“Travel is the best teacher. The only way to an open mind is by taking a plane
out into the open world.” C. JoyBell C.
You’ve probably heard this quote before. I’m usually not the biggest fan of such kind of inspirational quotes, but about a month ago, I decided to take this advice by heart and to quit the Master’s program I was enrolled in. Ok nay, just kidding, I’m not THAT reckless – you can’t count me into the category of “I-sold-everything-to-travel” kind of people (yet). In reality, the program that I was enrolled in just didn’t really match my interests. As I couldn’t justify my whole life revolving around something that I was not totally invested in, I decided to look for an alternative.
Nevertheless, having just recently gotten back from a 6 month backpacking trip through Asia (kind of unoriginal – I know), I started thinking about what I had learned from travel. And I realized that it is a DAMN LOT!
I know quite a few people who think that I am wasting my time with traveling a lot (Hi mom!), but honestly, there are a lot of valuable life lessons you can take away from it! Sure, traveling may not directly help you to build skills you can put on your CV, but I strongly believe that travel is a great teacher!
Here are five things that travel can teach you.
1. Critical Thinking
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.” Another quote, maybe I’ve read to many “Inspirational Wanderlust Quotes” articles recently. But anyways, I think this quote by Mark Twain sums up one of the most important lessons of traveling. Traveling brings you face to face with other cultures that have different ways of doing, thinking and believing. Irrespective of the places you visit, travel will certainly challenge your assumptions and broaden your perspective. We probably all know that the way each of us looks at the world is different to how others see things. Yet, I’m sure everyone has some major blind spots in this regard! Traveling will serve as a reality check and make you see the world in a different light.
2. Appreciation & Gratitude
I wouldn’t say that I grew up being particularly spoiled, but I certainly did take things for granted. By the time that I decided to head off for my first long trip alone, I re-evaluated my situation though. I’m extremely lucky to have grown up in an environment that gave me the opportunity of receiving a good education. Seeing people in all different kinds of circumstances whilst traveling was definitely a very humbling experience and made me appreciate everything I had a lot more!
Sunset in Nong Khiaw, Laos
3. Experiences over Possessions
This is another very valuable thing that I took away from traveling. I shamefully admit that I was one of those girls owning 50 nail polishes (seriously!). Well, turns out that I easily survived with one nail polish and one Mascara for six months (SHOCKER, I know)! Traveling has made me value experiences over possession a lot more and nowadays I happily spend my money on a nice trip instead of new clothes or make up. Overall, I learned to appreciate the little things in life a lot more.
4. Going Out of Your Comfort Zone
In daily life, it is so easy to not push yourself to do things that are slightly out of your comfort zone. I mean, why bother if you are comfortable with your routines and enjoy the familiarity life gives you this way? Well, there’s TONS of benefits that derive from breaking out of your comfort zone, but I don’t want to let my inner psychologist ramble on too much about this.
So what’s the deal with travel and pushing the boundaries of your comfort zone? While you of course can challenge yourself to go out of your comfort zone in daily life, travel puts you in a setting that makes it much easier. A new environment, experiencing a different culture, meeting new people – all of this already breaks your daily routines and it becomes much easier to step out of your comfort zone and to try new things and activities!
Hiking Mount Rinjani, Indonesia
5. Trusting Your Potential
Traveling throws little challenges at you pretty often. While this may make you freak out at times, remember that you will leave feeling accomplished once you’ve come up with a solution. Before I went traveling, I never noticed how much I relied on others to reassure me in the decisions that I’ve made. Of course, there’s nothing wrong about asking others for advice! But have you ever thought about how much the decision you ultimately make are based on others opinions because you were too scared of taking a certain step on your own? Travel truly teaches you to trust yourself and your intuitions and shows you that you are a lot more capable than you ever though you would be!
6. Living in the Present
Living in the present moment as a key to happiness – sounds so cliché, yet seems to make a lot of sense! However, the idea that society instills in us is one of putting all of our focus on striving for success in the future. While there’s nothing wrong with goal orientation, there’s a danger in living only for the sake of achieving something in the future. I used to go along my days and weeks, going to university or work and running errands when I suddenly noticed that all of my memories had blended together. It was at this point when I was struggling to recall any memories of particular moments that I realized that I was not living in the present!
When traveling, it’s easy to live in the present. Every day is a little adventure, you step outside of your comfort zone and try new things. I can easily remember and recall lots of moments from my travels, from watching the sunset in the Philippines to feeling the wind blowing through my hair on Mount Rinjani, to just eating Pho at our favorite little restaurant in Hanoi. It’s not all about the big adventures, but about reveling in the moments. This is what ultimately stays stuck in your memory!
It’s definitely harder to live this way at home, but travel has made me more aware of the importance of doing more of what makes me happy in the moment, that I am constantly reminded of it.
So is travel the best teacher? I’m still undecided on this, but there’s no discounting of the fact that travel can teach you lots of things you surely won’t learn in a classroom!
What are your thoughts on this? What lessons have you learned from traveling?
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