The idea that travel makes you better as a person is so commonplace that it is taken as a truism. The thing with truisms is that they are taken for granted. They are so obvious, nobody stops to think about what the statement originally meant.
Throughout humanity’s history, the well-traveled were always seen as being a cut above the rest. They were considered educated because of the knowledge they would have encountered in their journeys. They were thought to be wealthy and sophisticated because only the rich could travel. They also had a different perspective on the world from having seen so much of it.
It is here, within this different “perspective”, that the seeds of the idea of travel make you “better” lie. What is this perspective? It is several things, as you will see.
You Understand Other People Better By Experiencing Their Culture
The first thing you begin to understand as a regular traveler is that people are more alike than different. Skin colors will change. Accents and languages will change. Social norms will change. Immersing yourself among a different culture will help you realize that despite this: people are just as worried about their families as you are about yours. They wonder if they will ever find love. They too lay awake at night wondering if they’ll ever accomplish their goals.
Sometimes you need to go far away from home to discover how close you are to others.
You Become More Tolerant
You can’t be exposed to other people’s culture without becoming more tolerant. This is because it’s harder to keep the stereotype you have of them in your head, particularly when confronted with evidence to the contrary.
You begin to understand that, despite what you may have been told at home all your life, you are not superior, nor is anyone else inferior. Your way of doing things is not the best or the only way.
When you talk, you no longer insist. You realize your opinions are just that and that they belong to a sea of many opinions. You realize your place in the world and how small and insignificant it is.
You Learn “Stuff Happens”
Murphy’s Law is in full effect when you travel. Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. You will lose luggage. Your plane will be late. And it will be okay.
You begin to realize how much energy “sweating the small stuff” costs you. You begin to conserve that energy for things that matter. You realize that despite everything you’ve been taught, you are not in control, and you begin to release things much more easily.
You Can Tell The Best Stories
You emerge from your travel experiences not just with a passport full of stamps, but also with a head full of stories and the aptitude to tell them well.
You can describe in vivid detail that sunset off The Great Barrier Reef and how the Eiffel Tower looks lit up against the Parisian night sky. You remember the funniest stories about waiters in restaurants tucked away in some obscure corner of Italy. You can tell of the majesty and poverty of Delhi, all interposed on each other.
You Make Friends More Easily
It is inevitable that if you become more tolerant, make things easier, and have the gift of gab, you become magnetic. You acquire an aura that people gravitate to.
This is probably because your manner is more open than most people’s. People see generosity and expansiveness in your manner that they interpret as welcome.
You Learn To Trust Others
It takes courage to stand in a city of millions, where you know no one, look like no one, and do not speak the language, to ask for help.
Most people tend to shy away from strangers, so reaching out in a situation where everyone is strange and not being sure of the reception requires trust. You do this enough times around the world, and it builds your trust in others.
Trust makes the world a better place. It doesn’t only make you a better person. When we trust each other more, we’re less likely to be suspicious of each other and start conflicts with each other.
You Become More Disciplined
Travel isn’t all fun and memories. It takes discipline and hard work. Getting up at 2 am to make a 4 am check-in requires discipline. More so if you went to bed at 11 pm the night before because you were packing.
Travel isn’t cheap. If it’s your true love, you find ways to pay for it, whether taking on extra shifts or second jobs. Maybe you work your way foreign across countries for a room, board, and food. No matter how you do it, this is hard work. Working to accomplish your dream of travel inherently makes you a better person.
Your Everyday Life Improves Because Of Travel
When you return home, your time abroad conveys benefits you may not even be aware of.
For example, travel makes you more confident. You’ve left everything you know behind and survived. Now your back and that translates into an upright head and shoulders. You look people straight in the eye and take the world head-on.
There’s also some scientific proof that travel improves several aspects of your life. Did you know that regular travel extends the life of men and women once they travel at least two times for the year?
Travel also makes you a more employable candidate. It turns out, companies want people who have all the traits spoken about above, including greater empathy and the ability to work well with others. Travel also builds your creativity and problem-solving skills, definitely aces in your pocket when sitting in front of an employer at a job interview.
You Learn To Appreciate What You Have
If it’s one thing travel does, it is to help you understand your relative wealth when compared to some areas of the world.
When you’ve visited a country with absolutely beautiful scenery, but visible abject poverty among its residents, you become more grateful for the things you have. Even if this is not a lot. You realize the fussing to have the things your neighbors can buy is irrelevant.
You have what is important, a bed, a home, access to clean water and food. You live in a stable country. You have money in the bank. You have a job that enables you to put it there.
You Become Healthier
This is particularly true if you’re a backpacker. This is likely why people who travel live longer, as stated above. To get to all the sites you want to see, you need to walk. This builds cardiovascular strength as well as keeps your weight down.
Moving among foreign locales introduces your system to different microbes. Your body becomes more resilient in response and is better able to fight off illness.
You Don’t Take Life For Granted Anymore
Travel forces us to pay attention to our life and how it is being used. With the perspective gained from stepping outside your physical borders, you begin to realize how much of your life is spent in an office, under fluorescent lighting.
You eat badly. You don’t exercise. You don’t spend enough time with the people who matter, trying to please the ones that don’t. And you begin to wake up.
You wonder what sort of legacy you’ll be leaving to your loved ones. You wonder what happened to the goals you had at 18. If you accomplished those goals, you’re probably wondering if the life they led is still the life you want.
You realize that while the list of places you want to go to is infinite, the time you have to go there is not.
Travel has a way of making you audit your life, and often you find things lacking. You will start looking for ways to make the time you have left be more meaningful, whatever that means to you. With that search to make your life align more with your deepest values, you have the ability to live a more fulfilling, more authentic life.
It is travel you have to thank for this.
There are some things travel may not make better. For example, don’t use travel as an opportunity to run away from your problems. They will still be waiting on you when you get back.
Don’t use travel to avoid growing up. The eternal backpacker is cute at 18. Not at 48. You defeat the whole point of travel and miss all these important benefits by traveling mindlessly.
Travel is an opportunity, not given to many, to open your eyes and to engage the world, and grow in the process. Don’t short circuit travel’s good work by approaching it with a narrow mind, with rigidness. The attitude that “this is the way I’ve always done things, and I’ll continue to do them this way” won’t help you here.
Travel can and will make you better. You just have to take your experiences as they come, learn the lessons and become the person you were always meant to be.