A while back, I toyed with the idea of starting a second blog. To be specific, I thought about starting a travel blog.
It only dawned on me recently that I didn’t need to, travel is already a key element of my existing theme here at Write Change Grow. After all travel can be a huge catalyst for change.
It can also be a platform for incredible growth particularly if you are traveling for an extended period of time or by yourself. Even more so if you do both.
With that in mind, I would like to reflect on the twelve ways travel has changed my life.
1. Seeing how other people live
The first time I went to South East Asia was in 2000. I met my partner (we had been separated for five months at the time) and his best friend in Bangkok and then we traveled to Vientiane, the capital of Laos.
I had never seen poverty to that degree before. I was overcome by an extreme case of culture shock. It rocked me to my core.
What turned my stomach was seeing the Government buildings in some of the poorer countries – they were perfect. Perfect green grass, perfectly maintained. You could literally see the corruption.
Of course this can swing to the other extreme as well. Seeing how people with incredible wealth live can be quite the eye opener.
2. Meeting new people
Whether they are locals, fellow travelers or romantic interests, meeting people is by far one of the incredible things about travelling.
Some of the people you meet on your adventures may be in and out of your life in a short period of time. Others can become trusted friends for years to come, future travel companions or even spouses.
Related post – How to Meet People When You Travel
3. Experiencing new cultures
If you are a traveler, you will totally understand the thrill of these two words. Trying different types of food is a pure delight.
Being a bit of a history buff, I love to dive into the history of a place. The fact is certain towns, cities and countries are more defined by their history than others. Coming from a fairly young country like Australia, leaves me in awe of just how much history one place can contain.
When it all comes down to it the people make a place. How you interact with those people will have a huge bearing on the feeling you walk away with when you leave. Even if you can’t communicate through discussion: a smile, wave or act of kindness can go a long way.
4. Cultivating a sense of curiosity and wonder
Do you ever wonder what people’s lives are like on a day-to-day basis in different countries? I certainly do.
When I travel I try to go where the locals shop. I go to the movies even if I can’t understand a word being said. I often try to peer into people’s apartments (okay that didn’t come out quite right, but hopefully you know what I mean).
I wonder what their homes look like, what type of furniture they have, their family structure, what they do for a living?
Related post – 12 Thought-Provoking Travel Quotes
5. Being amazed by the children
Despite the fact that they may be living in conditions that we consider hellish, children still greet you with a smile and a laugh. Their spirit and enthusiasm is astounding. Children no matter where they are in the world just want to be children. They want to laugh, play, have fun and learn.
The children are not something you easily forget.
6. Embracing freedom
I love waking up in the morning and thinking – where will I go today?
Particularly in Europe, where you rock up to a train station and each platform takes you to a different country. Other than the odd visa restriction, it’s an open road.
Freedom for me means a few different things. Freedom to go where I want, freedom from corporate life back home and the opportunity to be spontaneous. To stay somewhere a week just because I like it, to leave the next day if something or someone else takes my fancy.
I know there are people who go overseas and book every nights’ accommodation. That is fine and often necessary on a short trip but I certainly wouldn’t book ahead if I was taking a longer one. Where is the spontaneity? Where is the joy of discovery? Yes, you might save a few dollars by booking your whole trip ahead of time, but you will miss out on so much more.
Related post – 8 Glorious Reasons You Should Travel By Yourself
7. Realizing how lucky you have it back home in Australia
We turn on the tap and drink the water. We brush our teeth without a concern. Drinking the water out of the tap won’t kill us or make us sick.
We flick on a switch and the power comes on.
Until you go overseas and realize fresh water and electricity are not the norm for a lot of people, you don’t truly appreciate what you have at home. Those same things at home that you take for granted.
8. Letting go of stereotypes
I hate stereotyping. Statements like all Americans are obnoxious or all Australian backpackers are drunken party animals bugs the hell out of me.
Yes, there are always people who do fit into those categories (that is how the stereotype starts after all) but it is important to remember not everyone fits into those slots.
Far from it.
When I traveled to the United States, I realized that many people are friendly, interesting and helpful.
Related post – Stop Stereotyping and Labelling
9. Learning to trust your instincts
Travelling overseas, particularly as a single woman, really makes you tune into your instincts. The same instincts you may not listen to as closely at home.
If you feel unsafe there is normally a valid reason. If you feel a sense of trust with a person, despite the fact you just met them on a Paris sidewalk there is usually a reason for that too.
Related post – Trust Your Instincts
10. Understanding travel can be good and bad for the environment
This one was a big wake up call for me. Tourists and travelers (whichever you choose to call yourself) can literally love a place to death.
We traipse in vast numbers over precious monuments and through natural wonders, taking with us mountains of plastic bottles and rubbish that will go on to do untold damage to the environment and the local people. And that is just the start.
Yet we also contribute to the lives of the locals and to the stability of their families in many cases.
I struggle with this one. I wish I knew the answer on how to find the right balance.
11. Testing your relationship
It’s true what they say about travelling together. It will either make or break a couple.
Sure a two-week vacation at a luxury resort shouldn’t cause any problems (at least you would hope that was the case) but try travelling together for an extended period of time and the result may be different.
Throw in lack of funds, sickness, exhaustion, excessive heat and culture shock and your relationship could be truly tested.
12. Learning to be humble
One thing to avoid when it comes to travel – competitive backpacking. This also applies to other types of travelers – not just backpackers.
One of my girlfriends pointed this phenomenon out to me several years ago. As soon as she mentioned it, I knew exactly what she meant.
I remembered a guy I met in London. He had traveled a lot and done some truly amazing things but he was also a total bragger. He was competitive with other travelers. No matter what you had done, he’d done something better. Every time. The mountain he climbed was bigger, the adventures he had were grander. Basically he was annoying and people breathed a sigh of relief when he stopped talking.
Word to the wise – don’t be that person.
Come to think of it, this last piece of advice doesn’t just refer to travel. Though you may be an expert and have led an extraordinary life, a little bit of humility will go a long way.
Now it’s over to you. Come on all the travelers out there, how has travel changed your life and the way you see the world?
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