The first time you find yourself in a foreign country you are probably hit hard with the realization that you were living in a bubble. No amount of reading, education or knowledge about the big bad world could have prepared me for that feeling. A feeling that I had a birthright to the world, I am a citizen of the globe and it took me stepping onto foreign soil to realize that the world was very much mine to see.
Escaping to adventures found in books or living through the imaginative stories and histories of movies was not enough, is not enough and will never be enough. Not for me, and neither for you and here is why!
If you live in a multicultural major city then you have no doubt been exposed to some differences in culture. You might get a taste of tradition while walking through Chinatown or a dose of culture while hearing two people communicate in a foreign tongue while on the train heading to work. However, a dose and taste is all it is, what about the main course? What about dessert?
Until you place yourself in a country where you are the foreigner or “odd man out” can you begin to understand exactly what culture is. Seeing how people eat, live, work, love, talk, commute, celebrate. Discovering families, friends living their everyday lives, not just once but a hundred times all around you. You will see and feel things that simply cannot be explained second hand or seen through another’s eyes. The only way to truly indulge in the tastes of another culture is by filling your metaphorical plate with it.
I am an avid people watcher, I feel there is no better way to understand people than to sit back and observe them. (In a noncreepy way) I have discovered that we are all very much the same, despite our history, culture and geographical location. We have families, hobbies, friends, desires, jobs, and dreams. We cook our supper and socialize after a long day at work, we blow off steam with friends.
When you do not openly expose yourself to the world or go out and experience it in its raw forms, it can become very easy to see people from foreign places as completely different from you. But once you are the outcast, it’s easier to find the similar ground. This is one of my favorite reasons for traveling, I get to observe and understand other people a little better, something that in turn helps me better observe and understand myself.
When I first traveled to Europe I felt a profound connection to my own history. I could see the footprints of the world and how they lead to me today. How did it all develop? Those feelings and connections are not easily forgotten and while exploring my history I was able to better explore myself in the process.
Follow your own history to some place in the world, feel the roots within you reach out to the broader globe and gain the perspective of the world that is yours to discover. Your own history and origins are closer than you think.
I live in the cold north Atlantic. It is windy, foggy, rainy, and majorly depressing at times. However, I can drive past cliff sides that I have seen a hundred times before and there are still moments when the sky paints things perfectly causing me to pull over and think… wow! I can walk in the woods behind my house and smell the trees that old familiar smell, or go fishing on a summer evening and watch the way the fish dance on the surface chasing hidden insects as the sun’s reflection makes the quietest ripples on the water.
Home sweet home and beautifully natural. But what of those unfamiliar places?
What tiny secrets does an Asian mountain range hold? Or a desert oasis, or tropical seaside? The world is filled with the most elegant of natural wonders. Smells, sounds, animals all living their own foreign lives. Travel is the only way to discover these secrets for yourself.
Being a somewhat detail oriented in personality I find comfort in plans and I can become irritable when confronted with a change of those plans in my everyday life. Travel has helped me let go of the reins and has helped me to go with the flow of life a little easier. When traveling you are constantly faced with the unknown. This has taught me patience and will teach you the same. Even the most impatient of people can be shaken out of their bad habits when embracing the moment in a new place. And now my “plan” acts as more of a guideline or a wish list. Enjoy the moment people!
I see my life as not just the job I have, the car I drive, the friends I keep, I am much more than that as a citizen of the world and so are you. Taking regular trips has taught me to remember this during my more material day to day living. The big picture is much bigger than your own back yard and you can be a part of it all. There is more to you and everyone else than what you see on a regular day, it would be wise to remember that.
Communication is a huge factor while traveling. Everything you previously knew about people can drastically change when you are thrown into a situation where you need to ask for directions and the only person who can help doesn’t understand you and you don’t understand them either. Not only does this situation help you have more respect and appreciation for those who have learned English as a second language but it also allows you to open the doors of your brain to nonverbal communication. I have had some great “conversations” with people using no words at all. It is a beautiful experience communicating in a non-verbal, purely instinctual and emotional way. It breaks down our own personas to the core allowing us to remove the face we sometimes hide behind through our words.
I know many people that value things over anything else. I am happy to not be one of those people, although I admittedly my own set of materialistic tendencies. Who doesn’t? However, travel has helped me change some of those opinions about the material world and helped me release attachment to objects. I am not saying that being less material means you have to live in poverty or with limited belongings. What I am saying is travel has pushed me to give back to those in need and cut down on the things that I don’t. Simple and effective living.
When I return home from travel no matter if it is a few days or a few weeks I feel a
deep happiness and appreciation for this windy, foggy, wet, cold rock that I call home. I feel such a deep connection, a connection that screams your home! This is your little corner of the world and you are so lucky to have it. After all there a people all over the world this very minute fighting for the same freedoms, for the right to come home to their own places in the world and feel safe and at peace.
While sitting in a European cafe watching people as they pass I see friends laughing together, mothers and fathers eating with their children and it fills my heart with joy to know that I have people of my own somewhere in the world waiting for me. Travel helped me understand that although you may not always see eye to eye with the people in your life they are nonetheless a part of your life. And how special it is to have people who you can call your own, sometimes it takes a change in scenery to help put the importance of those things into perspective.
Who better to listen to then to our oldest generation? According to an article by Forbes Magazine many of our oldest generation share this common regret, they wish they had “Gone on more trips with the family/friends.“ You only have one life to live. Spend it how you want to, experience it in every way you can. There will rarely be a “perfect” time for anything in life, sometimes you just have to make the decision and go for it.