There are so many reasons to love travel, and yet it’s only since I’ve come home again that I’ve realised what some of those are. It goes beyond just giving yourself a break and exploring new places, travel is something I think we should all be doing more of as there’s so much to benefit from. And, by travel, I mean discovering new places, cultures, environments, activities and customs. I don’t mean a holiday where you barely leave your hotel. There’s nothing wrong with that, as that’s what holidays are for, to relax and recuperate and you should do with that what you please. But I think there’s often a misunderstanding of this being the easier and cheaper option, and that isn’t always the case. I understand that we all have different financial situations, and for some of us, any sort of travel is sadly out of the picture. That’s why I want to encourage those of you who can spare the time and money to do so wisely. You can get so much for so little if you’re prepared to expand your horizons and have an adventure!
I wouldn’t call myself a travel expert, but having holidayed in Europe and backpacked throughout Asia and Australia for months at a time, I would say I’m a confident traveller. My more recent ‘backpacker’ expedition, which lasted for 6 months, has opened my eyes even more to this wonderful world and the benefits that this kind of travel experience can have on us as people. Don’t worry, I won’t be using any cringey phrases like how “I found myself” or “soul searching”, but I will share with you some key benefits of travel, and how, on reflection, I think these benefits are truly important in the way we live our lives.
1. Puts you out of your comfort zone
We spend most of our lives in routine, and although these routines may differ from time to time they still offer a regularity that we can count on. Whether this is working the typical 9-5, going to school, working from home, or not working at all, there is security in following a pattern. Travel offers the opportunity to push your boundaries and see what you’re capable of when you come out of that safe zone. This doesn’t have to mean that you start going cliff-diving all of a sudden, it can be as small as taking a leap and going to a new country, waving to a local, trying out local food, doing an activity by yourself, anything! Feeling intimidated and overwhelmed isn’t always a bad thing, and isn’t a feeling that can last forever. As human beings we are amazingly resilient and adaptable, so don’t be scared of something just because you think you know how it will make you feel. Going against the grain and feeling that unease can be a good thing! It can make us more productive, fuel our creative juices, encourage us to take risks and deal with unexpected changes. And the best part is, the more you put yourself out of your comfort zone, the easier it becomes. When I first decided to solo-travel I was terrified, but now I can’t wait to do it again!
2. Develops your skill-set
It doesn’t matter if you’ve planned every element of your trip, something is always bound to go wrong. Whether it’s an unresponsive Airbnb host (happened to me), or a delayed train, a lost phone, or a natural disaster, one of the best parts of travel is the unexpected. Whilst all these things are incredibly annoying, and I speak from first-hand experience, sometimes they can be a good thing. You learn from your mistakes and know to prepare better in future, or you meet other fellow travellers and band together in a time of adversity. Every traveller faces challenges along the way and as you learn to overcome them, you also develop an incredibly wide-ranging skill-set; from planning and organisation which are key when deciding on your itinerary, booking transport and accommodation, and generally looking after yourself; to thinking on your feet and problem-solving, so that when one of the issues above arises you can decide on a plan of action going forward rather than dwelling on the setback.
3. Improves your social skills
Talking about developing your skill-set, I wanted to mention social skills in particular and how important they are when travelling, which is why I’ve given it its very own paragraph. When you’re far from home, you have to be extra careful when it comes to looking after yourself. Sometimes you might need to ask for directions or advice on how to get from A-B. This isn’t always easy due to language barriers or scammers, which is why communication becomes so important. You not only need to use your own words and body language appropriately, you also need to be able to read someone else’s. Sometimes by making the wrong choice, or talking to the wrong person, you end up being given false information or reaching a dead end. When you travel you meet everyone and anyone along the way and you soon gain an experience of people in general. You learn how to chat to different types of people, you strike up a conversation with someone you usually wouldn’t, you gauge more quickly what people are feeling and how to steer a discussion. Socialising is an art and comes naturally to some of us, more than others, but like most things, practice makes perfect, and I can assure you that travel is a great way to practise your socialising! A skill which is invaluable for all aspects of life.
4. Broadens your mind
I could hear Professor Trelawney’s voice as I typed out that subheading, but it turns out there’s some truth to her words. Whilst the world is more globalised than it’s ever been, in the last few years there’s been a retreat towards nationalism – you only need to look at Trump to see that. I guess, as humans we will always be wary of what we don’t know or understand, but what history shows us is that we’ve always been voyagers and travellers. Homo Sapiens first appeared in Africa and spread out to the rest of the world to grow and survive. As we developed, we travelled for other reasons – curiosity, science, knowledge, power. Today, I think travel is more important than ever in reminding ourselves that although we are different, we are also one and the same.
When you travel you see how other people around the globe live. You see their everyday realities, their customs, traditions, food, language and religion. This goes such a long way in widening someone’s perspective. As a middle-class white person, I’ve found that experiencing what it’s like to be in the minority has been a huge thing for me. You might be wondering why this matters. What good can come from broadening your mind? I have to say, everything. How many fewer political disputes would we have if we understood where the other person was coming from? As a business, how far would we go if we knew what people from other countries really needed from our services? Travel encourages understanding by allowing us to see other people’s realities and ways of life. We can embrace the things which make us different whilst realising how much we are the same. Yes, we may eat different foods, wear different clothes, practice different faiths, but really we are all human in the fact that we feel, think and do. We are one race. This understanding, therefore, encourages equality between one another and lessens the gap between social binaries; whether that’s rich or poor, black or white, male or female, or any other binary that should never dictate the quality of a person’s life.
To summarise this point, travel can broaden your mind by enlightening you on human diversity and teaching you to look beyond class, race, sex and ethnicity.
5. Gives you a new appreciation for the planet
Exploring new places on a regular basis gives you a whole new appreciation for this wonderful planet and what it’s capable of. It’s hard to appreciate this wonder and beauty if you’ve been staring at the same view for years on end. Get out there and see what else it has to offer! Be amazed by Africa’s wildlife, Italy’s architecture, Australia’s East Coast, Hawaii’s beaches or Sri Lanka’s tea hills. Whether you’ve a preference for a city skyline or an abandoned mountain valley, it doesn’t matter, just go and see how the world is evolving. I know that, for me, this new appreciation only makes me want to see and do more, and has inspired a new motivation in me to try and save our planet. Climate change is a real and rapid world disaster that can only be stopped by working together. The more of us who understand that, the more we can do to encourage change.
6. Improves your mental and physical health
Following on from my last point, travel primarily involves being out in the open moving your body and exploring the world around you through your five basic human senses. Yes, you might bring your phone along to take pictures, but other than that, there’s really not any time for it. Instead, you’re using your hands to balance yourself on a mountain hike, or to stuff some street food into your mouth, or to try surfing for the first time. Being able to disconnect from the busy, online social world gives you more time to reconnect with real people, places and physical things, rather than seeing them through a screen. I think we all know the detrimental effects that social media can have on our mental well-being and how much time it takes out of our day. And I think we all know the positive effects of regular exercise and fresh air. Travel incorporates both of these, reuniting us with our basic human instincts, which are to move, think and feel, processes which are often numbed by our everyday lives.
And those are just some of the reasons why YOU should travel. Why everyone should travel! We all get different things from our experiences, but I couldn’t recommend travel more. I’m sure you can hear the conviction and passion in my voice, as I definitely found myself getting carried writing this post, but it’s true what I said at the start – travel is a gift that keeps on giving.
Keep an open mind and give it your best shot, you won’t regret it.