“How has travel changed me?”–a question asked of me a few months ago that’s been lingering in the periphery of my mind ever since. In what ways has it fundamentally changed me? Or has it at all? Sure, coming home from a fabulous weekend exploring France can alter your perspective for a while, but does a trip like that really change who I am? Or is it all just the feel-good glow of a weekend exploring Paris? I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my life in Germany and all the traveling I’ve done since moving here just 2 short years ago. While reminiscing, I’ve gleaned that I have, indeed, changed because of travel. In some ways, monumentally, in others, just a fraction…but all in all travel has made me a better, well-rounded individual. And here’s why:
1| Travel challenges your attachment to things. After spending two weeks living out of a suitcase, rotating through the same 2 pairs of shoes and blue jeans, you realize you’re capable of living differently. Most of the time with less that you’re used to. Suddenly, that fancy coffee maker you impatiently hover over each morning doesn’t matter as much. You adapt, you change, and you learn to love coffee from the hotel lobby or the quirky coffee shop down the street. While the want for luxuries will still be there (we are only human, after all), with travel you can find happiness in simplicity and are often intrigued by the challenge of making due with a more minimalistic lifestyle.
2| Traveling gives you an undeniable appreciation for what you have. This fact goes seamlessly with point #1. Living with less (or seeing others living with less) while traveling makes you really appreciate all that you have back home. Whether it’s as simple as having a certain comfy chair you sit in or as complex as the need to have indoor plumbing. Traveling to third world countries and seeing the lack of seemingly basic necessities can open your eyes to having heartfelt admiration for how good you’ve really got it. After traveling, home has a freshness not sensed before. Nothing like time away from all of your possessions to give you a hefty dose of reality.
3| Travel teaches you patience. Before moving to Germany, I rarely had to worry about waiting. America is the land of instant gratification. After living and traveling all over Europe, I’ve learned that patience is indeed a virtue. One definitely worth having and holding on to. Waiting for trains, planes, in a queue to reach the top of the Eiffel Tower; you either learn to accept the delays and consider them valuable breathing spaces while traveling, or you succumb to the boredom and hang up your passport. Impatience can make or break a traveller’s soul. Adopting a patient attitude is also beneficial when trying to communicate with those who don’t speak your language. If you don’t have patience to try multiple ways to explain or understand something in a foreign country, you won’t get what you’re after. You’ll have a hard time making friends, too!
4| Travel cultivates a sense of wonder and curiosity. There’s something about submerging yourself in a unfamiliar place that evokes a curious nature within yourself. Instead of gravitating towards the usual, you find yourself drawn to the unusual…the things you don’t often see or experience. Curiosity “kills the cat,” as they say, but with travel, it’s different. Marveling at the world through curious eyes tends to breed bravery. Bravery to dance in the streets of Barcelona, daringness to try new foods in Thailand, or even courage to ride a donkey up the cobblestoned hills of Santorini. Whatever the case may be, traveling gives way to wonder and investigation, and often produces some of the most memorable traveling adventures of your life.
5| Travel tests your relationships. There is no truer test of compatibility than traveling with a loved one. Sharing tight quarters and raggedy suitcases, deciding where to eat between two differing palates, deciphering city maps while simultaneously pulling your hair out…all these things not only contribute to learning what kind of person you are, but what kind of person you enjoy being around in the midst of stressful situations. I think all newly engaged couples should embark on a 2 week traveling adventure to really test the bonds of love. I imagine we’d have fewer divorces this way! Luckily, my husband has proved to be the best travel companion in the world, and traveling without him is utterly unbearable at times. It’s true what they say, experiencing the world with someone you love, who balances you, just adds to the wonder of traveling.
6| Travel rearranges your priorities. If you had asked me a 2 years ago where I thought my life would be, I wouldn’t have said “living in Germany and perpetually traveling.” Funny how we plan and God laughs, huh? Living abroad and exploring Europe has enabled me to rearrange what I previously considered a priority. Sometimes willingly, and other times forcibly, but all the while creating awareness of the things I hold dear. Nowadays, traveling and discovering our next great adventure is priority. My husband and I have a goal of seeing at least 22 countries during our time living here in Germany, so we sacrifice the typical Friday night dinner out or the no holds barred shopping sprees to save money to reach our goal. Essentially, we live to travel. Someday our goals will be much different, but for now we’re taking advantage of the time we have in Europe. They’ll be time for making babies later. 😉
7| Travel can humble you. Recently, I’ve noticed that there are very few situations in life that are truly awe-inspiring. When I sit down and think about those specific moments in my own life, I realize how lucky I really am. At 26-years-old, I’ve experienced more while traveling than most people do in their entire lives. I can still remember how small I felt while standing underneath the Eiffel Tower…the overflowing joy I experienced while watching the New Year’s Eve fireworks explode over Germany…or how insignificant my problems seemed while standing before the concentration camp gates of Dachau. All of these experiences combined in one giant piece of humble pie make me grateful for the life God has blessed me with.
8| Traveling stimulates good mental health. There’s nothing like embarking on a new adventure in an unknown land to help boost those serotonin levels and get the happy juices flowing. The good vibes don’t usually start the night before, when I’m packing, answering emails, and remembering to take out the trash. But once I board the plane or hop in the car, I breathe a little more easily as the daily grind starts shrinking in my rear view mirror. Small changes in habits, even short lived, can widen perspectives and snap energy back into your everyday life once home again. Granted, you often need a vacation after your vacation, but that’s nothing a nice warm bath and glass of wine couldn’t fix. 😉
9| Travel introduces you to new people, new cultures. Highly touted as one of the best parts of traveling, meeting new people and experiencing their cultures often contributes to one feeling changed upon arriving home. Seeing the world through someone else’s eyes cultivates a need in us that usually lies dormant most days of the year. The need to try different things, to go about living life a different way, and to be open-minded about new ways of thinking. Surrounding yourself with people who talk, dress, eat, and think differently than you can give way to enhancing your own life back home. Just one of many reasons it’s hard to ignore the travel bug when it bites.
10| Travel can renew your faith in humanity. I had a really crummy job back when I was living stateside. I worked for the government, in a program closely related to welfare, and it jaded me. Watching greedy, apathetic people ride the system, gleaning money away from hardworking taxpayers day in and day out left me with a skewed view of society…one that took moving to a foreign country and experiencing other cultures to realign again. Traveling around the world has opened my eyes to see that people are inherently good. While some don’t always make great choices in the life they’re living, others can’t help the hand they’ve been dealt. Those that are humble, good-natured, and kind always seem to make themselves known to me while traveling, taking me aback and reminding me that the good and hardworking infinitely outweigh the evil and lackadaisical. Instead of always noticing the negative in people, I’ve learned to accentuate the positive and love everyone unconditionally.
“Some days just are…A Complete Waste of Makeup”