In my very biased opinion, I believe traveling is the healthiest and most important thing you could ever do for yourself. Whether it’s a quick trip to the next town over or an eighteen-hour flight across the world, a change in your every day routine can truly rejuvenate your soul. There’s something magical, scary and refreshing about switching up your environment even if just for a day. It’s like feeling the fresh air during a walk outside after being in bed ill for days.
Traveling has enhanced my life in numerous positive ways. If you give it a chance, I know it will change yours as well. Here is why I urge you to travel…
To educate yourself beyond a classroom
I’ve always been a hands-on learner in lieu of a bookworm. In fact, I’ve gained more education during my travels than I ever did at university. There’s a great deal you learn on the road that a textbook could never fully teach you. History and Art class were nothing more than a grade on a report card to me. What I was learning was all in the past. It made no impact on my life so why should I care? Art class bored me to tears. It wasn’t until the day I found myself in the Vatican City staring in awe of the Sistine Chapel that I started to full-heartedly love and admire art. It was more massive and stunning than I could have ever imagined. I teared up seeing it. I simply couldn’t bear to take my eyes off of it. I couldn’t believe it had taken someone four years to paint this, lying on their back. I couldn’t believe I was staring at the most beautiful piece of art I had only ever read about. It is so much more than answers on a quiz or topics you were forced to write an essay on. It’s real life, it’s history, and it’s important.
After visiting Auschwitz recently I have never been more certain of the importance of educating yourself through travel. No history book, documentary, media report or movie could prepare you for the eye-opening, real horror that has occurred in this world. I’ll simply share a piece of my journal entry with you from the day I visited Auschwitz:
“Why do we judge people by religion, ethnicity, geography, etc.? For every bad person there is a good person – in EVERY category. How can you define innocent people you have never met, or justify ending their lives? A quote that was hanging up at Auschwitz was ‘Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ Something this horrific happened not 2,000 years ago but less than 100. There are still living survivors. We have to open our eyes and realize these things can really happen. It makes me sick to imagine the Holocaust happening in present day. People wonder why the world didn’t do more to help… but what about the Syrian refugees, INNOCENT PEOPLE, trying to survive and escape the horrors of their country and no one seems to care. Even my country seems to not want to help. Why would we as humans think we’re better than another human solely because of fear…” “…In a world this big we are all connected. So why don’t we start acting like it? Embrace people, love them, get to know them. ESPECIALLY if they are different from you. Those are the people you can learn the most from.”
A textbook never taught me that.
To see things from a different view point
This alone is the biggest reason I fell in love with travel. I’m going to get a bit personal. I am a white, American female. I’ve had it pretty good in the scheme of life. That’s not to brag, or present myself as cocky; it’s simply the unfair truth. Until I traveled beyond my own country, I couldn’t possibly fathom the absolute privilege it is to walk in my shoes. I had never faced racism or bigotry towards myself. I had never been a minority. I had never known how it felt or realized how unfair and cruel (some) people can be. Then I traveled to countries where I wasn’t “at the top of the totem pole”, so to speak. Where the realization that I was suddenly a minority came faster than an unexpected train. It wasn’t until I was laughed out of restaurants simply for not speaking their language, glared at once I revealed that I was in fact American, or looked down upon simply for being a woman, that I started to realize there truly is sexism, racism, and bigotry surrounding us.
Sadly, it’s easy to ignore when it doesn’t happen to you. But when it does, it hurts. It hurts worse than I ever imagined. I’ve only even experienced a tiny taste of it and it was enough to bring me to tears on multiple occasions. It’s made me reflect on myself and the people I surround myself with. It’s forced me to reflect on humanity in a way I never thought I would have to. Most importantly, it’s made me appreciate simple acts of kindness from strangers. Something as simple as a smile, a translator when you’re dealing with a tough language barrier, or a judgment free conversation with a stranger can make all the difference. Kindness is the easiest thing to give but sometimes feels like the hardest thing to receive. If I’ve learned anything from my travels it’s that being kind can make a person feel safe, appreciated, and loved even if it’s for a mere second. Its impact is monumental. With so much unnecessary hate in the world, it really is possible to make a difference.
To challenge yourself
How many times in your life have you thought something was utterly impossible, tried anyway, and succeeded? If the answer is never then I could not beg you enough to start now. Anything worth having in this life will not come easy. What would be the value in something that was simply handed to you? There is nothing more rewarding than setting what seems like an impossible goal, working relentlessly towards it, and then achieving it. Chances are if you’re reading this, you’re looking for a sign to travel. You’re looking for the push you want to be able to give yourself. Maybe the challenge for you is simply the opportunity to travel. Money, work, whatever it may be I promise you with enough hard work and drive it’s possible to overcome it. Maybe your challenge is the journey once you’ve landed. Reaching the top of a summit, living off of way less than you’re used to, finding a purpose for life. Whatever your drive is, embrace the challenges that will inevitably come with it. To me, it was initially getting myself emotionally and financially able to take that first flight, then it was being able to confidently navigate my way to another country without my good friend Google Maps, and now it’s the bigger challenge of finding my way to make a difference in this world while exploring it. Whatever your drive may be, there’s beauty in getting lost while trying to find it.
To live a life you’re ridiculously in love with
Take a moment and look towards your future. Scary territory, I know, but it’s only just for a second. It won’t matter the opportunities you “almost” took, but the ones you fearlessly dived into. We aren’t guaranteed a long life. Tomorrow you could find out you have cancer or be hit by a drunk driver. There will never be a perfect time to pursue your dreams. For me, trying to see as much of the world while I’m in it, immersing myself in new and unfamiliar cultures, learning about the complexity and simplicity of humanity, and waking up every day truly loving my life is my dream. I refuse to live a life I feel forced into. No one should ever tell you how to live your life, because it’s yours. Not society, family, friends or strangers. Chase only after a life that makes you indescribably happy.
“You can fail at doing what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.” –Jim Carrey’s Commencement Speech