Travelling, I believe, needs to be recognised as something that actually comes close to giving an inkling of just how life changing it can be. As a young woman, I’ve spend the majority of my formative years travelling with my family, and eventually, with my friends. When I read John Green’s Paper Towns, I realised the guy really had a point. You have to get lost to get found. And while he may not have meant it in a literal way, I have never come back home unchanged after travelling.
These epiphanies I have after living out of a suitcase, they hit me in the strangest places. When I smell a particular smell on a thoroughly nondescript street, for instance, or when I’m sitting with a cup of coffee that somehow tastes exactly like nostalgia. And they’re not earth shattering, but illuminating all the same. Each and every place I’ve been has contributed, in part, to making me the person I am today.
If you, like most twenty-somethings, feel like yet another cog in the wheel, stuck in the same cycle that offers no respite, you know by now that you first need to find yourself. Set adrift in a world where we work long hours without anything concrete to tell us why we’re so lost, it’s terrifyingly simple to clutch at the best option there is at the time to fix things. But that’s like trying to use a bandaid to heal a foot long laceration.
No matter what they tell you, counsellors and shrinks can only help to a limited extent. To figure out what you truly want to do with your life, you must first surrender to the knowledge that you’re at a standstill. Once you begin the climb however, you’re only ever going to move upwards.
Here’s a list of ways in which travel can help you realize what you want to do in life, with nothing but the rich tapestry of culture, humanity, and nature as your teachers
It pushes you out of your comfort zone.
When there is no other choice, but to square your shoulders and forge ahead, you realise just how much you are capable of, and what you can achieve if you put your mind to it.
You realize that there is no safety net in life.
Travelling is like a real-time metaphor because when you’re trekking in the mountains, or sitting on a beach several hundred miles away from home, you won’t have a plan B.
You’ll learn to think on your feet and improvise, and ultimately not take anything for granted, which will make you realise what your long term goals are.
You are forced to accept that things won’t always go your way, and that’s okay.
In fact, some of the best things in life are unplanned, and come straight out of disasters you didn’t believe you’d recover from. When you look at your life with the same unbeatable optimism, the war is already won.
You develop the ability to pace yourself out during a six hour long bus journey, and cram a whole day’s worth of experience within an hour of strenuous rappelling.
You’ll also figure out what kind of flow you want your life to have.
It makes you resilient and unbreakable.
When you fall down, you have to either pick yourself up or risk getting left behind. So you do it. And over time, you learn to focus on the rush helping yourself gives you, rather than the pain of falling in the first place.
It opens you up to new experiences that you wouldn’t normally have had, back at home, and expands your field of knowledge.
This, in turn, translates into willingness to try out new things outside of your areas of interest in everyday life. You’ll get a better shot at finding what you really want out of life.
Travelling makes you curious and helps develop a thirst for outdoing your latest adventure.
In addition, it helps you prioritize and compartmentalize work, to make the most of what you have within the time you have available. Pushing yourself to beat your previous achievement, while at the same time getting more efficient at it will win you serious points in the game of life.
It changes your perception of the world.
You realize that there’s so much more to life than the worldview you have. This isn’t because you’re narrow-minded, no, you maybe the most non judgemental person ever, but your life experience is only limited to what you’ve seen and where you’ve been. So unless you travel, you can’t reach your peak.
It helps you apply your technical skills on a practical plane.
For instance, I knew I had been told I was good at connecting with people, right from the time I was in school. But it wasn’t until I calmed down a little girl who was separated from her parents, while in the throes of an emotional outburst, that I realised I could use this skill to help others and put it to use for all the interviews I’m required to conduct for my journalistic work.
It allows you to look at what life has to offer beyond materialistic things.
I’m not denying the fact that you need at least a little capital to travel. But once you’re there, you come to realise that nobody cares about your branded jeans and four hundred dollar shoes if you’re not easy going and flexible. When you travel for long enough, you assimilate those traits, and they can help shape the trajectory of your career.
It teaches you to listen to your heart and take care of your body.
You have to be completely in tune with yourself and at your physical best when you’re on the road. There is no scope for a time out. When you’re accustomed to putting your best foot forward, it automatically becomes a part of your personality. Set the bar high for yourself, and you’ll automatically know what you’re expecting out of life.
You learn to trust you gut.
When there is no clear path ahead, you have to make choices based on your intuition. More often than not, it pays well to rely on yourself. And if at all things don’t work out, you learn to face the consequences of your actions – you’ll know what definitely doesn’t work for you in the longer run.
It keeps you grounded and in touch with reality.
When you’re surrounded by strangers, have cultural and language barriers, and are in it for the real experience, you have to keep your ego aside and understand that respect is a two way street. So much of travel, like life, is not floating on a cloud; it is crawling through squelchy mud, getting frostbites and mosquito bites, scrappy knees and sunburn skin.
It forces you to ask yourself tough questions and make hard decisions.
You learn to separate your head from your heart, and the clarity this quality lends will help you determine between what you think you ought to do with your life, and what you really want to do. You only get a limited number of chances to make it, and you realise the importance of calling the right shots at the right time.
It shatters your preconceived notions about both yourself and the world, and rattles your belief systems.
You are forced to unlearn everything you’ve taken as established facts, and start from scratch. This almost serves as a second birth, a special lease that lets you rethink and rebuild your life – only this time around, you’ll actually know what you want.