So, why travel?
It forces you out of your comfort zone, it can be lonely, jet lag sucks, and its freakin expensive!
Sure, no trip ever goes 100% smoothly (in fact if it did, it might take the fun out of traveling 😉 ) But I wholeheartedly believe that any and all travel experiences, good or bad, are truly worth risking the adventure.
Here’s a short (well, somewhat) and sweet list of the life lessons traveling has taught me, as well as reasons why everyone should do it! 😉
1) Life Begins at the end of Your Comfort Zone
Sure, traveling is fun. I’ve had some of my wildest and most crazy adventures abroad. Incredibly fun. However, I can’t help but notice that when telling friends or family about my trips and the places I visit, most if not all individuals immediately think about the fun had on said adventures without even entertaining the difficulty it takes (emotionally, physically, etc.) to get up and journey to a place that you know absolutely nothing about. It can get lonely. It can be scary. And, often times, it immerses you in third world countries and poverty stricken regions- areas of the world that cause uncomfort to us, fortunate Americans, and force us to open our eyes to the devastation that is reality to most of humanity.
There are a plethora of factors that can make a traveling experience incredibly uncomfortable, in addition to the few I’ve mentioned above. Yet, it’s submersing yourself in that discomfort that allows you to take a step back and analyze your own life to make positive changes within yourself. Whether it be your career, your standard of living, your mindset, your goals, your morals and values or your everyday routine.
Playing it safe will ALWAYS get in the way of LIVING. Choose change. Choose risk. Choose to shake up the scene. It’s tough, I can guarantee you that. But you’ll never be the same. And you’ll fall in love with that fact 😉
2) New friends Really are Very Cool.. Especially the International Ones =)
You will meet the coolest people ever when you travel. That’s just a fact. Stay in hostels, and you’ll meet even cooler people. Man, I’ve meet Colombians in Argentina, Venezuelans in Portugal, dope New Zealanders in Brazil. Anyways you get the point. The amount of people and the extent of their nationalities can go on forever. New friends are incredible! They remind you of the vastly cultural globe we live on and absoultely extingush any discrimination by teaching you that… we’re all basically the same =).
I once met an Austrailian (BTW aussies are amongst the FUNNEST adventurers- befriend one every chance you get) in Madrid who was on a bar crawl with me. I asked him when he was moving on to the next country on his backpacking adventure and he responded by saying that he was supposed to leave a week ago but was somehow still there. Hanging out. With no real reason why. Chillin….lol… HOW AWESOME IS THAT. People really live like this! Completely on impulse, coming and going when they feel like it. What can be more wanderlusting than that!?
3) Travel Causes Inspiration
Whether you’re a college graduate with absolutely no clue on what you want to do in life or have had a successful and fulfilling career for the past 20 years, you can always use a little inspiration. Inspiration fuels our souls and ignites passion in our ambitions. I would have never chosen my major AND career path without travel. If you’re feeling routinely drained and need a little excitement, pack a suitcase and hit the road. The choice itself, to pick up and go, is inspiring.
4) Travel Teaches you how to be a Minimalist
Boy, does it! Especially if you choose the backpacking route, which I highly recommend ;). Often times when you travel, even more so on a college level budget, your belongings are confined to one devastatingly inadequate suitcase (ugh!). It’s even worse if you leave for weeks at a time. However, forcing yourself to limit your personal belongings and the amount of things you have for weeks or even months at a time, allows you to realize that it is quite possible to live minimally and still be very happy. We live in a culture that constantly shoves the notion down our throats that what we already have …is never enough. It’s truly liberating when you experience for yourself and thoroughly understand that less really is more… And that materialism will never lead to true and unconditional happiness.
5) Travel Teaches you Appreciation
The U.S. has the largest economy in the world. Our standards of living are increasingly higher than that of about 80% of the globe. To put in simply, we are pretty spoiled in this country. Substantial incomes (esp. in the Bay Area), healthcare (expensive, but available), plenty of opportunity to attain economic and financial mobility, paved roads, basic human rights, running water and relatively safe cities and communities are a part of American culture. In the busyness that occurs with our everyday lives, we forget to appreciate the simple blessings that come with being an American citizen. And any wanderluster would agree that traveling is the #1 eradicator of ignorance and, conversely, the #1 teacher of appreciation.
6) Travel Pushes you to Overcome Fear and Push the Limit
Before I started traveling, I thought I knew, perfectly clearly, what my identity was. I was not the adventurous type. I was content with my calm and safe life in sunny California. What need was there for me to ever leave?I liked structure, I liked control, I liked routine. And thats exactly what I had. I was scared of change.
Then I started venturing to other countries on my own, and man was I wrong. I did crazy things like stay at hostels in developing countries, zip line 200 meters ( or over 650 feet) above the rainforest floor, dive 40 feet deep into the ocean and swim with sharks and rent a beachfront room for ridiculously cheap from a bunch of random Brazilian guys I had never met. WHO WAS I!? I was a person who had realized that I could do more than what fear had limited me to (ok renting the room was a bit much lol). When you refuse to let fear dictate your life, you realize that you are much more courageous than you perceived yourself to be- an incredibly liberating experience. You do things you would have never previously , in a million years, done.
Paulo Coehlo’s quote in the book, Aleph, does a great job at describing this new sense of identity that can only be achieved through letting go of the reluctance to change or explore…
“After weeks on the road listening to a language you don’t understand, using a currency whose value you don’t comprehend and walking down streets you’ve never seen before, you discover that your old, “I”, along with everything you’ve ever learned is at absolutely no use at all in the face of these new challenges. You begin to realize that deep in your unconscious mind, there is someone much more interesting and adventurous and someone much more open to the world and new experiences.”
7) Travel Makes You Aware
I can be pretty oblivious to my surroundings. A car could be getting broken into next to me and I might not notice (OK, maybe over-exaggerating just a bit). But in all sincerity, I can be pretty inattentive or naive at times.
But! theres nothing like going to another country and realizing that all people are not as honest and nice as yourself =). For example, my first time in Brazil, traveling solo with only my female cousin, I learned the importance of using my, sometimes shy and meek , voice and protecting myself from danger. Because… 1) Brazilian men are very aggressive and any form of conversation at a bar/ club automatically initiates a make-out session according to them (you must be vocal if you don’t want a guy making a move on you every convo you have lol) and 2)Thievery in general was rampant. Therefore, I did not take anything more expensive than clothing from either target or forever 21 (Had to sleep with my money and passport in my bra one night – hostel lacked lockers lol) .
Plus, pickpocketers are super common. Anytime I ran into someone on accident, I would have to check my pockets to make sure my money was still in there. On the beaches, my cousin and I would have to trade off getting into the water and watching our bags because unattended backpacks and belongings are often stolen (even if you’re literally only gone a minute).
What I’m getting at is that situations like these, where you have to learn to watch your back, make you more aware of your surroundings. The more you travel, the more aware you become and, therefore, the more prepared you are in protecting yourself from danger. The two countries with the most pick-pocketers that I visited were…
(Recently reacquainted myself with my Euro backpacking trip pics..sorry for the Spain overload) lol!
8) Lastly, it Reminds you that You are Capable of Accomplishing Anything… YOU CAN do Anything =)
This statement could not be any more true (especially if you’ve volunteered abroad). Removing yourself from your comfortable life to head to a region of the world you’ve never been to, in which you’ve never spoken the language, eaten the food, used the currency etc. is very courageous.
In addition, there is no greater high than standing in front of, say, Machu Picchu, the Nile River, the Eiffel Tower or the Taj Mahal and realizing that YOU got yourself there. Somehow, through your hectic schedule, you were able to haul your booty across the globe to see a sight you had only ever seen on TV. I cannot put into words how amazing that feeling is.
And if you can do something like, survive in a third world country on your own, then what can’t you do?! 😉 Traveling allows you to see how small the world really is. And that, if you do pursue your dreams, there are no limits to what you can accomplish. =)
“I always wonder why birds stay in the same place when they can fly anywhere on earth…Then I ask myself the same question.” Harun Yahya-