I’ll say that traveling is in my blood and at this point, it may be bordering on an addiction. Perhaps a healthy one, but an addiction nonetheless. I’m either traveling or planning upcoming trips. I’m always coming up with more reasons for traveling and places I want to go to It’s a constant state of having traveling on my mind and even when I’m traveling I sometimes think of my next trip!
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I had a recent conversation with someone I just met that really made me think. She asked why I love to travel so much as she hates it. Screech, mic drop. Whaaaaat? How is that even possible? She told me she hates flying, all the work that goes into planning, as well as the expense, and going somewhere that she’s not familiar with where people speak a language different than her.
It really got me thinking: why do I love traveling so much? It’s expensive (or can be) and it takes up a lot of time planning. It can be stressful and challenging and I, too, dislike flying. I miss my animals when I travel and honestly, I do enjoy sleeping in my own bed! Here are some of the reasons that come to mind of why I love traveling.
You Learn a Lot While Traveling
Do you know what ajiaco is? Hint: it’s incredibly tasty. How about what a madrasa is? Travel the world and you learn so many different things and different ways of doing things that you may have never thought about before. In fact, one of the best reasons for traveling is all you will learn!
Learning in Colombia
In Colombia, I learned that many people hated “the man from Medellin” and that they are generally very kind, giving, and loving people. Many people, and myself included before I went, have a perception of Colombia as being a dangerous place, and though there are areas to avoid (like anywhere) it wasn’t. In several developing countries, like Peru and Vietnam, I learned that money truly doesn’t ring happiness. And in Cambodia, I learned that people can truly recover from hardship and horror to smile again. People are so incredibly resilient.
Every trip has brought me something new to learn, and though I couldn’t possibly list them all, I think it’s important to see things and not just read about them. Or, watch them on TV. I love documentaries but seeing a place and the people is more eye-opening.
Learning in Chile
You also learn a lot about yourself including what you like and don’t like and your capabilities. It’s amazing to see what you can do when you’re tested by a stressful situation and how you’ll react. Like, the time I was evacuated from the coast of Chile during an 8.3 earthquake. Things happen outside of our control and now I know how I’ll react during an experience like that.
It Expands Your Awareness
Ok, I’m going to be a *bit* controversial here, and while I’m not going to delve into American politics, what I write next may likely cause some raised eyebrows and blood pressures to rise. But that’s ok! For those that are shocked or angry, maybe it will make you think and that’s a beautiful thing.
When I have traveled internationally over the last couple of years, I often tell people I’m Canadian. (In fact, I’m American.) I love my country, but I don’t love its current leadership nor many of the things that are happening today. I could go into more detail, but instead, I’ll leave it there as I don’t intend for this to become a political post but ever-so-slightly thought-provoking.
When you live somewhere and watch the news, you see a very singular view of life and of the world. When you travel outside of your borders, you see another view—a world view. You learn how your country and your people are viewed by others, and also, sometimes, that what you hear is a bit distorted when you’re home. Traveling expands you by exposing you to other people, cultures, foods, world views that you might not see when you’re at home. Hopefully, you remain open and take a piece of that when you return. One of the best reasons for traveling is the awareness you gain outside of your home country.
It Makes You Think
Seeing other parts of the world and the way other people live makes you think about your life, the decisions you make, and your priorities. Watch people in other countries and see what their priorities are? Do they spend a lot of time working? Do they devote time to their families? Where do you see them during the work week and on the weekends? Talk with locals if you can and learn more. Making you think if one of the reasons for traveling that you really benefit from.
I spent many years of my life working a lot of hours spending ten, twelve hours or more five to six days a week working. I try to not live my life with regrets, and I definitely don’t focus on these thoughts, but that’s a lot of my life that I freely gave away, and for what? Is the time worth the cost? In Spain, many people still take a two-hour siesta or break, in the afternoon to rest. For years, I didn’t even take a short lunch break.
Now, I spend more time living my life than working. When I work, I do work hard still. But I maintain more of a work-life balance and make sure I focus on things that feel good and that are for me. My travel is one of the ways I do that. When I travel I do not work. Though I occasionally may check emails, I don’t bring my laptop and I don’t spend hours responding to emails. I prioritize me and that’s what matters.
It Gives You Perspective
In line with the last one, traveling not only makes you think but it also gives you perspective, another of the reasons for traveling. What is wealth? How much is enough? Go to a third-world country, and I promise you that it will make you think about what you have and what you need.
In Peru, we walked by some homes with dirt floors. Can you imagine? A little girl came out of one of the homes and when she saw us, she had a bit smile that lit up her face. She started following us for a short while, curious about where we were going. The girl had a small, simply made doll in her hand. She could have been a child from any other country right then and from any other type of life.
People have a tendency to believe that what is around them is the way it is everywhere and that it’s the best way. Once you travel and see people in other countries you quickly learn that there are so many ways to live life. There isn’t one right way to do anything! Be open, talk with people, and gain valuable perspective when you travel. It will benefit not only you but also the people around you.
It Helps You to Build Self-Confidence
Travel, and especially solo travel, really test what you’re made of. I love solo travel, don’t get me wrong. But it can be intimidating, scary, unnerving, and exhilarating all at once. Traveling to a country with a different language and very different culture can be really difficult. Doing it on your own when you have no one to lean on, even more so.
I remember the first time I went to Asia. It’s a long flight from where I live and it was close to 30 hours of travel including two layovers. And if you’re like me, you don’t sleep for @#$% and arrive a wobbly-kneed, fuzzy, bleary-eyed human-like being. I went with a buddy of mine and when we got into Hanoi, we couldn’t figure out where we needed to go. The signs made no sense and we didn’t see the usual rush of people towards immigration and baggage.
I don’t remember if that’s what set my friend off, but he went off like a rocket. “I got this,” I said, and told him to sit and I’d take care of it. Somehow, I managed to stagger around to figure out where we needed to go and we were on our way.
That confidence came from having been there before. Many times! Because I arrive completely bleary-eyed and exhausted on most of my travel adventures. It’s exhausting and frustrating, but I know that eventually, I’ll figure it out. And letting myself get all wound up is not going to help me get to where I need to be. I know to take a deep breath, remind myself that I’m on an adventure doing one of the things I love most and that I will figure it out. Then I set off to do just that.
The more we experience, the more we gain self-confidence. It’s really as simple as that. We experience more when we get out of our daily bubble and that provides us with confidence that we can take care of ourselves in any situation.
You Learn to Get Creative
There have been many times I have wanted to travel but my budget didn’t allow for what I wanted. So what do you do in that situation? Get creative, of course. You can look for ways to get freebies, like using miles to book air, hotel, or car. I do what’s called travel hacking where I will get credit cards for introductory miles. I’ll use cards for certain things like gas and restaurants as some cards will give you 2 or 3 times the dollar value in miles.
You can also do more research to find more affordable pockets to stay in. So, if staying right downtown in a city is too expensive (think: Manhattan!) then stay in the outskirts but in an area right on public transportation. I do that a lot and also stay at apartments instead of hotels to cut your budget. Not only does it help me feel more like a local, but I can save on food by going grocery shopping. I’m not eating out three meals a day, which I prefer. Also, apartments are often less expensive than hotels.
Also, look to see if there are other airport options to fly into. Large cities often have two airports and sometimes fares vary. Often you can save cost by having a connection. It can take some work to play around with, but you can really save a lot on airfare if you are flexible.
I have been told (and often), “Oh, it must be nice that you can travel so much.” Yes, I am grateful but I also work hard at it. I save, I do without, I prioritize it and I’m careful with my budget. All of that allows me to do the traveling I want.
It Helps Build Problem-Solving Skills
Sometimes, no matter how much planning you do, things go wrong. When I went to Munich a few years ago, I was reminded of this lesson. I always travel with a credit card, my bank card, and some US cash. Always. I have run into situations before where my credit card doesn’t work, or the place doesn’t accept a credit card. Sometimes you can’t find a bank and just need to exchange money, so it’s good to have an option.
I arrived in the airport and tried to purchase a train ticket to go to my first destination. I had contacted my credit card company to notify them of my travel, but for some reason, my credit card was declined. Fantastic! So, I wandered around to find an ATM machine as the next best exchange rate is generally through banks, even with a withdrawal fee. No go—my ATM card didn’t work.
I dug through my bag and then realized I didn’t bring my US dollars. I’m not sure why as I usually do, but I didn’t. Then I remembered I had tucked some euros that I had leftover from my last trip to Europe. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to purchase a train ticket. Thankfully, there was a bank near the train station so I was able to get money and then called my credit card to lift the fraud post so I could use it.
Sure, I was ready to start screaming and crying at the airport. But I have learned that problems are just challenges to be solved and I set about to figure it out, knowing it’ll be a cautionary tale to share.
See Things You Have Read About
When I was in grade school, I remember reading about terrace farming in Peru. I’m not sure why that lesson sticks out in my mind, but I distinctly recall reading about the Andes Mountains with terraces running up the base of them and thinking how challenging that must have been for the ancient people to do.
I had the opportunity to visit Peru, on one of the most magical trips of my life. We flew into Cusco, which is over 14,000 feet and causes altitude issues in many people. So, the plan was that we would immediately leave and go to Ollantaytambo, at around half that height, to adjust to it before going back to Cusco. In Arizona, we are close to sea level, so this can be really important as it’s a huge difference.
We landed in Cusco and left through what is known as the Sacred Valley. For some reason, the terrace farms triggered the memory of my school lesson and my wonder at someday seeing them. Getting to see Machu Picchu, and participating in the Inti Raymi festival of the sun were both incredible
Travel Makes You More Receptive to Different People
I had read all sorts of reports about traveling as a woman to Morocco, so I wasn’t sure I would do it. Then a friend decided to go with me, and even still I was concerned. So, I booked a group tour to Morocco for us to keep us safe.
Well, it turns out that Morocco wasn’t nearly as scary as I was led to believe from some of the articles. That doesn’t mean that there can’t or won’t be issues, but from what I saw, if you are respectful of the culture and dress appropriately, that will limit most issues. This is something that travel has taught me, in that you need to adapt to the location you visit.
We spent a couple of days on our own and I spent a solo day visiting Essaouira, which was amazing. The shop keepers did approach me more, but otherwise, there was no real difference.
I have had limited interactions with people of Middle Eastern descent, not from choice but just because the population is limited where I live. I didn’t know what to expect, as the news doesn’t always shed the most positive light. But I really enjoyed the trip, and I’m looking forward to (hopefully) going back to the Middle East to explore a bit more. And I really hope to talk with a lot of locals to better understand their different culture. I’m so grateful to have had my experience in Morocco so I see that region of the world slightly differently than before. Morocco may be more progressive than much of that region, but I won’t discount going so quickly.
Seeing the World Makes You Kinder
Have you ever heard someone say, “They’re in this country and they should learn to speak the language?” Well, I have. But when you have traveled to other countries where you speak a little bit of the language, or worse, none at all, it really helps to change your perspective.
I live in a very Hispanic area. When I greet someone in my area, I often open with “hola” or “buenos dias.” I don’t do it because I have to, but I do it because it’s respectful. They may be in a predominantly English-speaking country, but I can be polite and speak in their language to the extent that I’m able to.
I also greatly appreciate the effort when people who speak other languages attempt to speak English. It’s such a hard thing to do when you’re not fluent!
There are so many great reasons for traveling and this piece provides some of my favorites. In fact, it has been scientifically proven that travel improves your health! I think I’m a smarter, more worldly, and better person for my travels, and I encourage you to give it a shot. It may really open your eye to what the world offers, and it’s pretty amazing!
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