The old saying goes, been there, seen that, got the t-shirt, but we all know the truer statement today is been there, seen that, got the instagram and made my friends jealous. Whether you get a t-shirt, or an Instagram picture (or even conquered a city!) there is so much more to travel than showing off. While Instagram photos and souvenirs are relatively new things, people have been traveling since the beginning of time. But has the motive changed? Absolutely! Travel allows a person not only to learn more about themselves, but to expand what she knows about the world. The experience of travel goes well beyond the hotel room.
The best part of travel is that you end up in beautiful places, but eventually you have to leave. What you come away with might be even be more powerful than what you saw. By definition, when we travel we leave our comfort zone. Whether you are traveling to a western European country or an undeveloped country, traveling somewhere away from home takes you outside your comfort zone and requires you to adjust and change a little (or sometimes a lot). Through this uncomfortable feeling, you will grow in the long- term; much like with exercise, where the only way to build muscle is to strain it through a harder workout. Just learning the minutiae of other cultures’ habits allows a person to grow in empathy for these differences. You might realize that your Latino friends don't run late out of disrespect, but because they value time in the moment more than the actual construct of time; or you might realize your Asian friends are so neat because many Asian cities are crowded and therefore they value the comfort of tidiness and organization in their homes. Or, you might just realize that when your British friend asked you for a rubber, she just wanted an eraser, and meant no disrespect. Stepping outside of one’s comfort zone while traveling might even make a person more aware of what migrant families experience, since they are forced out of their comfort zone forever, and not by choice. Whatever you learn might make you uncomfortable in the moment, but over time makes the world better, because the more we understand each other the better the world is.
Learning about others makes the world a better place and there is no value you can place on that. But travel doesn't just allow you to learn about others, it also allows is to learn about ourselves. Travel takes us on all sorts of adventures: some good, some bad (like when the airline loses your bag). Whatever your adventure may be, you will walk away with valuable knowledge- such that you can indeed travel by yourself, lose your baggage, have no idea where your hotel, is, and then get ripped off by the cabbie and not sweat it at all! Yes, you can do all this, even if your entire life you were afraid to just order food in a restaurant. You may also learn that while you love traveling and exploring new cities, the comfort of an itinerary makes a huge difference, and you may need that. Or, you may learn that you can make friends regardless of the language difference. Whatever you learn, you won't know until you go and experience something new. Experiencing something new is why we travel, but the value of it is sometimes overlooked.Why do we need to experience something? What's the difference between a play and a movie? Why go to the Louvre when every chain Italian restaurant has a picture of Mona Lisa on the menu? Well, for starters, there's so much more at the Louvre than the Mona Lisa, and experiencing something in person is completely different from experiencing it through a picture- or even virtual reality! What gives us perspective are the interactions around the experience; the funny comments overheard and interactions with the people, places and things that create our stories. These experiences aren't just about the moments on the trip, but about taking them back home with you to reminisce with friends, and to connect with people who have also experienced these places and things.
Traveling has allowed me to expand my horizons, has taught me about myself, and has given me experiences to look back onto for years. I didn't start traveling because I knew these would be the outcome, but looking back this is what I have gained from my travels. Travel doesn't have to be altruistic or fill someone else's opinion-- if you want to sit on a beach resort in a third world country and enjoy the service, or if you want to watch nascar in the pit in the time you have away, you should. We all have a finite time in this world, and even fewer vacation days. Travel is what you make of it and what you want from it; no one can tell you why to travel or make you feel bad for how you choose to travel. As long as you have fun along the way, you won.