As you can probably guess, traveling the world — even traveling around my home of NYC — is extremely important to me; so much so that I’ve made a career out of it. Travel has changed, inspired and helped me grow in so many ways, such as those listed below. What would you add to the list? I’d love to hear in the comments below.
1. It Gives Me Perspective
The most intelligent, kind people can still benefit from expanding their perspective by seeing the way other cultures live, think and adapt. For example, when I was in China hiking from village to village in the hillside I randomly met a local woman who invited me in for tea. Luckily I had a guide as she didn’t speak English, and was able to make conversation through her. What really stayed with me, however, was how she had invited me, a perfect stranger, into her home. Not only that, but I’d forgotten my umbrella in her house and she — a woman of about 80 years old — actually chased me down a giant hill to return it to me. This over-the-top generosity was so foreign and refreshing to me coming from NYC, where most people won’t even give up their seat to a pregnant woman on the subway.
I’ve also encountered instances where I did not agree with the local perspective. In Ghana litter is an enormous issue, mainly because locals don’t understand that it’s bad for the planet. When hiking with one local, he threw a cookie wrapper on the ground, thinking it was okay; however, when I threw a banana peel on the ground he yelled at me, saying people could die from slipping on the peel, like in cartoons. I tried to explain my reality, but it ended up being a clash of cultures, albeit an eye opening one into the local peoples’ way of thinking.
2. It Helps Me Escape
While I absolutely hate when people accuse me of living a life of travel to escape instead of growing up or facing reality (umm, who’s reality?) I do occasionally use it to get away and gain perspective on my issues. It’s amazing how simply creating distance from your problems can really help you gain clarity. One solo hike in a tranquil place is like years of therapy for me.
3. It Introduces Me To New Experiences
Cooking in a Malay home in the Bo-Kapp, Bedouin camping in Jordan, doing a homestay with herbal pickers in Slovenia, zorbing in New Zealand, swimming with sharks in the Galapagos. These are just a few of the novel experiences I’ve been lucky to have thanks to travel. I’m constantly discovering new experiences I never even knew existed, allowing me to be a more open-minded and worldly person.
Travel Tip: While doing a bit of research to find these types of activities is a good idea, leave a day or two free toward the end of the trip for experiences you discover from chatting with locals. For example, I didn’t hear about Slovenia’s popular Escape Rooms until I was actually in Slovenia — and almost everyone recommended them to me.
4. It Helps Me Face My Fears
Sure, sometimes I use travel to run away from my problems; however, other times it helps me face them. Recently, I told you about how travel helped me face my fear of heights — and that’s just one of many ways exploring the globe has helped me grow.
For instance, I wasn’t always a fearless solo traveler (actually, I’m still not and never will be completely fearless). The first time I went off on my own to Southeast Asia and China I was, to put it mildly, petrified. What if I lost my passport, or got food poisoning, or became lost and ended up in the wrong city? None of these things happened, and if they had I would have dealt with them as they came. What did happen was I became absolutely hooked on exploring the globe on my own and having ultimate freedom over my itinerary.
5. It Helps Me Grow My Relationship With Myself
This mainly stems from traveling solo and spending 24/7 in my own company. It’s amazing how many conversations you have with yourself — both mentally and out loud — and how much easier it is to be honest about what you want when there’s no one else you need to negotiate with. When your trip is your own it becomes about your own needs, wants and growth, and the answers to these questions become clear in the silence.
While traveling the world helps me grow my relationship with myself, it helps my other relationships, as well.