One of the best aspects of travel is in discovery. Whether you’re immersing yourself in a brand new culture or wandering the streets of a foreign city, you’re finding new things to see and experience.
Part of that discovery is in what you learn about yourself. Like most experiences, travel can change you in ways you might never have expected. And as I look back on my trips, I realize just how many of them have changed me for the better.
Here are some of those ways:
1. Forces you out of your comfort zone
Travel means new foods, cultures and places to explore. Try speaking that new language or eat a new kind of food you never knew existed. When you’re thrown outside of your normal circumstances, you’ll discover more about who you are and what you’re like.
2. Time management
When you have only have a week or two to see a country, you have to manage your time so that you see as much as possible. This means estimating how long you think you’ll spend at each place and setting a proper schedule. Because of my travels, I’ve become especially good at estimating how long something will take.
4. Getting off the beaten path
Even if you’re traveling in a group, there’s usually enough time to get away to do your own thing. You’ll take that side street to see where it goes or walk into a small pub to make friends with locals. Breaking away from the norm is good since you’ll learn to live life how you want to, not just because that’s what everyone else is doing.
5. Seeing new ways of living
Nothing can be more eye-opening than surrounding yourself with another culture that chooses to live their life completely different from yours. That can give you a new perspective on how you live and make you see your life in ways you never considered before.
6. The chance to reinvent yourself
At home, people can see you a certain way and pigeonhole you into a personality type that can be hard to escape. Travel can give you a chance to explore other sides to your personality. You’re free to break away from how people normally see you and reinvent yourself.
7. Building confidence
You’ve just traveled across a country, tried a new language and haggled over prices in a market. They’re all things you didn’t know you could do before, but dug up a new-found sense of adventure and somehow made it work. With travel, comes challenges. And the more challenges you take on, the more sure of yourself you become.
8. Planning and organizing skills
What’s the best route to take so I see all the major attractions? What’s the best way to get to the next city and back so I don’t miss my flight? How should I organize my itinerary?
Travel is about making choices. You have to organize your trip so that you have a place to stay and transportation to and from certain destinations. Personally speaking, planning and organization takes up a huge chunk of time before I even arrive.
9. You become an interesting person
Travel is an opportunity to do things you might not otherwise get to do. Adventures from surfing, whitewater rafting or exploring a jungle will give you amazing experiences you’ll have for the rest of your life. It’s simple: do interesting things and you’ll always have an interesting story to share.
10. Living with less
It’s hard to carry a lot while traveling. At some point, you have to carefully examine what you actually need and leave the rest behind.
I’m always amazed at how little I can get by with when I travel. It teaches me that life can be lived a lot more simply – there’s surprisingly little we actually need to be comfortable.
11. Taking bad experiences in stride
While traveling, I’ve been swindled out of money. Two other times, I was with people when they were pick-pocketed. It doesn’t happen often, but occasionally bad things come up. When they do, it’s easy to become furious and let your emotions boil over.
But eventually you learn to just let it go because there isn’t anything you can do. Dwelling on it won’t solve anything so you learn that you have to let those negative feelings go.
12. Feelings of gratitude
It’s easy to forget just how lucky we are. We live in a world full of abundance and wealth and often never fully appreciate what we’ve been given.
Traveling to a poor country can make you realize just how much you actually have. I’ve made friends with people who have so little – much less than you normally see. It brings into perspective all those wonderful things I failed to appreciate.
13. Social skills
I’ve met people at hostels, guided tours, bars, cafes, monuments and buses. You can meet local people and other travelers – good people and bad, introverted or outgoing. Wherever you go, there’s the opportunity to get to know someone and make a new friend.
14. Flexibility & Adaptability
Recently when I was flying to Los Angeles, a flight was cancelled and I was stranded for a night in San Francisco. Suddenly I had to scramble to adapt plans and make last minute accommodations.
But rather than seeing it as a source of frustration, I saw it as an opportunity. After my wife and I got a place to stay, we hit the town. When you can change quickly to circumstances, you can get a lot more out of life.
15. Becoming comfortable with uncertainty and the unexpected
Trips don’t always go according to plan. There’s plenty that can go wrong to either derail your itinerary or force you to change your plans.
But as you travel, you realize that the unexpected is rarely as bad as you think. Often they’re just small obstacles that can easily be overcome. Eventually you become accustomed to uncertainty and the unexpected challenges that come your way.
16. You become smarter and more cultured
Whether it’s your goal or not, travel makes you smarter. All the things you learn about other cultures and people – their quirks, mannerisms and worldview add to what you discover about the country’s history and politics. Eventually you come away with a deeper understanding of a country just from being there.
17. There’s time to reflect on your life
As exciting as travel is, there are plenty of moments of downtime. Whether you’re on a train heading to your next destination or resting in your room, there are moments to pause and reflect. During those times, thoughts often go back to your life back home.
Being immersed in another country and culture can help you get into an outsider’s mindset on your life. It can give you a good insight into what you really want out of life and where it’s heading.
photo credit: Riccardo Romano