I’ve talked a lot on this blog about the places that I’ve learned incredibly valuable lessons while traveling, the moments I’ve had in places around the world that have changed me, but I’ve never actually mentioned all the ways that travel changes you in your daily life when you come home. After that trip is over, when your bags are unpacked and all the laundry is done and you get to your normal day to day life, where in your life do those lessons you learned while seeing the world come in? The truth is, they sneak in in different ways, they merge into your daily life, sometimes without us even really knowing it. The lessons the world, and travel, have to teach us, often times become so ingrained in our lives that we don’t even realize their origin. But no doubt, their origin is what is most important, their origin are all those places we’ve seen as travelers, all those places that have left such marks on our souls and those people we’ve met along the way all around the globe. Travel changes you, there is no doubt about that, but the ways that it changes you are more complex. And the lessons travel teaches and how it teaches them to you will change the way you live, for the better.
You realize how small the world is and how what is going on on the other side of the globe, really does affect you too.
I’ve had some perception of this notion since the day I was born, the consequence of growing up as an expat in a foreign country half way around the world from my native country. I grew up knowing that the world was a lot smaller than we give it credit for and that only rapidly became a popular notion when the internet came into existence and we could suddenly connect with people anywhere on the planet at all hours of the day instantly. That notion, if you really think about it, is pretty incredible but it also creates a network around the world that means what happens in a particular place at a particular time, affects us too wherever we are. If a stock market collapses in Asia, it affects us in the US. If a war or conflict breaks out in Africa, it affects us in the US. Everything is connected and therefore everything affects us in one way or another. Whether that is a good or bad thing is a topic for another day, but it’s something you realize a lot more after you travel and see how all these countries around the globe are connected.
You look at your own country differently.
My belief systems have changed a lot over the past 10 years since I turned 18 and started thinking about our political systems and how my country is governed. And while my general ideologies remain the same, I have found that after traveling and seeing how people live and govern in other parts of the world, I am more critical of certain aspects and more grateful for others in my own country. The things that I once felt were so vital to our country, no longer feel as vital. And the things that I once didn’t know much about, have become more vital to what I believe. You will look at your country and its leaders much differently after you travel, for better or for worse.
You look at our environment differently and want to protect it.
If you’ve wandered the smoggy streets of India or experienced sand storms in the Middle East, you realize very fast that climate change and global warming is a very real thing. Often in the West, we don’t realize a lot of what’s happening around the world environmentally because it doesn’t affect our day to day lives. We don’t see how taking a shorter shower or not running the water while we brush our teeth affects our planet, we don’t see how our millions of giant cars in the US (often with only 1 person inside of them) are creating a layer of smog the world over, we don’t see how that styrofoam container we’re using is polluting our waters, never disintegrating and killing wildlife. Those are things that we’re told, things that we never actually lay our eyes on. But when you travel the world and see how much of that is affecting societies elsewhere, when you breath in the horrific smog for yourself or see rivers polluted, you realize first hand how much damage we’re all doing to our Earth and what we can do to help protect it.
You are grateful for necessities that you’ve always taken for granted.
I’ve never had to walk miles for a bucket of water or wonder if I’m going to have dinner tonight. I’ve never had to worry about having a roof over my head or be able to get medical attention if I need it. But the fact is, those things we take for granted in the West, are things that much of the world still doesn’t have. We have necessities in my home country that people dream about around the world. It’s when you travel to places like India or Morocco where you realize that there are lots of countries, beautiful and enriching countries, that don’t have those things we take for granted every day and it makes you appreciate what we have and not take them for granted.
You realize that life is meant to be lived.
There is no better way to learn that life is meant to be lived than through traveling. Once you escape the ideology that we’re just supposed to work every day, make money to put in a bank, get married and have kids because we’re supposed to and just keep doing the same thing day after day, you realize that this life we have is supposed to be about living each day to the fullest, opening up our eyes to things that sometimes we don’t want to see, seeing this planet we call home with our own eyes and never waiting until tomorrow to accomplish something we believe in, you realize that traveling has a way of opening our souls. It has a way of showing us parts of ourselves we wouldn’t have found otherwise and pushing us to be better people, more mindful of ourselves and the world around us.