No matter how much we do for the world and the people we meet while traveling, travel gives us so much more. Because of travel, I have a wealth of knowledge and experiences you can’t add to your online shopping cart; that you can’t capture on Netflix or even in this article.
The world and the people we meet go beyond a vacation instagram photo.
In light of the holiday season, I would like to share what my trips to 37 countries and 18 U.S. States have given me. I figured a few of you might relate :)
1. Problem-Solving Skills & Crisis Management
If you’ve ever tried to get from the Danang airport to Halong Bay, Vietnam
[without a tour operator] or hike Mt. Fuji, Japan by yourself before the last 4 PM bus, you know what I’m talking about.
Stir in those times of study abroad or trying to get a job as an immigrant (expat — whatever PC term you prefer), occasions of food-poisoning or zero connection to the Internet world; you’d be surprised how much travel toughens us up.
Murphy’s Law might curse the traveler, but it’s these inconveniences that take us from panic mode to problem-solving ninja.
Travel teaches us to strategize over and over, both in long-term planning and with spontaneous game plans. Because of my nomadic lifestyle, every day routines we take for granted can be shockingly difficult (like ordering vegetarian from a side cart in Thailand, figuring out the shower-head … again, or just getting from Point A to Point B — like anywhere overseas).
But, you figure it out. You handle it.
High-five to the travelers who have ever put themselves in and out of a rut.
If you meet me in person, ask me how we made it to Halong Bay, Vietnam
2. Child-like Bewilderment for Life
The more we learn about other places, cultures, and activities — the more we realize how much we don’t know. Pretty sure that’s a quote somewhere.
I’m fascinated not just by how people live so differently on the day to day, but how much we also have in common. Kids are easily amused: give them a box and they’ll assemble a fort. The gift of travel creates a similar enthusiasm. A building, a dining experience, an accent might give you a thrill.
Everything is so much cooler when you’re traveling.
It may be too bold to say that travel makes us less shallow. Oops, I said it anyways.
The more we see outside our norm, the more open-minded we become. And while we may not agree with everyone’s lifestyle — it becomes easier to love, or at the very least tolerate, differences. The world would be boring if we were all the same anyways, but it’s the wisdom and direct exposure to people very unique from ourselves that let’s us say “hey, yep, maybe not everyone in the Middle East is a terrorist.”
Wearing a burka to photograph the Shiekh Mosque in Abu Dhabi, UAE
4. Clarity in What We Really Want & Who We Really Are
As an American, I have certain agencies. This means that I have particular rights, privileges, and powers. It’s almost 2016, and others I still don’t have.
As a citizen of the world, I get an upgrade. I get to see myself in comparison to my society, and groups of people totally different than me. I get to decide what I do and don’t like about my culture because of how many other cultures I’ve been exposed to. I have a better understanding of lifestyle options and don’t just have to be who my society tells me to be.
5. Friends I Never Would Have Met
I have friends around the world, and while it hurts me not to have magic powers, being with everyone everywhere at the same time, I can say someone’s got my back in a lot of places (and vice versa).
When we travel, especially solo, we learn to take care of ourselves. We also learn that we need people, sometimes complete strangers, to help us help ourselves. There’s just some things you can’t do without a friendly stranger.
It’s a nice feeling to challenge ourselves and know how much we can handle. However, just like a child’s bewilderment, we have kid-like limits while traveling, especially over-seas. There’s an irony to learning how strong we are, but also how weak we are; that’s why travelers help each other.
7. Gratefulness for the Most Basic Necessities
If you’ve ever been glacier hiking in Patagonia and just assumed a shop would offer sandwiches only to find yourself hungry and sharing lunch with back-packers — you know just a sample of missing out on life’s most basic needs.
As a traveler, we are bound to end up hungry, lost, afraid, dirty, robbed or somehow left without currency, perhaps without a place to stay, and even lonely. Sometimes, the biggest problem isn’t trying to find wifi, but finding someone that understands you — and I’m not just speaking language barriers.
Not to mention, witnessing how much others don’t have.
The people working every day in developing nations, who are happy to be without much, get me every time. Those first world problems come to life during your first trip abroad.
When a piece of luggage was left behind and we “wasted” time on a bus, I made a few new friends. Samana, The Dominican Republic
8. Confidence in Myself
I won’t speak for everyone, but gosh darn travel has made me happy and confident. Maybe it’s the problem-solving; maybe it’s the appreciation for differences. It could be finding a global community, or the bewilderment; but something about travel is just short of an ego boost. Try it and you’ll see.
I always feel a little bold in yellow. New York, photo credit @RossCockrell
9. Hope through Kindness
People can be so cruel. Yet every time you’ve been a traveler in need, someone will pull through. It might not be the same person every time, but someone will be there.
You too share kindness and give people hope. It’s the hope we give others which keeps our own alive.
I guess, if home is where the heart is, my heart is everywhere. In the physical absence of my friends and family, I’ve come to realize, even when I’ve left — they’re always still there. Love is so much louder in the presence of absence, and so travel has given me the power to love harder.
It’s all that travel that made me realize: it was never the travel itself that made me happier or wiser, but the way that it has given me … me.
Mommy & Me. I may not have an apartment, but I’ll always have a home.