Oftentimes, our passion and drive for travel is personal, but the reasons why we are our best selves when we travel are largely universal.
Travel teaches us to be flexible.
Anyone who has ever flown on a discount airline understands the meaning of the word “patience.” Just the act of getting from one place to another can be a seemingly insurmountable hurdle, with flight delays, lost luggage, getting off at the wrong train stop, or bus drivers going on strike. Navigating a city in another country is not always the picture-perfect experience that Instagram would have us believe.
Even when at home and not traveling, when problems arise, we’re not fazed by them. Travel teaches us that when things are challenging or if everything goes wrong (like that one time you got food poisoning – probably should’ve skipped the fermented shark meat), we have to roll with it and make a new plan, without letting it affect our trip (….very much). Facing these struggles head-on makes us feel accomplished and satisfied – and these crazy-transit stories often turn into our best ones.
Travel allows us to trust the world.
The news sure has a way of making the world seem like a scary place. While we should always be aware of our surroundings and the climate of safety in certain countries, the reality is that even within countries that seem epicly foreign or frightening, there’s probably a lot of beauty, too. Just like how the streets of south Chicago don’t fully represent all of the magnificence of the Windy City, so too are there adventures to be had in destinations we’re unfamiliar with (or slightly apprehensive of). But boy, does it feel good to trust your gut, squash the stereotypes, and move to a place of understanding and compassion rather than fear.
Now, we’re not telling you to pull up your bootstraps and head into the uncharted wilderness of a dangerous place. But what we are saying is that much of travel forces us to put our trust in the kindness of strangers. When asking for directions on the street, recommendations for the best restaurant in town, or trading stories with new friends in a hostel, we have to constantly rely on others, many of whom might not even speak our same language. When exchanging money at the market, walking down an unknown street, or jumping onto the bus, we still have to rely on the goodness of others.
It’s hard to be afraid of entire regions or countries once you’ve interacted in these otherwise-mundane ways. Seeing foreigners live their lives, smile and laugh, wash their clothes, walk their dogs, sharing ice cream with their kids, sitting on a bench with an elder, all of these experiences complicate our feelings of hate or prejudice, so much that it will probably make those feelings vanquish entirely. It allows us to be open, to trust, to break down cultural barriers, and turn a once stranger into just another human (or better yet a friend).
Travel allows us to trust ourselves.
Navigating the Polish train system without a map (or a dictionary)? Haggling in a foreign market, or planning an entire travel itinerary through three separate countries on the fly? Travel not only makes us capable of handling ourselves, it empowers us to accomplish what we put our mind to, too. In travel, road bumps (literally and figuratively) are a-plenty, and we must be able to problem-solve as quickly, and creatively, as possible.
Pursuing our passions and creating meaningful lives seems more in the realm of possibility. We see what happens when you live life free of the chains of “responsibilities” and “expectations” – often those that are put on us by others, like our parents, or that little thing called society.
We’ve crossed paths with those who shun the “norm” of life and recognize not only is that a possibility for the shape of our lives, but a really strong one at that. We’re empowered, baby! And we know that if we trust ourselves and follow our gut, good things are to come.
Travel makes you fall in love with learning.
Traveling rekindles the thirst for learning that we once had as a child, when we marveled at something we had never seen, turned to the person beside us, and demanded with bursting curiosity, “What’s that?” Traveling is basically a never-ending learning experience disguised as adventure. History books are one thing, but exploring another country brings the pages of that history book back to life. We learn from museums and galleries, from café corners and late-night conversations with locals, from the language of our host country.
Traveling reacquaints us with the joy of learning, exploring for the sake of exploring, and knowing we don’t have to cram certain facts and details into our memory for some stupid test. We can observe at our own pace, reflect as we must, and absorb all we can. For ourselves and no one else.
Travel makes us more social.
Even when flying solo, the act of travel is inevitably a social endeavor. When we travel, we are always making polite conversation, building new friendships, and testing existing ones. People are generally curious about newcomers – especially in small, rural areas – and eager to speak with them. The travel community is one built on friendships forged quickly in the common rooms of hostels, where young travelers from all corners of the world come together.
Sure, you’ll be able to make small talk, but after having literally the same conversation with everyone you meet (where they’re from, where they’re going, how long they’ve been on the road), you’ll soon learn how to ask the important questions – the ones that help you really get to know someone. The ability to make small talk and deep conversation (sometimes in a foreign language) is true skill that carries through in all aspects of life.
Travel puts our lives in perspective.
When traveling, we see corners of the world that are entirely different from our own. These differences can be social, cultural, or economic, but regardless, they often let us view our own lives through a new lens. This does not always mean that we see what others lack in life, and in turn, we realize how lucky and #blessed we are to have all that we do. Some cultures are content to live with much less, which can make our lives back home seem extravagant and materialistic. These sometimes harsh realities, and awareness towards how sheep-like our previous lives have been, can be just the reality pill that we needed to swallow.
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