Whether it is a flight across the world or a weekend getaway to a favorite camping spot, traveling is the answer that keeps my curiosity questioning. No matter what the destination, changing my location provides many memorable experiences that shape who I am. Things like breathtaking views and exotic foods are like the muffin-tops of traveling. They look really nice and taste great, but it’s not a wholesome experience unless I eat the entire muffin. Without the muffin-bottoms, or the inner benefits of traveling, the experience would be incomplete. Traveling helps broaden my mind at the end of a trip as much as it broadens my smile in the beginning.
One of the ways I benefit from traveling is by gaining a better self-understanding. The key is placing myself in foreign situations and analyzing how I react. Traveling provides a perfect atmosphere to make this happen because my experiences with new cultures are so different compared those I am used to at home in Massachusetts. When traveling, daily interactions bring me out of my comfort zone and into a hyperaware state where I consciously process each decision. The autopilot feature that guides me through easy decision making is turned off when I face situations I have never been in before. Trying to comprehend new languages, putting trust in strangers, and bartering in markets are just a few examples that elevate my thought process. Travelling is mentally draining, but all that brain use helps me uncover who I am and how I think.
After a day of wandering through a foreign city I often review my interactions throughout the day in an attempt to learn a new thing or two about myself. I could realize things as simple as, “wow, I’m really terrible at salsa” or slightly more meaningful like “wow, I can’t believe I worked up the courage to try salsa dancing in front of so many people”. This allows me to see myself and my thought process through a new frame of reference. It is like comparing observations of an unknown object between someone who is only allowed to see one photo of the object and someone who is allowed to see one hundred photos of it. The more photos you have of something, the better you can analyze and understand what it is. I believe that every interaction I have is like a new photo allowing me to perceive myself in a different way, gifting me with a stronger understanding of who I am as a person. Whether it is learning tolerance that allows me to embrace the differences in people, or humility that shows me how much I don’t know about the world I live in, traveling is an eye opening experience that should be witnessed by all. Everyone will experience the benefits of travel in different ways, but I have never heard of anyone regretting the experience of traveling.
I imagine if you Google “benefits of travel” you can find hundreds of blogs that list thousands of reasons as to why you should change the time zone you are in. Travelling does not require spending thousands of dollars to go halfway around the world. In my opinion, cheap traveling is the best way to meet new people and learn about yourself. Experiencing nature and meeting new friends are always free no matter where you are. Those who pay big bucks to stay at fancy resorts are not leaving their comfort zone at all, and the only thing they are learning about themselves is how quickly they get sunburns.
Traveling does not even require leaving the state you live in. Though going to a discoteca in Ecuador is going to be a bit more eye opening than taking salsa lessons in the next town over, both can provide opportunities for people to learn about themselves. As long as you are stepping outside of your comfort zone, taking a few more risks, and saying yes more often than not, you will find yourself learning a lot about yourself that you never would have sitting on the couch at home. I encourage all to take time off from their everyday lives and do some traveling. Find your new favorite spot or pick up a new hobby. Be spontaneous, reflect on your experiences, and make sure you eat the whole muffin!