I spent a good portion of my adult life refusing to travel. I thought travel was only for people with more time and money than me, and subsequently sat at home envying my friends whom I viewed as having seemingly unlimited resources to go and see and do. “Must be nice,” I thought, while flipping through my travel magazines and dreaming of “someday,” when maybe I would be as lucky.
I imagine some of you may be a bit puzzled right now, rubbing your chins with furrowed brows, thinking something along the lines of, don’t you travel, like, all the time? Well, not ALL the time, but often, for sure. So…what changed? Did I suddenly become independently wealthy or gain the ability to produce extra amounts of time? Nope.
My access to dollars and days didn’t shift. I did. I simply chose a different perspective, and subsequently arranged my life to accommodate that new perspective. But…why? What about travel has it be important enough for me to choose it over staying comfortable and cozy at home, and doing the routine of life here? For me, it’s that travel provides access to experiences that are priceless and timeless and valuable beyond measure. Here are my top 3:
- Travel expands what we think we know. We think we know all sorts of things: that strangers are scary, that firearms are a god-given right, that toilets flush, that healthcare is for the elite, that capitalism is the only way. And then, you visit somewhere that another culture has a completely different truth. If we allow it, experiencing life from a different lens can expand what we know, too.
- Travel reminds us that the world does not revolve around us. I recently had the opportunity to travel to a country that has a strained relationship with the U.S. On the first day of our trip, our tour guide, a local, asked us, “What do Americans think about us?” My response? “We don’t.” As my face burned with shame, I realized that our position of political power and affluence allows us to not “have” to think about much of the rest of the world. Our tour guide followed my comment with, “Oh. Because we think about you [Americans], all the time.” You’d better believe that I will not soon forget her comment, nor the call the action to consider people and places other than my own.
- Travel allows us to learn at a higher gradient. I never understood the concept of learning another language through living in a place where the primary language spoken is foreign to you, until I spent time in countries where the language spoken is something other than my own. In order to communicate, we get to practice patience and warmth and connection and…eventually…figuring it out. As I prepared to repel down a waterfall in the jungle of Costa Rica with our Spanish-speaking guide, words were not nearly as important as trust, eye contact, breath… and a really secure harness, of course.
My invitation for you: do the thing that scares you. Leap outside your comfort zone. There will always be reasons not to do the thing, plan the trip, have the conversation… suspend reason, and just say Yes.