problem with this type of mentality is that it gets pretty lonely and pretty difficult, pretty quickly. Yes, a certain level of independence is good, but not when it disconnects you from the entire human race. This mindset also doesn’t get you very far in a foreign country, that you have never been to and where you don’t speak the language. So, to survive traveling abroad, I had to learn to trust people and ask for help
when I didn’t speak the language and had no idea where I was going. Essentially, travel forced me out of my comfort zone. I had to confront my own fears about exposing any “weaknesses”, by asking for help and trusting that other people would not steer me in the wrong direction. Because of this life lesson, I am now better able to connect with people and ask for help when the stressors of everyday life overwhelm me (talk about a better way of life). And it’s all just because I travel. Who knew?
- Go with the Flow – I used to plan EVERYTHING on my vacation, like down to the minute, except maybe bathroom breaks
(And if I knew when those would be, I would have put that in there too. LoL.) And guess what? This strategy just made me into one of the must anxious and stressed out travelers ever. That’s because any time something went “wrong”, my whole schedule was thrown off and I just didn’t know how to cope with it. I mean, it’s the worst feeling when your flight is delayed and, as a result, you miss a really expensive tour that you booked in advance. Because of situations like this, I quickly learned that rather than plan every single moment of my trip, it was better for me to just relax, go with the flow, and see where the wind takes me. I also try and remember that, you can’t miss what you’ve never seen. And while this philosophy may not work for some trips, and for some travelers, for me, going with the flow gives me the freedom to move at my own pace and not constantly worry about getting to the next site on my itinerary. I can actually enjoy what I’m experiencing and not just get stuck in the anxiety of the future. This perspective also reduces stress because when something goes wrong, I don’t have to worry about it since I’m not losing out on an entire schedule that has been planned and paid for. Additionally, I can also apply this philosophy to my everyday life, where I try to stay in the moment and not worry about the disasters that may or may not befall me next.
- A Feeling of be in the minority – I’m gonna be pretty honest here. I’m a caucasian, blonde, female from the United States. So, I am probably way more privileged that I will ever know. But nothing made me appreciate this more than living
in South Korea. As a resident here, it was the first time in my life that I had ever really been in the minority (added bonus, I couldn’t speak the language here), and frankly, it sucked. I felt totally alone and like a complete outsider. But the beautiful thing is that, that’s when it hit me, this is probably how other people feel, who are minorities living in my home country. I mean, I will never truly understand the difficulties that many others face, but this experience did help me develop a bit more empathy. I mean it was hurtful and annoying when people would stare at me with disgust or even try to con me out of money because I didn’t speak the language. And even though this all seems pretty negative, it wasn’t. It helped me realize that how we look on the outside changes how we perceive and feel about the world, on the inside. And that is something that I could only ever truly understand as a result of travel.
- Appreciation for my country of origin – Look, all countries have positive and negative attributes. That’s just a reality of life. But when you live in a country, like the United States, your entire life, the positives can become pretty hard to see. Well, nothing amplifies these positives more than traveling or living abroad. When you are abroad, you start to appreciate all the things that you normally, would take for granted. You know, the big and little things, like television shows, your bed, everyone speaking English, professional opportunities for women, your favorite protein bars, etc. It’s only when these things are gone from your life, that you really start to miss them. You even begin to appreciate that they’re there in the first place because not every country has the same luxuries that you enjoy, (and are oblivious to) on a daily basis.
- Patience and Tolerance – Look, this one is pretty straight forward. No need to go on a diatribe (because we all know I LOVE to do that) here. But, when you deal with people who think and act differently than you, on a regular basis, you learn a great deal of patience and tolerance for others (especially if they are kind enough to share that curtesy with you). Plus, when I travel, I need to reme
mber that I not only represent myself but my entire country. And I want to represent the United states in the most positive way possible: with patience, tolerance, and compassion.
- The Importance of Food Culture – Before I traveled frequently, food was just food, no matter where I was in the world. Yeah, some countries seemed to have weird food (at least to me and I have since learned respect for such cultural differences) but I just didn’t think too much about it, except, “Eww. Gross!”. But since then, I have traveled a lot more and have begun to realize that the foods of the world are so much more than just sustenance. Yes, we need to ingest food to sustain life, but if food had no emotional soul, then global, culinary culture would not vary so widely. Because food means so much to people, and in many places is a symbol of love, honor, and respect, the evolution of food culture, around the world, has established s dynamic and vibrant food scene that needs to be appreciated for the multitude of cultural aspects that it represents. Things like climate (i.e. the foods that can be grown sustainably), religious beliefs (Cows are sacred in India so beef is not served), socioeconomic status, and historical development (perhaps the country was poor in the past and had to make small rations of food last) are all reflected in the dishes that a country serves and creates; cultural nuances that have only become obvious to me as I travel more.