If someone were to ask me if they should go travelling, if they should take off when they are young and free and have adventures and see the world I would say yes, yes, a thousand times yes. I would tell them to wander and meet as many people as they can and see as much as is possible because one day they won’t want to anymore, or they won’t be able to, so go now. Be safe and be careful but be curious and be open minded. Because often with getting lost, you find yourself.
There are many things to be gained from travel, but here are 10 pretty important ones…
Random Conversations with Beautiful Strangers.
Whether you are travelling alone or with a companion, allow yourself time to meet people on your travels. You will meet characters from all walks of life; some may have advice on what to see or do, some may have tips for your journey, some may have stories. Be open to meeting new people. Despite what we see on the news most people are friendly and good. Travel will open your eyes and open your mind.
Stories, stories, stories.
You will have stories for life. There is nothing like the stories from your travels, especially if you have done something different or interesting and really allowed yourself to be immersed in another culture. I remember being transfixed for hours by stories from a friend of mine who had travelled through China and we only got to the weird food stories!
See the world through new eyes.
Everything becomes fresh and exciting when travelling. Even a simple mundane task like grocery shopping becomes an adventure in a foreign land. You have the chance to shake your life up and get out of your rut and out of your comfort zone. Take that opportunity with both hands. Eat the food, listen to the music, hear the locals. You have the rest of your life for familiarity.
As Einstein famously once said, “There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
See the miracles.
We live in a very capitalist and materialistic world. People in our society tend to want more and more things in order to keep up with their friends and colleagues. People are working longer hours and gathering more and more stuff. Travel makes you realise that experiences and memories are an even greater treasure to have.
Travel teaches you who you are.
Now this expression has been done to death and truthfully it sounds a little clichéd. I’m not sure I agree with the sentiment, well not entirely. I don’t think travel teaches you who you are, I think you are who you are regardless, but travel can certainly put you into different and sometimes challenging situations which are outside of your norm and your comfort zone. The way you react and deal with those things can bring out some character traits you may not know you had.
On my first solo trip overseas I had my passport pickpocketed in Spain when I was on a train going to the airport to leave the country. I was alone and I couldn’t get on my flight. I couldn’t speak the language and the Spanish police were awful. I had a few tears at the time but ultimately I had to work it out. And I did. And I was stronger for it. It’s surprising how we cope when we have to. These sort of experiences set you up for good stead later in life.
Travel helps you learn skills you may not even know you had. I’m talking about practical, useful skills. The art of negotiation is cleverly used by many travellers. You learn to be wary of people trying to take advantage and you quickly learn to have a tough exterior, even if it is an act. Skills such as finding your way and explaining yourself even if the only language you have in common is charades can also come in handy.
I have a terrible sense of direction, my internal compass was broken from the day I was born. For this reason I have gotten lost more times than I can count which is not too bad when I am in Perth with familiar landmarks and street signs to help but when I was in Egypt or Japan or Venice where I could literally wander for hours in circles it’s not quite as funny. So I learnt to read maps and even now if I have a map I am ok. I can find my way even if I have no idea which way is North or West.
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
You quickly learn that little things don’t matter so much when you are away from home. So you wore that shirt for a week at a time, or you got ripped off by a dodgy taxi driver or you were told something was an authentic buy and you nursed it all the way home only to see the same thing on the shelves at Big W. So what? It all helps build resilience and flexibility; two traits which are sadly disappearing in a lot of our kids today. Resilience is one of the most important traits a human being can possess. You will not always win and things will not always go your way but that’s ok. Onwards and upwards.
Take calculated risks.
Again, safety is paramount but once you have assessed the situation, often when travelling, we have to take risks. Trusting people’s word, turning down a strange road, venturing somewhere new and remote. I remember when I was travelling alone, which I love doing, there were a few scenarios where things were a lot more difficult than they would have been if I’d had a travelling companion. An example of this is going to the toilet at the airport. I had a large trolley with my suitcase and my hand luggage bag stacked on top and I was about to step out into the madness of Cairo when nature called. I wheeled the trolley into the toilets with me and then I was faced with a dilemma, wee in privacy with the door closed and my suitcase outside or wee with the door open but in full view of my possessions. After quickly reviewing my surrounds I compromised and used the trolley to prop open the door and shield me as I did a quick hover. Luggage was not stolen and I was able to answer the call. Risk assessment complete. This is just 1 of about a hundred risk assessments I did that day alone.
Tolerance and acceptance.
At the end of the day we all breathe the same air. We all bleed red. We are all in this together. Accept people for who they are and try not to judge. You don’t know what kind of battles a person has faced in their lives or are facing right now. I’m not saying you have to love everybody but when travelling you quickly learn that our way of life is very different and the way we operate can be quite different and that’s ok. Truthfully we are all just trying to live our lives and when in a new culture you have to be respectful of their customs and their way of operating. You are on their land after all.
As much as I love travelling and love the thrill of adventure, I have also always loved coming home. Travel often reinforces how lucky we are to live in Australia and really for most people, home is where the heart is and where your people are. I remember coming home from some of my bigger trips and slowly getting back into the Perth pace and the Aussie way of life. I remember thinking that the colours are brighter here, the people and way of doing things is familiar and my bed is so comfortable. Sometimes you have to leave a place to fall back in love with it.
So, if you are able to travel or you have people in your life who are contemplating it, tell them to go. Go and see this big, beautiful, interesting, colourful world that we live in. Meet the people, see the sights and have the adventures. You will come back with a lot more than some nice pictures, you will gain things that you can only learn by diving headfirst into this fascinating world of ours.