Throughout high school, I didn’t travel much. With the exception of a trip to San Francisco with my mom my sophomore year and a road trip with my high school band to the East Coast my junior year, I was a pretty big homebody. Even during those trips, I just wanted to be home. I despised being in the car for any longer than an hour and a half. This was mostly due to me being prone to motion sickness.
Then something changed.
One September day my sophomore year of college, something inside me clicked and I suddenly felt an overwhelming desire to leave and study abroad. I chose Scotland. I lived there for three and a half months with 35 other American students and teachers in a house that would make even Daddy Warbucks say “Wow!”
When people leave to travel, they expect everything to be the same coming home. They don’t realize how travel changes you. And this is how.
Travel gave me a sense of identity. Coming home from that three and a half month excursion, I had more of an idea of who I was and who I wanted to be. I may not have been sure of what I wanted, but I knew exactly what I didn’t want.
Travel has made me a global citizen and increased my compassion for the world, as well as increased my appreciation for diversity. I care a lot about what’s going on in other countries now, even if they don’t concern me one bit. Upon hearing about the terrorist attack in France shortly after New Year’s, my body felt empty and numb. The world is a deeply diverse place, and I’ve learned to appreciate that we are all different and that we all have something to give.
Travel has increased my outgoingness and people skills. When I meet someone new, especially when they’re from somewhere not near me or from a different place around the world, I take a huge interest in them. I want to hear their story.
Travel has awakened my sense of adventure. Some people may call this “catching the travel bug.” You leave once, and then that’s all you want to do. You want to see all this world has to offer and you want to take risks that you wouldn’t normally take. I’ve been zip lining through the forests of Scotland, and whitewater rafting down the rapids of Colorado. I’m kind of a bad ass now.
Travel has allowed me to appreciate spontaneity and when things go wrong. Things go wrong all the time when you’re traveling, and I realize now that that is what makes it an adventure. I’ve walked 10 miles through London in one day because I’ve lost my underground card. I’ve walked 2 miles through a hurricane in Belfast because I was too cheap to pay for a cab (the hurricane was something we didn’t expect). Someone in your group will book a hotel in Dublin that will end up being right next to the tram line. Things won’t go as planned, and it’s okay. Now when I travel, I schedule things and book things in a way that allows them room for improvisation and things to go wrong. They make the best stories.
*Note: No one wants to hear about how absolutely perfect your trip was. We wanna hear about how your local tour bus broke down and everyone had to walk three miles in the pouring rain to the nearest pub where you all had to spend the night, or about how you went to Spain and someone accidentally stole your passport! **Note: I am also realizing now that this makes me a tad dramatic. I think I am okay with this.
Travel has made me realize that the sacrifices are worth it. So what I got car sick on the way to the airport and ended up violently vomiting all over the sidewalk in front of the Edinburgh airport terminal at 4am while simultaneously photobombing a family photo? It was worth it (plus I got a great story out of it, and we still laugh about it to this day).
Travel has made me realize what is important in life. I have a newfound respect and appreciation for the people in my life. Being away from them makes you realize what you already have. Traveling with them makes you appreciate them in your lives, especially because travel can bring out the worst in everybody at times. I’ve realized that traveling and making memories and having extraordinary experiences is how I want to be spending my money and time. Those cute boots will not bring me that happiness (okay, temporarily they will and I might still occasionally splurge, but I’ve reigned it in a bit).
If I can offer one piece advice, it’s to travel. Leave home and see the world, even if it’s just to see how people are different. You’ll find that we’re alike, too.
And so I leave you with this:
“If you’re 22, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel – as and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them – wherever you go.” – Anthony Bourdain