Whether you explore a new city only two hours away or fly halfway across the world, traveling changes you in unexpected ways. Placing ourselves in new situations is a catalyst for learning, expanding our perspectives, and growing. I recently made my way through some countries in Southeast Asia and arrived home with fresh ideas and a more positive view of even the smallest situations. Here are five incredible ways that traveling changes life.
1. You discover what you care about.
New experiences force you to question what you already know, to examine your life as an outsider for a moment and decide what is really important. For example, I realized how much I value learning. We met so many people who knew multiple languages and visited places filled with rich history I had never heard of. It inspired me to read more, to take more classes and continue learning. When traveling in hostels you might discover that clean showers are really important to you, or you might learn how much your family means to you when they are hundreds or thousands of miles away.
2. You uncover sides of yourself you didn’t know existed.
Whether trying a new dish with strange ingredients or taking an adventurous trek in the mountains, you’ll learn your limits and discover your capabilities to be daring and spontaneous. If you’re usually the one who leads and plans, maybe you’ll take a back seat and go with the flow of people you meet at a hostel. If you hated school, maybe you’ll uncover a curiosity about history and culture that never existed when learning from textbooks. New places, new people…a fresh slate to be whomever you want to be.
3. You gain street smarts.
When was the last time you had to ask a stranger for directions? Or even look at a map? In new situations, the little details suddenly become important and you learn how to fend for yourself. You’ll remember strange things like “The hostel is across from a restaurant with blue umbrellas out front.” Figuring out the right ferry to get on? Trusting your gut and avoiding a small dark street that was lit up earlier? Hiding your money and budgeting? All of these things become important when you’re traveling.
4. You learn how to communicate with anyone.
They say that smiling is the universal language. Well, so is laughing, and a combination of pointing, nodding, making faces of happiness, sadness or surprise to show another person what you’re trying to say. Everyone around the world lives differently, so whether you’re traveling to a different city or country, you’ll likely encounter communication challenges that you’ll have to overcome. Learn to share jokes with those from a city on the opposite coast who speak the same language but find different things funny. Learn that the thumbs-up doesn’t exactly mean “good” in every country. Discover how to get along with anyone, anywhere. Adaptation and a friendly attitude go a long way!
5. You master the art of living in the moment.
It’s easy to get lost scrolling for hours on social media or sucked into a new Netflix show. We constantly overanalyze conversations from earlier in the day or week and live mentally in the past. When traveling, your brain is called to the present. Your senses are heightened and you master the art of living in the moment.
Travel affects us all differently, but one thing is guaranteed: a new perspective. After a trip, however short or long, you’ll arrive home with a new perspective, new ideas, and a stimulated mind.