I’m sure you’ve all heard that traveling changes you. But how? Because you get to see different countries? You get to try different food? While these are definitely true, traveling also changes how you think- and it changes you without you even realizing it. Slowly, you’ll start to think about people and your home differently. You’ll develop connections with random strangers that are stronger than any bond you’ve had with someone you’ve known for years. You’ll learn about the world and you’ll find the beauty it holds. Any stereotypes you’ve ever had will dissipate. You’ll become happier, healthier, and more thankful.
I still have a lot more to learn from traveling. So far, these five things are reinforced every time I am able to travel somewhere out of my comfort zone.
- Worrying about the little things in life doesn’t matter
That stain you got on your shirt? That bad grade on your essay? They don’t matter. Sure, in that particular moment they do, but don’t dwell over it. Don’t let it ruin your day, or worse, your week. I’m the type of person to focus on the little things, to focus on things in the past that I can’t change. After traveling, I’ve learned that focusing on these things doesn’t matter. It doesn’t change who I am as a person. When you travel, you realize that what defines you as a person is what matters. It matters that you prefer beer over vodka. It matters that you can’t stand it when people walk too close to you- because that’s what makes you unique. Try not to focus on something that happened in the past that you cannot change.
Let me put it this way: You meet someone at a hostel. They know nothing about you. Would one of the first things you tell them be, “so, I lost my favorite pair of gloves last week and am still upset about it.” I don’t think it would be. Why? Because it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t define who you are. Stop worrying about the little things in life and focus on yourself. Traveling helps with this because it throws you out of your comfort zone. It forces you to learn about yourself. It makes you realize what you can change and what you can’t change, and that you should focus on what you can change.
- Everyone has a story to tell; so stop judging them
There are 7 billion people in this world and counting. The man sitting across from you at the bus station could have struggled through poverty, lost his wife, won the lottery, traveled the world; you just don’t know. I once met someone who was a child solder in the Liberian War, who openly told my friends and I about it- and then curiously and honestly asked us what it was like to live in America, in a house, with promised safety around every corner. I never would have thought that that person had struggled during so much of his youth. The more stories you hear from traveling, the more people you learn about and talk to, the more you’ll learn how different one person’s life could be from another. You just don’t know anything until you sit down and listen.
- People are interested in your story just as much as you’re interested in theirs
One of the reasons you’re traveling is to learn about other cultures. Being able to experience how someone else lives makes your heart race and gives you an excitement you’ve never felt before. But you’re not the only one that wants to learn about other people’s culture. Most of the people you meet on the road, especially those who have not been able to travel to other places as much as they’d like to, love learning about your home, how you grew up, what your government is like, what your school is like. They’re interested in you.
.Like most people, I travel to learn about other cultures, I don’t want to be stuck talking about mine. But no matter where you’re from, whether it be Europe, Asia, South America or somewhere in between, people want to know about it. Because when they hear you talk about your culture, it’s as almost as if they had traveled there. Learning about a place first hand is one of the best ways to become more worldly. You can’t truly understand a place until you speak to someone from that place, or go there yourself.
- The less you have, the happier you are
I once spent a week in Nicaragua, living as the locals do in a small town called Amatitan. They didn’t have running water or electricity, but they were some of the happiest people I’ve ever met. I taught a few phrases in English to a few of the children there and had never seen such an interest in learning and an eagerness to get something right from a young child. They’ve come to truly appreciate everything they have because they don’t have a lot. We have warm houses but complain about the air conditioning and heat. We have phones but complain when they freeze. We have laptops but complain when the wifi is too slow. Traveling teaches you to appreciate the fact that you’re lucky enough to have these things. As you travel longer and longer, you need less simply because you’re moving a lot and learn what necessities you can’t live without. And you’ll see; the less you have with you, the happier you become.
- Our differences and similarities bring us together
A human is a human. We all have our bouts of sadness, anger, and happiness. Some people think the world revolves around them. Sometimes, you feel like you’re the only one that feels this way. You’re not- there are so many people out there experiencing heartache, celebrating a promotion at work, and losing someone they love. We all experience the same emotions, have similar fears, similar reasons for happiness. This thought makes me feel closer to someone when I first meet them. They may be nervous and excited just as I am, even if it’s not the same amount of nervousness or excitement.
There should be no boundaries when meeting people from around the world. We have so much to learn from one another. When you travel, you meet people with different beliefs and cultures that bring to light new ways of thinking. If you never travel and stay in your home country or even home town your whole life, you’re surrounded by people who think and act similarly to you. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it is always beneficial to jump out of your comfort zone and learn about other countries. Traveling broadens your horizons and introduces you to new cultures, enhances your knowledge of the world, and teaches you life lessons that you can’t learn anywhere else.
What have you learned from traveling?