6 Reasons Why You Should Travel
"I can't think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again. You can't read anything, you have only the rudimentary sense of how things work, you can't even reliably cross a street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses." - Bill Bryson
Wow. Where do I begin?
While so many reasons come to mind, I think it's important to first tell you my story of how I started traveling.
It all started with my 6th grade 'end of the year' project. Our teacher asked each student in our class to pick a country and to do a detailed report on it. We had to learn about the food, the people, the industries they were renown for and more. I chose the United Kingdom. After spending so much time learning about their history and traditions, my mom included, we decided to book our first international trip abroad. So that summer, right after school was out, we boarded our plane with our crisp new passports in hand, and we started our journey.
The thrill of a new adventure was quickly upon us as we stepped into a cab and the driver was not only sitting on the 'wrong' side of the car, he was also driving on the 'wrong' side of the road! Accents were different (and charming), buildings were old, and I was in awe.
While I could certainly go into detail about this journey, what I really want to tell you is that it was only just the beginning. Since then, I have been to 34 countries, and have learned an immense amount of knowledge about the world, others and myself that I would not have learned otherwise.
While travel has been proven to have many benefits, I want to share with you the benefits that I have encountered or have appreciated the most, and why I would like to encourage you and your family to travel.
1. Travel opens your mind through the exposure of other cultures and their ways of doing things.
"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime." - Mark Twain
Before you start to travel, you tend to only know how things are done in your house or your city. For me dinners were quick so that we could go back to playing or studying. But after spending 3 days in Italy, with some charming Italians, I quickly learned the beauty of culinary courses, long dinners, and good conversations.
I also had an instance in Morocco, when my friends and I decided to explore the streets and run into a few shops. I noticed that the merchandise in the shops were missing price tags; however, there was always a salesman present to tell you all about the great prices and deals he had, especially if you bought two! Before arriving in Morocco, I had never really bargained. My only experience of bargaining was at a flea market, but besides that I was always use to buying items for the amount on the price tag. I never had the option of asking for a different price. I realized then that other cultures do some things differently. It doesn't mean they are wrong or that they are right. It means that there is more than one way to do something. It was something I had never realized before, but that's what traveling does! It allows you to see ordinary things such as dinner and shopping in a totally different light. It makes you rethink things you have never questioned before, and that's why I love it so much!
Not only does traveling help you to see things from a different perspective, it also helps you to become creative and see new opportunities. So many businesses have been started or formed because of something that someone has seen or learned from by traveling abroad. For example, if Phil Knight, the founder of Nike, never took his trip around the globe, we would all be wearing Adidas right now. Being exposed to different ways of living and different cultures truly gives you a new and unique perspective on life, and for some, opportunities.
2. Travel allows you to experience what's in your history books.
The first time I laid eyes on the Colosseum in Rome, I was in awe. It was massive, and the sheer mass of the arena was so impressive! Every single bit of it looked its age. While the Colosseum and the Roman Forum are in ruins, it is still breath-taking to this day. It was amazing to see what an ancient civilization looked like, as well as seeing the engineering that they were so well known for. It truly made my history book come to life. It's one thing to sit in a classroom and read about the Ancient Romans, but it's a whole other experience to step onto the ground that they had called home.
Another eye-opening experience I had dealing with some more recent history was during my time in Munich. After traveling about 45 minutes from the central train station, we found ourselves standing before the gate at the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site. To walk in the steps of those who suffered, to see how they were treated, to see the pictures and to read the articles about what had happened there... it was terrifying and humbling at the same time. It evokes a feeling in you that you cannot simply replicate by learning in the classroom alone. Again, it makes your history books come to life.
3. Travel is great for your physical and mental health.
Travel therapy is real, y'all. Ever heard of the book or movie Eat Pray Love or Under the Tuscan Sun? There's a reason why people seek for adventure and inspiration after going through hardships, and while we never know the lesson that we will learn while traveling, we tend to find some peace along the road. Whether it is stress from work, heartbreak or a loss of purpose, travel tends to inspire and help us find a more positive state of mind. This is because travel forces us to think about other things, and this, in return, is rejuvenating!
"Travel is rebellion in its purest form. We follow our heart. We free ourselves of labels. We lose control willingly. We trade a role for reality. We love the unfamiliar. We trust strangers. We own only what we can carry. We search for better questions, not answers. We truly graduate. We, sometimes, choose never to come back." -Unknown
Not only am I getting a great dosage of inspiration and positivity while traveling, I am also getting some serious exercise. According to my smartphone, the most I have ever walked within a 24-hour period was a day I was by myself exploring Paris. I walked 17 miles. Need I say more? When you take the time to travel to a new city, the last thing you want to do is to keep your feet still (unless you got a blister - shame on you for wearing those new shoes, you knew better!), all you want to do is go and explore.
4. Travel allows you to discover your strengths, strengthen your weaknesses and find out just how capable you are.
I remember the first day I arrived in Germany. The language made no sense to me, but after I decided to make Munich my new home, I realized I needed to not only learn the language, but I would also have to figure out the transportation system, how to get the right visa, sign up for a phone plan, get a bank account, learn the cultural etiquette... all in a language I couldn't read or understand. Noted from my Spanish and French classes I had taken before arriving, learning new languages is not my forte. German was even more intimidating, so talk about scary! Even my strengths were tested. My normal good sense of direction went out the window since every corner looked the same to me, and all the street names were so long I couldn't begin to remember them. But one year later, I not only knew all the street names around me, but I also applied for another visa, knew all the bus, tram and metro lines, and that I needed to make reservations for dinner, even if it was a Tuesday night. I also learned the German etiquette at the dinner table and for biergartens. Within 2 years, I was even able to give German citizens directions around the city!
You are your best project you will ever work on, and traveling allows you to push the boundaries on what you thought was possible for you to accomplish. Being abroad allows you to discover your untapped potential, and it's amazing how you can improve and even impress yourself. Once you find yourself capable, confidence naturally follows. Allow yourself to grow and be transformed by the experiences you come into contact with.
5. Travel is a portal to new friendships and great memories.
So many of my favorite memories are from my travels. Many of them are because of who I am with, whether it's my family, a friend or new acquaintance. There is always an experience to share, even with people I didn't know beforehand. I've come into contact with such a variety of people from all over the world, and there is always something to learn from them. Even though we all come from different parts of the globe and different walks of life, it's so cool to see our similarities and differences as well as meeting kindred spirits.
One of my favorite memories came from my first weekend studying abroad in Ariccia, Italy. My classmates and I met a group of Roman medical students who took a day drive to our little village for its renown porchetta. After spending the whole afternoon laughing and talking and drinking espresso (which they taught us to do - cappuccinos are only for the morning!), they decided to treat us to a proper Italian meal later that evening. So for dinner, we all met at a traditional Italian restaurant, each side bringing a few more friends. We sat American, Italian, American, Italian all the way around the table and laughed the entire way through our six-hour dinner! The food was absolutely incredible, but the experience itself was priceless. To this day, I'm still in contact with some of these dear friends, and will always smile when thinking back to that day. Travel truly allows for some of the best memories because it allows you to be put in scenarios you would not find yourself in otherwise.
6. Lastly, travel makes you grateful and more appreciative for what you have.
Traveling allows you to see how other cultures and people outside of your bubble live, and therefore, you can compare it to what you know, how you live and compare the benefits or drawbacks of both cultures. It's amazing the things that I have become very thankful for by traveling to foreign lands.
A memory that I can never erase, was a mission trip to Nicaragua. One day, we went to a place called 'The Dump', and it was exactly as it was described, literally. It was the place in the city that all their trash was thrown - and there was a community of people living in it! They couldn't afford a home in the city, so they lived in The Dump. They walked around over the mounds of trash in home-made flip-flops they had created from crushed plastic bottles and string to find particular scraps of trash that they could resell. I won't go into all the horrors that I discovered that day, but I will tell you one thing that I discovered... how grateful I am for the simplest of things. I'm talking a roof over my head, loving parents, clothes, a toothbrush, shampoo, etc. Nothing will make you appreciate things more than by seeing with your own eyes people living in poverty in a third world country.
Another realization I had was during a layover in China. I had some time to relax and wait for my next flight, and so, I thought I would watch some YouTube videos, when I realized that it wouldn't load. I then remembered, 'Oh yes, communist country, I guess they don't support YouTube. I'll scroll through Instagram then.' But my phone couldn't load Instagram or Facebook. Nothing with links to the outside world. I thought to myself, at that moment, wow! This is a whole other level of control I had never experienced before. I am so appreciative to have freedom and control over what I can read and watch, and that I am given the opportunity to read about what is happening in the world.
Photo Credit: Peter Szekacs @pszekacsphotography
Every country and place has its own way of teaching you how to appreciate something in life. The Italians can teach you how to truly appreciate beauty in many forms - from a cup of coffee, to fashion to architecture. The Germans can teach you how to truly appreciate punctuality. The Vietnamese can teach you the value of hard work. The Australians can teach you that laughter is the best medicine and to not take yourself too seriously. Every culture puts value on different things, and it's very eye-opening to experience this. After having the experience of traveling, you can't help but to start seeing things from a different perspective. You can't help but to grow.
"It's a funny thing coming home. Nothing changes. Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same. You realize what's changed is you." - F. Scott Fitzgerald
So, why should you travel? I can't think of anything more enriching.