A mind that is stretched by new experiences can never go back to its old dimensions– Oliver Wendell Holmes
I am a firm believer that travel is the best teacher. It teaches you about the world, about other cultures and traditions, the stuff you could never really grasp just from reading a book. The most powerful lessons that travel has to teach you though, are about yourself. Travel is messy, uncomfortable, exhausting, and sometimes scary. But it is also the most incredible experience in the world. Here are my top 5 things that travel has taught me.
I can handle anything.
I like to chalk up my independence to traveling. Traveling forced this shy, quiet girl out of her shell. There was simply no other way for me to survive than to embrace making mistakes and figuring things out for myself. And to be honest, I’ve kind of gotten addicted to the feeling. My mom always says that I tend to put myself in scary, risky situations just so that I can see myself successfully come out at the other end (albeit with a few scrapes and bruises).
Traveling has really shown me that I can successfully take care of myself. It has shown me that I can live somewhere with minimal resources and be okay. It has taught me how to listen to my body and take care of myself when I’m sick. Traveling has taught me to use the tools around me. Working in different countries has taught me that I can learn a language in a month if I really need to. Co-existing with another culture has shown me how to open myself up to new ways of being that I didn’t know it existed. It has showed me that I can do anything.
The United States isn’t the best country in the world.
I’m going to get a lot of backlash for this one, but traveling has taught me that the United States is definitely not the best country in the world. The U.S. has a LONG way to go. That’s not to say that there aren’t amazing things about the U.S., but where the U.S. is lacking, another country is shining. Every country has its own positives and negatives. There is no “best” country.
People are inherently good.
No matter where I travel, I am always able to find people that are willing to help me. The large majority of people, regardless of race, religion or nationality, are good. In the United States, it can be so easy to forget this fact due to all of our stereotypes of people from other countries. Put your stereotypes aside when traveling and let your heart open. When your heart is open, good people will find you and you’ll have a much better traveling experience.
Americans don’t know how to use spices.
Again, I’m going to get backlash for this. But the large majority of Americans have absolutely no idea how to use spices other than salt. Traveling and eating other types of foods will teach you this. Go to Cameroon, where they use a blend of garlic, basil, celery, pepper and curry powder to season most of their food. Travel to South America, where cumin and paprika are widely used. Head over to Spain where saffron, garlic, and tons of olive oil make an appearance. Here in the United States, I feel that unless I’m eating at an international restaurant, the main seasoning used is salt. And I’ve also noticed that people have a tendency to be afraid to use seasonings. I think it’s starting to change, but there’s still an overwhelmingly large part of the population here that has no idea how to use spices to flavor a dish.
I am my own person.
This one also took a while to learn. When we are young, we want so much to be like other people around us, but traveling taught me that I am my own person. It made me extremely comfortable with myself.
For example, I am a morning person, but I’ve only ever traveled with night people. At first, I would sacrifice my sleep and my morning time to go out to parties with my friends. After sacrificing my mornings, waking up cranky and not having enough energy to go out during the day, I soon realized that I don’t need to party with my friends every single night. I can be my own person. I can hang out with my friends during the day and go to bed at a normal time and have my morning time. My friends will still be my friends. Sure it might take some getting used to the fact that I won’t be going out with them anymore, but they’ll get used to it and we’ll both be happier because no one is doing anything they don’t want to do.
We all have different likes and dislikes, different priorities and different wants/needs. Traveling (specifically with other people) taught me that I can just be myself.
Traveling continues to be my greatest teacher. Every time I travel somewhere, I learn something new, whether it be about myself or about someone else. And because traveling forces you to learn from experience, it sticks much longer.
What are some things that travel has taught you?