Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
Mark Twain – American author
(This article is a double feature with another article called: Don’t be THAT traveler!…make sure you check it out!)
First things first, I just want to make it clear that I very aware that traveling is a huge privilege!! Unfortunately, for a lot of different reasons – money being one of the main ones – 90% of the world population will never have the chance to travel the world (especially as willing tourists).
But if you’re one of the 10% that has the resources to travel (don’t beat up over the exact numbers) – this is my suggestion: travel!!
I have a strong belief that travel makes you a better human. Not better than other humans, but better than you were yesterday.
But the last thing I want to do here is to seem arrogant. As if I was better than others because I travel and maybe they don’t. What I really want to get across with this article is why I travel and why I believe traveling has made (and will continue to make) me a better person than I was before.
It’s just that there’s a fine line between saying that travel is good and seeming stuck-up. So, at the same time I’m launching this article, I’m also launching another article: Don’t be THAT traveler!
On that note, I recommend you read the two articles and put them together to try to understand the message I’m trying to pass along.
But back to the topic of this article, why does travel make you a better person?
Well, here’s what I think…
- Travel educates.
Travel educates you in a way that staying home in front of a computer theorizing about the world can’t.
This is because all of the information that you receive from the media – whether TV, internet, magazines, newspapers, or even school or college – are filtered through an intermediary which can easily give you an incorrect idea about a certain place or group of people.
Without a doubt, one of the best ways to break down these preconceptions and stereotypes is to travel, and from there you’ll see first-hand how and why generalizing an entire region or millions of people is complete bullsh*t.
- Travel challenges you.
Maybe your final destination is Paris to see the Eiffel Tower. But often what counts is the trip there and all that you will have to accomplish to reach that goal.
And this will include plenty of challenges.
Travel challenges you to find different ways of learning, understanding, interacting, communicating, socializing, negotiating, persuading, organizing, living, handling money, managing time, thinking, and doing.
As they say: “it’s all about the journey (the challenge and lessons learned), not just the destination (the Eiffel Tower).”
- Travel gives you a broader perspective of your place in the world.
If you spend your entire life in the same city, with the same types of friends, hearing the same info again and again, you could end up thinking that everything there, those people, that place, are the most important things in the world (and that nothing else matters much).
By traveling, you’ll put all this into perspective. The fact that your football team lost wasn’t actually that important. The fact that that famous celebrity couple broke up is totally irrelevant for the majority of the world. That no one in China has ever heard of your favorite band, and that that tomato sauce that you like so much ran out in the grocery store isn’t the end of the world.
You get a reminder that the world is a big, big place that stretches far beyond your hometown or the place where you live.
Back home, the stereotypical belief that you need to work 50 hours a week to buy a house, a fancy car, get married, and have children might seem like the only possible life path for you. But when you travel and learn about other societies with different values, you’ll see that there is an infinite number of ways to live your life.
All of this leaves you more aware and conscious of your place in the world.
- Travel opens your mind.
Spending your entire life in the same place can make you feel that your way of life and your values are the most correct in the world. That you and all your friends from that one town are the only ones who really know how life should be lived. That all who live lives differently than your own are wrong… (remember what I said above about there being lots of ways to live your life?)
The problem is when this feeling grows into a nationalistic furor that makes people think that their country is better than all the rest (and that they, personally, are the best types of people just because they were born there or live there). And if we look to the past, we already know that stories of extreme nationalism never end well…
(Just keep in mind that the nationalism I’m talking about is very different from patriotism – there’s nothing wrong with having some country pride!)
And sorry my American friends, but there’s no better example than some of your own. My jaw has dropped when I meet Americans that have never traveled abroad (or done so very little) yet still think the United States is the only “free” or “developed” country in the world.
All it would take is a quick step onto European soil or a little trip through Australia or New Zealand to see that there are lots of places out there who have their sh*t together….it’s a shame some prefer to “understand” other countries through the TV and internet instead of in-person.
As a personal example, we constantly hear about the dangers of the North Korean regime (which are indeed a threat).
However, we forget that there are REAL people like you and me who live in North Korea. And what struck me the most during my visit to North Korea was the reminder that country’s citizens were people like us who loved, played, drank, had kids, laughed, and made jokes.
Very different from the TV images we always see of the “communist” soldiers marching that always seem ready to cut our throats.
The same goes for any other country and its inhabitants…any person what constantly makes generalizations about other people has probably never traveled much.
- Travel makes you more tolerant.
By helping you to open your mind, travel also makes you more tolerant.
Once you see that you’re not the center of the world or the sole voice of reason, you get out of your bubble and understand that there are billions of people in the world that live lives differently than you do. This isn’t to say that they are wrong, but just simply that they have different experiences in life than you do.
Besides this, having contact with other people who you’ve only heard about on TV humanizes them and helps you accept their way of life and who they are as people.
- Travel helps the world get closer.
Travel isn’t just good for those who travel, but also for those who receive the travelers (or tourists, whatever you want to call them).
As I said above, the great majority of the world population won’t have the opportunity to travel, especially if they are from developing countries. But this doesn’t stop them from have contact with people from other countries right from where they live.
I believe that tourists going to certain cities and countries is in general beneficial to local populations.
This is because it gives the local population more access to the outside world….and maybe even creates lasting friendships or romantic relationships! I saw this many times in Southeast Asia and Latin America when foreigners and locals met, mingled, partied and took trips together – bringing together different groups of people who were once distant.
The second reason is obviously financial. Tourists bring money which grows the local economy and creates jobs. Plus, the taxes collected through tourist activities can be invested into improving the community as a whole.
- Travel helps you learn a foreign language.
Well, this should be an obvious one! When you travel the world, eventually you’ll have to communicate with other people who don’t speak your language to execute basic activities like buying train tickets, buying food, or checking into your hostel or hotel.
You can communicate to a basic extent with hand signals (like we often did in China) or using Google translator. But this won’t always work, so if you want to explore the world, you’ll need that second or even third language.
And once you HAVE to use the language to communicate, you’ll no longer be shy about speaking. And with time and practice, you’ll gain more confidence in the foreign language.
This is exactly what happened to me during my first solo backpacking trip in the United States…and I’m sure it will happen with you!
- Travel also helps you learn world history!
I have to confess something here. Although I was an alright student, I had a lot of trouble paying attention in my classes…especially history.
So, I made it through fine but this was mostly because of studying and memorization, NOT because I actually understood the history, its connections, or its consequences.
What has actually helped me A LOT with learning about local history is by ALWAYS participating in “Free Walking Tours” wherever I go. I really can’t recommend “Free Walking Tours” enough for anyone who travels. They’re great! You can learn all about them in option #3 of this article here.
And obviously, there are the many history museums you’ll have access to around the world. All the info they give you will stick much better in your head when you read about a king and his castle one day….and then literally walk through the ruins of the same castle the next day.
- Travel takes you out of your comfort zone and exposes you to new experiences.
Hahaha, I don’t even need to tell you why this is the name of the website! A routine in the same place will leave you “comfortable” in life, but you’ll basically already know what your days today, tomorrow, next week, and in the future will look like.
While I definitely appreciate the moments in life I have fully in my comfort zone, it’s been the moments outside of it that have really helped me learn, grow, and develop as a person.
When traveling, each new day is a new surprise full of unusual situations I’m not used to. Dealing with these not only brings me far out of my comfort zone but has taught me how to adapt and adjust to situations outside of the norm. This process has taught me plenty of lessons that I’ll take with me for the rest of my life.
- Travel molds your personality and helps you develop as a human being.
It’s these “life lessons” mentioned above – that come from living out new experiences during your travels – that’ll mold your personality. Exposing yourself to different situations will show how you react to each of them – sometimes correctly, sometimes incorrectly.
But it’s this exposure to the world – and your reaction and attitude through the highs and lows – that will mold your personality and turn you into a more developed person with more “life experience.”
And as I said in the beginning, I don’t mean to say that traveling makes you better than other people, but that it makes YOU better than you were before.
If there’s one thing I want to reach for until I die is self-development. To be a better person than I was yesterday, and better still tomorrow.
But this only comes with much work, study, learning, and life experiences. And traveling adds a lot to this life experience.
In other words, by getting out of your comfort zone, you’ll have access to new experiences and, by dealing with them, you’ll discover who you really are and develop as a person throughout the whole process.
11. And altogether, travel helps you “find yourself” in life.
Let the first stone be thrown by the person who’s never stopped and thought: what am I doing here and what do I want in life?
Not that it’s impossible, but it’s difficult for you to have an answer to these questions if nothing new ever really happens in your daily routine.
But traveling and being exposed to an infinite amount of new information and life experiences, one day you might have that “click” or epiphany and finally, discover what it is you want from life – instead of just doing what society told you to do.
It happened to me and it’s possible for you as well!
I decided to leave my last horrible job in Brazil because of what I saw during my travels. I decided to live abroad for the same reason. I decided to work as a ski and snowboard instructor (and Divemaster) thanks to the people I met on my trips.
I decided to create this blog because of what I learned traveling and as a tip I got from someone I met overseas. I decided to go back to school and study a new field that I love because of the inspiration I got from traveling and all the people I’ve encountered.
In other words, all of the big life decisions I’ve made in the past years came about because I traveled and saw there were other ways to live.
To learn more about my story and what got me traveling, take a look at my about me page.
By leaving your daily routine (where you are comfortable and know everyone and everything) and throwing yourself into the world to have contact with different people, situations, cultures, and customs it’s hard for you not to return home as a different person, with different ideas and perspectives on life.
It might just help you reevaluate your reality and values and perhaps even change your career, city, or country to have a “new life!”
Or the opposite! For some people, travel only solidifies the love they have for their current way of life.
Maybe after traveling, you’ll realize that what makes you feel happy and fulfilled is close to home: your family, friends, and what you know, things that are expected and comfortable. And that you don’t actually want to change anything in your current life.
But you will only be able to confirm this by putting yourself out there through travel. In other words, just by discovering the “new and unknown” will let you say with certainty that the “old and known” is truly what you want in life.
So, whether you want to change or confirm your life ideas, travel will be good for you!
And what about you? Do you have any examples of experiences from your travels that have made you see the world differently? Any travel moment that changed your life? Leave your comment in the area below!
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