How travel can make you a better person?
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
Travel is in my blood. I always loved travel and the more I go, the more I adore… Sometimes, I wander if there’s any gypsy blood in me :). Maybe I should ask my mum!
When you decide to travel, no matter to a new town or new country, you start a journey – a journey of not only to discover some landscapes, a new culture, new adventures or seeking new experience, but also a journey of discovering yourself, and your potentials.
From our nest, our cocoon and our comfort zone, we decide to throw ourselves to the unknown. That’s when our thirst of learning decides to take over. That’s when we discover different sides of us that might not present or utilized in our normal daily life.
Here is someway that I find travel can influence and bring out the best in me. It might hold true for you too.
“When in Rome, do as the Romans do”. Imagine if you try to drive on the right side of the road when visiting England or try to wait for traffic to stop at a pedestrian crossing in Vietnam. You will either get fine or cause accident (in the first case) or wait there forever (in the second case). When we go to a new place, we will be more interested in learning how local people behave; how different they are to us; what are the norms and what not. In that way, we slowly understand and emerge in the new culture, a different way of living and it is, often, very rewarding.
Being observant is really useful in both daily life and work practice. It will help you notice interesting little details, gather better information. It also can help you solve problems more efficiently and avoid accidents.
Better at communication!
While traveling, we have chances to meet and talk to so many people from all over the world, with different backgrounds, experiences and knowledge. You will be challenged with different ideas and from different angles. The beauty of it is it teaches you to listen better. You will be able to see things with different eyes and can put yourself on the “other side of the fence”. There are always two sides to the coin and many aspects to a matter. With this understanding, It will make you calmer and more thoughtful. You can, then, present your topic in a more persuading and complete way.
At times, we might need to extend ourselves trying to explain things to strangers, using the language that we might not speak so fluently. Thus, we need to use hands or other gestures. It makes you be more animated and more creative to get a message across.
With traveling, you accumulate a number of funny, interesting or even scary stories to tell. And believe it or not, you and only you “earn the right” to talk about your personal experiences.
More independent, self-reliant and resourceful!
No one will be making decisions for you except yourself (unless you go with a tour group). There will be no turning around or hide behind someone else. You will learn to use your judgment (good or bad) and make decisions based on available information. First you may find it hard and be a little nervous about it, but just like ‘on the job training’, you will get used to it and soon will find it fun and enjoy the freedom of being in charge for your own life, creating your own adventures.
On the road, before long you will find that you have one way or the other accumulate everything you need in your little handbag or your backpack, suitcase. Be it some tissues, a little first-aid kit, a book, a map, some water, a little pack of favorite snacks and, most important of all, smiles and a positive attitude.
Travel experiences are gold too. When you talk to other fellow travelers, you find that there are so much to share and so much to learn. Gradually you can become a good source of information, providing useful tips on where to go, what to do in your favorite destinations. It is fun and meaningful to be resourceful.
Better at geography!
I still remember when I was little, my dad, my sister and I used to play a little fun game of naming as many capitals as we could. I was always lost… I have been so fascinated about all different lands on earth but found it hard to remember a name. The story is different now. Once you read a lot about a place, see it with your eyes, smell it, touch it, enjoy it (or suffer from it), take in some of its history, you will remember, no matter what.
When you are travelling, you have no choice but to study your destinations. You need to know where is your hotel/ place of accommodation. What are some tourist attractions? You will take time to study maps, related websites to plan your journey. You will explore villages, streets, cities, all the while try not to get lost… and if you get lost, you will remember your way around even more.
Be adaptive and flexible, very flexible!
Last summer, we went camping at Lake Annecy, France. We met a Korean couple and instead of following our planned activities, we spent lots of time with them swimming, fishing, boating, chatting over beers and dried squids… and we had such a blast.
When you travel, your bed will be different, your food will be different, and your company will be different. If you expect everything should be the same as you used to, you might as well stay at home!
If you plan for a walk to the mountain and it rains, go to a museum in stead. If you plan to do some biking but your tire is flat or something doesn’t work, go to the beach, read a book, sit at a café, talk to locals…etc. You got my point?
Flexibility is not just about how your muscle works, it has a lot to do with how your mind think it is possible or not. Some of the best travel experience might be the adventure you didn’t plan to do but do it because it suits at the time.
Enjoy the NOW!
I learnt my lesson in one little occasion. We were watching beautiful fireworks from a rooftop balcony in a tiny village in the South of France. It was a lovely evening and the sight was spectacular. I was trying to record all down with my Canon Powershot. Suddenly I realized that I mainly watched the firework through the tiny lens. Even though I was doing what I loved, which is taking photos, I was too worried about producing a good picture for Facebook than enjoying what was actually happening around me. I then switched to auto-shoot, loosed myself into the environment, the conversation and the great company that night.
There are solutions for everything, only if you know you need one and are looking for it.
We often spend too much time thinking about the past or worry about the future and forget that the PRESENT is to enjoy. When you visit a place, you know that you will have a limited amount of time. That constraint often help to pull you out of your worriedness and stresses, challenge all your senses, awake your consciousness so you can take all the PRESENT in.
Live the moment, create great memories, feel the emotions, make the best of NOW!
Forward thinking and better planning!
I’ve always loved the film “Around the world in eighty days”. Together with the mysterious senses and all the cool adventures, what I loved the most was how Mr. Phileas Fogg prepared for the day and how all his equipment turned out to be useful in one way or the other during the adventures that he faced. It was almost like magic! When you travel a lot, you will master that magic. My little boy and girl are learning that one very quick too. Before a trip, I just told them where we go, for how long, what the expected weather will be, what’s the purpose of the trip..etc. then they will know to pull out how many set of clothes, any other items needed such as book, toys… etc. I will only need to review what they prepared and voila! We also have a little game when after the trip, each person will see if they used all what they packed or not, what would be nice to have, anything not necessary? and a little prize for the winner, of course.
Know your core value!
When you leave home, leave the work you are doing and the people you often hang out with, everything is different. You will talk to people from different walks of life, learn about their different backgrounds and knowledge. You will also experience different living conditions and standards. You may realize that life is truly amazing. Is spending time chasing for money worth it? Is the expensive car, big house, branded clothes and shoes what life is all about?
You might find that just some days volunteer working in an organic farm would make you much happier than the competitive high paying job that you’ve been pursuing; or rescuing strayed cats/ dogs could make your day! Whatever it is, aren’t we all longing for happiness and the meaning of life? Travel allows you to be yourself, do what you don’t normally do at home and, with luck, you may be able to identify the ONE thing (or maybe TWO) that is most important to your life and your happiness… and your life will forever change!
Travel makes you more confident!
Imagine a book has been written, drawn on and illustrated with great pictures and stories. With time, some pages may be lost, pictures may be faded but it will never be the same as those white blank pages that were used to make it with.
Our experiences are the same. After a journey, our senses have been tested. Our knowledge has been stretched. Our potential has been awaken. We will never be the same person as before.
What happen when you become better at communication, more resourceful, more flexible? You are more decisive. You know what you want and willing to take charge of your own life?
The side effect is – You believe in yourself and become more confident. Aristotle had simply put: “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” The benefits are endless.
Travel away my friends. Because:
“20 years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the things you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sail. Explore. Dream. Discover”. ~ Mark Twain.
What is your next destination(s)? Share with me in the comment below and let me know what have you learnt from traveling?
Tran Phuong Lan – 24 October 2014