In 2014, I took my first solo trip for 5 days as a test-run for my backpacking trip the next year. I cried more than I should admit on the internet, but exactly a year later, I had the strength to board a plane one-way for Ireland and didn’t return for 5 months.
Three months ago, I could barely run half a mile without stopping. This past weekend, I ran my first half marathon.
That’s great and all, but why the heck am I mentioning these two life events, and how the heck do those two scenarios relate?
Every stride I took this weekend was thanks to my insatiable, incurable passion for traveling. Let me tell you why.
Traveling empowered me.
If I can learn to talk to strangers in a hostel, stay calm in urgent situations, find a new flight after I missed my original one, or live out of my backpack for five months, surely I’m capable of a lot more than I give myself credit for. Surely I can run 13.1 miles!
I learned how capable I am thanks to all of the potholes in the road I ran into while traveling (robbery, losing passport, being terrified… you know, the works). You can create value out of anything as long as you put in the hard work.
Traveling taught me how to be comfortable being uncomfortable.
If I have to leave the security of my hostel just to find food in this new country, I do it. If I have to wake up at 3:00 AM to catch the metro to the train stations to the airport, I do it. If I have to wander around the uphill maze that is Edinburgh for half an hour with 50 pounds of gear on my back in order to get to my hostel, I do it.
In those instances, I had no choice. In training for the half marathon, I had a choice but I now had the discipline to keep going even after I got tired. Just because my legs were fatigued didn’t mean I was at the end of my limits.
The only way to grow is to push yourself beyond your comfort zone, something that traveling forced me to do over and over again.
Traveling familiarized me with an active lifestyle.
Everyone drives a car in the US, my home country. You don’t walk to the grocery store, to school, or to bars. Heck, you can’t even walk to parks! You literally have to drive to parks to go spend time outside. It’s messed up.
When I was traveling long-term, I walked 15,000 steps a day without even trying. All that walking was a great way to excuse the fact that everything I ate was 90% carbs and fat (thanks Europe), but it also later helped me ease into training when I decided to do start running. I had already been walking this much per day, so now I was just going to try to do it a little faster.
When I came back to the US, I needed to fill the void of all the walking that my body grew accustomed to. As much as I wish I could walk around a park for 15,000 steps, I can’t do that because its too boring!
Not only did travel help me adjust to the thought of using my legs so much, but it encouraged me to keep that type of lifestyle even when I am not traveling.
Traveling encouraged me to desire new experiences.
When I travel, I collect experiences. I like being able to come out of a country saying I tried and did as much as I could. I don’t like leaving stones unturned.
Because traveling fostered this type of mindset, it was a lot easier to convince myself to run a half marathon than it was to convince myself to travel Europe alone!
What has running taught me in return?
This world has so much to offer, but sometimes you don’t have to travel across the globe to see it. When I’m not moving, I feel like I’m missing out on something even if I have no idea what it is. Just because I’m not traveling to some exotic destination, doesn’t mean I’m not growing, learning, or that I’m no longer progressing.
And that sunsets are beautiful no matter where you see them, as long as you take a moment to appreciate them – even in your own backyard.