Well…I started travelling, not on holidays, not getaways, but really travelling when I was 18. It started in United States with a close friend and a job, it escalated to Mauritius with a group of strangers and a volunteer stint, and then it evolved to the centre of Middle East with a backpack and a guide book. I then offered my heart to the wonders of travel and I never really get it back.
There is a reason why holiday makers never want to stop travelling. It is the same reason why college kids go on Gap Years and how frustrated adults quit their jobs and spend all their saving money on airline tickets.
It is simply because each and every time you leave your comfort home to venture into another land, you return becoming someone else. You return knowing more than any amount written in books, lectures, and TV taught you. Traveling is not about viewing a new place, it is the journey of learning.
Here are six reasons why travelling is the best education to me:
1. YOU PARTICIPATE IN CULTURE
Without a doubt, documentaries have taught you loads of world cultures, but have you ever had to cover up your hands and legs before walking out onto the streets? Have you ever experienced to carefully switch seats on the bus to be sure the next person to you of the same gender? Or forcefully slurp your yummy plate of noodles? When you travel you don’t only see cultures and histories in the countries you travel to, but you participate in their customs and quirks. Like it or not, when you are the foreigner in that country, you will naturally open up and immerse yourself in the new cultures. You learn to eat with your right hand in India; when in Germany, calling your German hosts Herr or Frau becomes a second nature. Oh yea, how many Europeans I have met told me they have grown liking to be the Asian “hole-in-the-floor toilet”! One English guy even tried convincing his mom to set up a water hose next to the bathroom bowl in their London home!
Therefore, don’t be anxious about culture shock, you will get used to it (and perhaps love it) pretty soon.
2. YOU ARE EXPOSED
It is when you travel you are exposed – exposed to the contrast between poverty and extravagance, exposed to the slow depreciation of amazing natural heritages, to greed, to man-made catastrophes, to the beauty of nature, to sexism, to kindness, to the politics and the list goes on and on. You experience these issues, and it is only natural that one or the other concern hits you very hard in the heart that it must be so painful you commence to care about.
For me it is nature. When I travel I also see how amazing Mother Nature actually is, at the same time, I’m exposed to witness how human development is giving Her a very bad case of cancer. That has wakened me to live passionate greenie at heart – I started to learn conservation, I live greener. I even volunteered to help save elephants for a wildlife research group. Having a cause close my heart and actively fighting for it made me feel like I do actually contribute my part to the world. For many people life becomes less meaningful because they don’t know this. Life becomes more meaningful if you find something you care about enough to make you a gentler, bigger soul.
3. YOU CARE ABOUT WORLD ISSUES
When you travel, you make a connection with the regions which you travel to, you make good friends of different nationalities whether they are locals or fellow travellers. What happens then? 1. You develop a curiousity about the country’s past and future, 2. You learn to care about the country.
More often than not, you will learn to take extra notice about the world issues spoken on the news. In case you don’t already see the news, you’ll actually start reading and following it too. It is not until I met Yassmeen that I began to really care about the Egypt revolutions, reading and following every update. Certainly before this I knew some of political trends in Egypt, but now it’s a concern close to my heart. I take the notices every time I spot the word “Egypt” on the news. News now to me becomes better because it involves something, somewhere, and someone you value.
4. YOU LEARN FROM OTHER PEOPLE
Unless you have an extreme circumstance of anti-social or are extremely unfriendly, you will meet people and make friends on your trips. You will share travel stories, you will awe at the places they have been and the traveling stories they’ve had. You will meet a young guy whom has been travelling non-stop for months and years; a brave girl who is backpacking through dangerous cities alone, and that mundane guy who gave up his six-digit career to take up diving. The many personalities, the many stories, the endless opportunities and experiences to learn from. You will not venture away and stumble upon people like this when you are occupied at home with your Facebook friends. These people you meet, all of them are searching for something. Is a one year travelling stint your thing? Should you pursue your passion or an appropriate career? Could you find answers from the people who had walked the road less travelled?
5. YOU DISCOVER YOURSELF
If there is one thing you discover more than the country itself when you travel, it is yourself. At the time you travel, you are in alien and you are responsible for yourself. With little to no one to depend on, you have to survive the journey and not end up lost in the middle of nowhere. The astonishing thing about being free and independent when you travel is that it brings out attributes which you have been for quite long time covered by the solaces at home. Your six senses turn out to be more mindful, you are modest. You learn tons about yourself as well. You discover that you’re more of a beach person than a mountain individual, or that you really enjoy eating with friends. You are all of a sudden more open and brave enough to start a conversation with an outsider and somehow you can’t stop, yet pour your heart out. Here’s a secret: once in a while, you can learn more about yourself in those two-hour chat with that one stranger than you do from sharing your affairs with your mother.
What’s more? When you wind up lost amidst nowhere, you will by hook or by crook or by a drifter’s benevolent heart, gather the superpower needed to find your way back to safety.
6. YOU GAIN NEW APPRECIATION
Life’s somewhat sweeter after you’ve gone and returned. The colours are more vibrant, the smell of food cooked by Mom at home is more loving, the sound of your annoying friend will still be annoying but damn you just want to run and see them immediately! The comforts of home, that is a given!
You saw the poverty in Cambodia and you value your little luxuries a bit more, you saw the stunning cascading mountains in New Zealand, and now you love Mother Nature a bit more, you saw how wicked the political system in the Middle East is, and incredibly, you value your own botched up government by a teeny, tiny bit more. You end up appreciating for what you have of now, and you take the bad with a squeeze of salt. When that appreciation starts to fade, that is your clue to start planning your next adventure again!
What has travelling taught you?
So go forward and venture something new. Never stop exploring. You will learn things that you cannot see in textbooks. For “the world is a book, and those who don’t travel read just a single page”.