Traveling is perhaps the best teacher. With all of the information, sights and perspectives that you encounter, you’re going to see the world differently. Also, it forces you to boost your street smarts somewhat. Don’t carry lots of cash. Don’t wear lots of bling. Know where safe areas are and how to get there. Know what to do if confronted by a stranger.
Not Everyone Is The Same
I’ve lived in a few small towns in the United States. And no, I’m not talking about suburbia, I’m talking about towns 2-4 hours from the nearest city. I hated those places. Sure, it was somewhat “fun” in the beginning. I learned where the local bars are (all two of them), what the locals do and who was generally involved in the local scene. But after a while, you learn that things just don’t change. People that live there are mostly the same. The only thing that changes is the locals have children and go slightly more senile with the passing years. Rinse. Repeat.
Traveling sets you free of this. You meet new people, learn how different they can be, but also recognize that we are all humans that come with fears, emotions, desires and a heap of other inner workings. Establishing within our understanding that our functions all work off the same operating procedures is valuable, because once you see how different people are you can easily put the puzzle pieces together. It’s then becomes easier to evaluate people, establish trust, and learn about yourself and your own processes and inconsistencies.
You Learn About Yourself
You realize your embarrassing quirks. You learn about how you operate as a human. You learn what makes you weird in certain ways, but why you’re ok with it. You learn what things mean to you, like friendship, hard work, love, education, health, selfishness, generosity, and so on. You learn about your fears and what matters to you.
Don’t get me wrong, life naturally teaches this stuff too. But traveling very quickly gets to the point. It’s a catalyst for fast self-introspection. It’s the same reason that a lot of couple’s don’t last from traveling…it brings out the core issues in relationships very quickly and intensifies the issues to a “make or break” point. This happens with individuals too and quickly forces you to evaluate yourself in a lot of ways people don’t expect.
You Learn To Let Go
It’s easy to get caught up in this world of fear of losing “things”. That could be a girlfriend or boyfriend we were afraid to lose. It could be that nice car we own. It could be a home mortgage we struggled to make payments on. Or maybe its a vision of having money that never came to life. So many things in life are a challenge to hold onto that we put ourselves through grueling pain and hold on with everything we possibly can. But the holding-on can be pain within itself.
It’s like we’re so fearful of the pain of losing something that we expend even more pain just trying to hold on. When you travel, you learn to hold on a little less. You learn that if something really wants to escape your grip, it may be meant to be. Because we are happy and “things” aren’t what’s necessary to make us happy now that we’ve experienced the true happiness that comes from the freedom of travel.
You Learn New Perspectives
Hearing other people talk about their experiences and what they’ve been through is a human element that’s necessary for personal growth. It’s the only way to understand others. Not only are you learning about the topics that they discuss from their experiences, but you’re connecting with another human. You are learning their passions, their fears, their inspirations and what make them tick. These perspectives help you realize what’s important to you yourself and more importantly, makes you question “why” what is important to you is important to you.
I’m a great believer in Reddit. I know this is an unusual thing to bring up, but even if you don’t travel you will learn so much through the comments. People open up when they’re not afraid of being judged. They also open up when they’re in a forum they’re comfortable in, much like in real life.
You Learn Self Reliance
We live in a world where establishing dependency is so easy. Whether that dependency is an addiction or using someone as a constant crutch, it’s setting you up for a toxic situation. Unhappiness is certainly right around the corner.
When you solo travel, you learn to rely on yourself. Traveling with friends can help too, but not if you’re dependent on them. As a solo-traveler, you’re forced to learn things and do things that you would otherwise just pass off to someone else. You handle money, planning, preparing, cooking, dealing with others, communication with foreigners, managing your safety, learn how to relax and satisfy yourself and learn how you socialize and let loose.
Self reliance is very important to learn, especially when young. It creates a sense of self-confidence and establishes purpose in one’s life.
The Importance of Socializing
I’m big into socializing. I love having a couple drinks, making new friends and learning about them. I love hearing other people’s stories. This has also taught me to delve into the skill of story-telling, but I’ll save that for another article. I believe socializing while traveling is about 50% of the experience. Sure, some people prefer to not-socialize and that is fine too. However, meeting others is often a vital experience to many travelers.
Socializing is one of my favorite things in life. If I could give up everything and hold onto one thing for the rest of time, it would be the ability to socialize with different people over a couple drinks. I love communicating and really hearing people’s interests. Traveling is the perfect venue for that. On my first backpacking trip, I met more people in my first 48 hours of traveling than I had met in the prior two years of my life. This just goes to show my thirst for establishing connections with others.
In fact, not long ago, I started a Meetup group on Meetup.com. It was great experience and I made a lot of friends in Jacksonville, Florida where I was living at the time. Meetup.com is a good way to start getting social quickly and start learning about the people in an area you are living or visiting.
What Is Important To You
Learning what is important to you is an important part of human development. For me personally, I’m constantly growing and evolving in my preferences. When I was younger, my focus was learning. When in college, it was maximizing productivity between school, work and relationships. Now I’m in a building phase of my life. That’s not to say these things are my only priorities, but they are certainly near the top of the list.
When you travel you are bombarded with options and questions. You have more time to figure out what things mean to you. Family? Money? Freedom? Politics? These are all things that bounced around in my head a lot more as I matured into adulthood and was able to travel more. My traveling experience allowed me to narrow things down more and really cut through the bullshit in my own life and pinpoint what I think is important.
Happy travels! 🙂