I’ll just get right out and say it – traveling abroad can make you a better person.
For some of you reading this post, that might be obvious to you, perhaps because you yourself have had the opportunity to travel internationally and know exactly what I’m talking about. If you haven’t – then you should really consider it. Not just because it’s fun, but because the experience itself is transformative, and can actually make you a better person. Here’s why:
You become more flexible
International travel is fun, but it’s also full of challenges and inconveniences. You might suffer from lack of sleep and jet lag on your first day if you travel several timezones away. You might have to wake up super early to catch a flight or a ferry or a train. When you’re hungry, you might have to resort to whatever local cuisine is available at that time. You might be overdressed or underdressed for the weather and temperature, leading to discomfort. But ultimately each of these inconveniences and challenges can be empowering – they teach you that you can survive and even somehow enjoy uncomfortable situations. You adapt and do whatever needs to be done, and over time you learn to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. You become more flexible, and more able to deal with challenges with grace and aplomb.
You will discover new and beautiful places
The world is full of beautiful and interesting places to see – whether it’s a gorgeous cathedral constructed over hundreds of years in Paris, a breathtaking mountain range in Argentina, or the clearest blue water you’ve ever seen off the coast of the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. Experiencing such a sight in person will inspire awe and wonder that leaves your heart full of love and gratitude for the beauty that exists on this Earth. And with that love in your heart, it’s hard not to treat those around you will more love and compassion as well.
You meet new and interesting people
It might happen on accident; perhaps a shared ride in an elevator on your way to town leads to a conversation that then leads to drinks with friends, and before you know it, strangers become not so strange anymore. You might befriend some people from your town that you’ve never met before, or folks from England, Iceland, New Zealand, or Switzerland. Maybe you’ll add each other on Instagram, friend each other on Facebook, or simply trade numbers so you can contact each other on WhatsApp. Most likely you’ll need to speak the same language in order to form a fast friendship like this, but it not only can happen – it does happen. Depending on how flexible your travel plans are, you might even find yourself traveling with some friends you just met and adventuring together. But even if you only share a few moments together, making international friends shows you that the world is full of charming, lovely people from all over the globe, and you realize that we are all one in mankind.
You get better at solving puzzles
International travel is not always easy or straightforward – sometimes it can be downright confusing. Depending on where you are, you might not speak the language, or understand the way that things work in a particular place. Let’s say you have a flight into Zagreb and want to make it to the island of Hvar a couple days later – what’s the best way to get there? Should you take a bus? Or a train? Or should you rent a car and visit a winery and a waterfall on the way? Some of the options available to you require some thought and planning in advance, but other puzzles must be solved on the fly, in real time. How do we check in to a new hotel or apartment? How do we navigate from where we are to where we are going? You’re basically solving mini-puzzles constantly while you’re traveling, and if you’ve got the right attitude, then instead of being frustrating it will be fun and empowering, in the sense that each puzzle solved increases your personal power to tackle bigger puzzles and challenges in the future.
You learn new languages
This one is kind of obvious, but it’s worth mentioning. If you are traveling abroad in a country that does not use your native language, then you’re likely to pick up at least some bits and pieces of a new language. At the very least, it’s worth learning these six essential phrases: Hello, Goodbye, Please, Thank You, Yes, and No. Anyone can learn these six phrases in any language, and using them appropriately will do wonders for your likability. Americans in particular have a reputation for being a bit ethnocentric and uncultured; putting forth a little effort in appreciating and using the local language shows that you are neither.
In addition, just by immersing yourself in a place where a different language is used, you will learn a couple words just from signs and context. When it’s more inconvenient not to know the local language, then you will learn some of it automatically as you travel.
You experience new cultures
International travel can be a very eye-opening experience. Especially for those who have lived in the same place and been immersed in the same culture for their entire lives, it can be shocking to experience a new culture and new ways of doing things. At first this can be frustrating – why can’t people just act “normal”? But over time you realize that the particular ways of acting or doing things in the place you are from are not universal; they are cultural artifacts. And perhaps it’s worth considering that there is more than one “right” way to live. As you experience new cultures, you have the opportunity to learn from them, and perhaps even change the ways you act or respond to certain situations.
You become more grateful for what you have
As much as international travel can be fun, it can also be a relief to come back home. You start to miss your friends, your family, and even the routine of your work week and weekends. The inconveniences and stresses of travel sometimes add up and home can be so comforting in contrast. Especially if you visit countries or areas where there is poverty or difficult conditions, you may find yourself extremely grateful for what you have when you come back home.
So what are you waiting for?
Get out there and see the world!