“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
1. PERSPECTIVE: Gaining perspective is one of the greatest gifts of travel. Seeing the world through the eyes of others while not dealing with the constraints of day-to-day life is perspective’s gift. “Don’t sweat the small stuff” couldn’t be more of a true statement. Realizing the situations, troubles, atrocities and difficulties that have happened to so many reminds you of where your everyday (first-world) problems rank in the scheme of the world. Sometimes perspective hits you during your travels and other times it waits till you arrive back home. Either way-with it, you gain this wonderful gift that changes the way you see yourself and the world around you.
2. OPENING MINDS: New places, new people, new cultures, and new ideas. Travel shares truth and shows human nature and true character in the midst of real life. You see the reality directly in front of you. No books, no internet, no television, no movies-the learning is through interacting with people including their language, customs and culture. Thankfully, there is no place for narrow-mindedness.
3. MEETING NEW PEOPLE: True character. Meeting new people while traveling is a joyous part of the journey. Sometimes other travelers who fully understand your mindset and love travel just as much. These are the folks who can answer “where was the last place you’ve been and where do you want to go next”. These are the people who will share stories of their adventures and invite you to meet up with them on future journeys. And then there are the locals! People you might not meet in your own neighborhood fuel your travel with some of the most crucial bits of information. Locals will tell you their favourite places to eat, where the non-touristy locations are and share their life experiences and knowledge with you to make your travel that much more genuine. A local may invite you into their home, into their life. He/she will show you their city/their country in a way that no book/computer could ever capture and you will be the better for it.
4. NEW FOODS: Branston Pickle, Lizano sauce, South African rusks…all of these live in my cuboard because they were too good to leave behind. Travel opens up taste buds you never knew you had. In a home, on the side of the road, at a restaurant, or in beachside cafes some of the world’s delicacies are available if only you venture out of your comfort zone. Eating the local fare, prepared by those who know it best while being enveloped by the culture that came up with it-your palate will never be the same. (I did decide to give the Cambodian deep fried spiders a miss; but it’s an image I won’t soon forget)
5. DEFYING STEREOTYPES: It might be you, it might be someone else…as a traveler, you are an ambassador for your own state or country. You may be the first/only person someone else has ever met who is from a certain place, practices a certain religion, looks a certain way or so many other things that sadly the world stereotypes. It could be you who fits in this tiny box or it could be the people you meet. Either way, trying to be the best person you can possibly be while traveling (or always for that matter) may be just the thing to defy certain beliefs. Then you will no longer be that ‘category’, you will be a person with a name and one more stereotype will have been defied that day. Perhaps that’s a traveler’s way to make the world a little safer, a bit more peaceful and far less ignorant. With each journey, we can help rid the world of these stereotypes.
6. FREEING: No expectations. No need to act a certain way. The idea that it’s just you and your environment and the ability to make new choices, new decisions and new leaps is incredibly freeing. Less fear. That ease that comes over you when you can truly be yourself is palpable on every journey. The more you feel it, the less you ever want to let it go.
7. BEING OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE: Zorbing in New Zealand, sleeping on the edge of the Serengetti without fences, eating street food in Southeast Asis or whatever your version of something you wouldn’t do at home-getting out of your comfort zone is where life truly begins. Travel can certainly add stress to some, but it’s how you handle that stress that shows who you are. Lost luggage, rain on your big sight-seeing day, no toilets you recognize-being out of your comfort zone cheers for flexibility, forces you to make choices and empowers you to find the silver-lining. A magnet on my refrigerator says “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” and I couldn’t agree more.
8. KNOWLEDGE THAT YOU’RE PART OF A MUCH BIGGER WORLD: Growing up in New York it’s not hard to find people who will tell you that ‘the city’ is the center of the universe. Having traveled-I have a different opinion. Leave the city, leave the state, leave the country and there’s proof of the much bigger world out there and that you’re just one very small part of a much bigger picture. It’s a feeling worth savoring and again provides that much needed perspective.
9. GROWTH: With each trip, with each stamp in that passport, with each journey, each one of us grows as a person. Finding time to analyze that growth, or to recognize the change that has happened is an incredible gift. What we know now after traveling is far more than we knew before we started. Travel changes a person, gives you a broader perspective, opens your mind and shares with you the wisdom of those you meet. Each time you set out on an adventure you know it will change you and you will never be the same again. Finding a way to harness that growth and figure out where you now ‘fit’ is part of the great experience of travel.
10. THE JOURNEY: The incredible gift of travel provides more than a spiritual, emotional or even physical journey. Destinations are beautiful to reach, but the journey is the part that changes you. The leap, the decisions made, the flexibility needed, the chances taken, the people met, the food eaten, the sites seen and the life-changes made are all courtesy of that journey. That journey stays with you forever and is easily relived throughout the photos, memories and stories that last a lifetime.