The prospect of travel can be intimidating, but traveling will change your life for the better. From long-haul flights to packs of wild dogs, traveling has forced me to embrace change and deal with my insecurities and fears head-on.
Here are six reasons why you should travel and how it will change your life.
Change Your Mentality
I’m a teacher by trade in America, and when I started, I had no idea how undervalued and underappreciated teachers are. I’d always heard teachers complain about it, but until you’ve lived that life, you can’t truly understand it.
I’ve had kids threaten to kill me, parents try to get me disciplined, and mothers proposition me behind their husband’s back.
It’s a thankless and underpaying job that will put you in a myriad of compromising positions, but somebody has to do it.
The first time I stepped into a Thai classroom, I was shocked at how well-behaved my kids were. They were eager to learn, and they practically begged me for more work at times. I once taught at an English camp for high school kids, and after every class, the students would say, “Thank you for the knowledge.”
The level of respect I received from the community was astounding. Every week, a local would thank me for being a teacher. They gave me gifts, and they asked me to stay in Thailand.
After my experience as a teacher in the American school system, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to continue down that path, but my experience abroad has changed my mentality towards the profession. It has renewed my energy.
Learn to Appreciate Cultural Differences
I don’t think you can truly appreciate something until you experience it firsthand.
Learning how to greet people is always fun. In New York, we greet each other in a variety of ways. You can opt for a simple head nod, or you can go with a handshake. Some handshakes are more elaborate than others, but it depends on who you’re interacting with at the time.
In Thailand, they wai. We call it bowing. It’s a sign of respect, and you do it every time you greet someone. In Spain, you give dos besos (two kisses) to women and handshakes to men.
I’m at the point where I’ve blended my cultural norms by mistake. Sometimes, I wai and say hola to locals in Madrid, and they look at me like I’m strange.
Yes, it can be confusing, but learning about a new culture is so much fun.
Change Your Perspective
You learn a lot about yourself when your only bathroom option is a dimly lit hole in the ground surrounded by lizards, spiders, and flies.
I belong in the doing-what-you-gotta-do Hall of Fame for my bathroom heroics in Thailand. To be honest, I didn’t realize that we Americans live such sheltered and privileged lives.
I saw villages where the people had less than nothing, but somehow, they were happier than anyone I know. When you see something like that, it changes your way of thinking and how you see the world.
I’ve never been an overly materialistic person, but I worried more about clothes and cars than I should have.
When you get a chance to travel and see people thriving without things you believe to be necessities, it makes you take a long look in the mirror and reexamine your priorities.
Learn to Deal with Adversity
I can’t think of a more adverse set of circumstances than stepping off the plane in a foreign country and having no way of communicating with the locals. It can be overwhelming at first, but ultimately, it’s one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do.
I got to experience the same transition that immigrants face when they move to a different country.
You’d be amazed at how quickly the human body and mind can adapt to stressful situations. Really think about it. When you arrive in a foreign country, you’re likely illiterate, and you have the communication level of a child.
Your brain allows you to overcome all of that and absorb a lifetime’s worth of knowledge and practical skills in a matter of months.
I came to Spain knowing practically no Spanish, and now I can hold deep conversations and handle myself in any situation. I went to Thailand knowing even less, and I walked out of there able to speak the language at a functional level within a year.
Our capacity to adjust and learn on the fly is amazing!
Meet Cool People
You will undoubtedly meet some great people during your travels. They’ll change the way you think and your approach to life.
Some of them will become lifelong friends, and others will be footnotes in one of your stories. The one certainty is that travel will connect you with people who you would never meet inside your day-to-day bubble.
During one of my trips, I met an older gentleman who was traveling because he needed a break from life. He was sick of his job, and he wanted to take time for himself. He was on a mental vacation.
This traveler uprooted his life and had been traveling for about six months when I met him. He had a high paying job with plenty of perks awaiting him back home, but his peace of mind was more important to him.
I learned quite a bit about personal happiness from him.
Expand Your Palate
Eating is one of my favorite reasons to travel.
I’ve eaten scorpions, insects, frogs, and many other exotic foods. When you open yourself to new culinary experiences, your stomach will thank you.
I can still remember the first time someone offered me a bowl of crickets. Initially, I was disgusted, but after trying a few, I was hooked. Now, I tell anyone who will listen about how good crickets are.
At the very least, do yourself a favor and spend some time as a food tourist.
Tell A Great Story
Everyone has at least one good book in them.
When you travel, you have unique experiences that will change your life, and they are the key to making your book even better. Whether you use your book to educate, entertain, or inspire, the stories inside need to be engaging.
Travel will change your life, or at the very least, it will make your life more interesting.
Travel, explore, learn, and then pay it forward.