How travel made me a better person
There is a quote that I am fond of. Many of you may already know of it, however the author is unknown.
Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.
The attribution of being rich has such a relative meaning (or so I would like to think) with it being in the same ranks of what it means to be happy or what it means to be successful. In this context, richness is not attributed to that of monetary meaning, although undoubtedly it does cost money to travel.
I have certainly found that travel has made me richer. Made me a better person. Stronger, more confident and more experienced. My appreciation for things, people and cultures has grown. So too has my self understanding, my compassion and patience. The ability to take the right risks and to adapt have developed as a result of my travelling.
When I was young I had vivid dreams of waking up on the other side of the world to the sound of rain and laying in grass miles away from home. I thought of what it would be like to wear a kimono in Japan or the experience of seeing a show in the West End.
As I grew older the idea of travelling was all the more fervent, the promise of stamping that passport and boarding a plane had drifted. Complexities arose and money got tight. As I got older, my responsibilities grew too. I have to admit that it wasn't some strange change in will that caused me to book a flight out of Perth to a place I wasn't familiar with. It was a bit of coaxing from Jason and his spontaneity that influenced me to actually take that step and commit to an adventure. Even now, I still have a lot to learn and there is still room for growth. Travel helps to fill the gaps.
Appreciation, Perspective and Understanding
Travelling the world equips you with a sense of self and your place in the order of things. How fortunate or unfortunate some people are or aren't reaffirms privilege or contests it. It's easy to get caught up in the minuscule things of the everyday and lose sight of struggles occurring around the world, until you witness it with your own eyes. You also gain an understanding and appreciation for different traditions and beliefs. How something is cooked the way it is, why it is cooked the way it is. How something is done the way it is and how it was done centuries before.
There is only so much you can learn from a textbook education - the rest must be first-hand education of cultures, languages and the values that come with them. You come back with an appreciation for the people and your own life, a changed perspective and intense understanding of the lives of others. Travelling opens up your perspective, intensifies your appreciation and adds to your understanding. Three important lessons that I carry with me in everything that I do and lessons that continue to grow as I continue to travel.
Understand limits and boundaries
You understand how far your body can take you - and a great deal of the time it's really further than you think. You can test your limits and understand your ability to reach them. You find out more about yourself in this sense both physically and mentally. You can break past boundaries, pay caution to the wind and perhaps even sign up to paraglide off a mountain in Switzerland.
Adaptability and change
When you travel you learn so much about being able to accept changes and to adapt. Your ability to adapt is certainly challenged by stepping foot on foreign ground. You may not understand a drop of the language, the mattresses on the floor of your cousin's room that you sleep in may not be as comfortable as your bed at home and cultures may be completely different.
Usual nuances may not necessarily be accepted in foreign countries and there's a great deal of adaptability in that. From holding hands out of habit and the transition of not doing so in Dubai, to requesting for the cheque at the end of a meal in France, these are things you learn to adapt to. Even just being able to adapt to the time changes makes you a better person - and guess what, you learn how to handle the lack of sleep in good time.
Your ability to accept change and not to resist it allows you to marvel in the unexpected. Being out of your comfort zone makes you better off at coping with things - a fantastic transferrable skill to gain. The ability to roll with the punches and adapt to changes allows for a shift in focus and enables you to cope with change in a positive way. One of the most enlightening things that can be gained is to embrace the changes around you of another country, city or town and to see the world as a global citizen.
Problem solving and challenges
There's no better way to make yourself more adept at problem solving and analytical thinking than some sort of challenge or random change in plans outside of your influence. A map that you were referring to on your phone may refuse to update in real time. Because of that you may be stuck with navigating yourself home. But it's okay because you learn along the way that you're actually quite intelligent and more than capable of doing so. You can rely on your own abilities rather than that of your technological device. It also reminds you that you're actually not in control sometimes and you just need to do the best you can with the best you have.
Challenges come in many forms. Sometimes it's trying to navigate yourself around a Japanese metro station or attempting to ask for directions in another language. You'll learn so much more about yourself, limits and abilities by uncomfortably pushing them through challenges. Which brings me to my next point.
Travelling is all about jumping out of your comfort zone. You're propelling yourself into a different city, country and part of the world. Throwing yourself into a place where the language you speak may not be the native language takes a lot of confidence. Further to this, sometimes you'll find yourself talking to a complete stranger. It may seem frightening at first, but with enough confidence you can do it and return home with more positive experiences under your belt - and who knows, perhaps a new friend.
Don't let a lack of confidence hold you back from a life changing experience. Be positive and proactive. Even if it's to ask for time off to grasp an amazing opportunity to travel the world. There's no better time than the present. Things do not fall perfectly into place all the time. You need to want it and go get it. I've certainly found that since travelling, I have gained confidence in just asking for what I want and have gained confidence in my abilities.
There is no doubt that in financial terms, travelling is an expense. It's more money spent than what is brought back in as income. But travelling has positively impacted my ability to budget and manage my finances. Take actually getting yourself to that destination for example. It's about saving, monetary self control and seeking out deals. It's actually a practical way to learn what you can and perhaps should not purchase. Once you're there, it's about being aware of your finances and not allowing yourself to be tempted by Printemps (experiences > materials) while still remembering your monetary responsibilities at home. I have certainly needed to keep a float and enough in the bank to pay my rent fortnightly while travelling.
Experiences mean more than material things
Experiences when travelling give you a taste of the world. They provide you with memories and lessons. Boarding the plane and stepping through the gate is an experience. Crossing continents and lining up for that famous chocolat chaud is an experience. Learning what it is like to live as a local allows you to understand your similarities and differences and incorporate the positives into your own life. Tasting and eating food and learning all about the way it's made is an experience.
There is a thrill and an excitement about new experiences that perhaps you can't get when you're living at home. Even when purchasing items as keepsakes or souvenirs, they only become keepsakes because of an experience or a memory attached to them. I've definitely learnt that purchasing material things is low in my hierarchy of importance. I'm more likely to spend my time hopping on boats and travelling by cable car to the highest point of Central Switzerland, rather than shopping at a department store.
Patience and tolerance
I think with every trip I am learning more about myself and tapping into my tolerance and patience. When I am tired or hungry I tend to be quite moody. I realise because of this, I have to be double tolerant in the event anything goes astray (not after a couple of trivial dummy spits and learning from these of course). When flights are delayed, lines were long or people stepped on your toes unknowingly - you have to be tolerant and patient.
Learning how to be tolerant and patient helps to control your mood and this ability honestly helps with the overall outcome of your trip. Maybe you lost the tickets for an exhibition you had pre-purchased and had to line up again. You shouldn't let something like that ruin the rest of your day. You're in an amazing city that has so much to offer and so little time to soak it all up, you don't need to waste time complaining about trivial matters and souring the mood. Having a little patience and tolerance goes a long way.
Trust and kindness
A stranger's kindness and ability to go out of their way for you will be both grounding and thought provoking. You will be surprised how many people are so willing to help a stranger in need. Trust that help and then be that kind stranger for others. When in a complicated situation, the kindness of people will stop you and remind you how amazing people can be. What I have also learnt is that people are people - no matter where you are in the world. All have thoughts and judgements. They can be happy, sad, generous, lonely or greedy. Just be kind. When travelling with people you learn a lot, you learn how to trust them and how to remain kind throughout the unexpected. And sometimes, sometimes trusting yourself is the hardest thing to do.
I would like to think I'm quiet an independent young woman. Even before all of this travelling business. Travelling teaches you all about understanding your own abilities and self-sustainence.
Travelling gives you a sense of belonging, which for me has provided a sense of fulfilment and a sense of happiness. I know that travelling for the sake of seeing new things, having amazing experiences and increasing my appreciation for the world makes me happy. It's something I do because it makes me feel these positive energies and knowing this... well there's a sense of solace in that.
Travelling is an investment. The more you adventure, the more you see and the more you experience. The more you experience, the more you grow. As you grow and experience you change and evolve as a person, opening yourself up to different possibilities and cultures and understandings. It's a direct way to learn and see and do. To me, it's far better to take home than a purchase. You can spread around your positive changes and influence others around you for the better.
And you know what? Those dreams are now memories. Go out and see the world, you'll be better for it.