It is a part of the human condition to desire (or perhaps more aptly require) travel. As we look back at the long line of human history, we see an obvious pattern develop. From the Great Human Migration 80,000 years ago to the bloody conquests of Alexander and Napoleon; the crossing of Beringia to the expansion of the entire British Empire.
Or even today, whether you are flying across the world to float through the Greek Isles on a luxury cruise liner or heading to Thailand to party hardy at Full Moon on Koh Phangan. We crave the excitement of travel – the constant change, and the uncertainty of the unknown. It’s a big world out there… how can we not explore it? And on our return, we may just find a different person staring back at us from the mirror.
And so I give to you, the top ten reasons travel will change your life:
Breaking out of your Comfort Zone
Travelling, whether it’s for your first time or you fifteenth trip around the world, will not just force you to step out of your comfort zone. It’ll throw you so far out, you’ll be questioning whether you ever even knew what it meant to feel relaxed.
And that’s not a bad thing.
Whether you have to buy a train ticket to a tiny town (that you know you can’t pronounce) in a country that doesn’t share your alphabet, let alone your language, or you have to haggle your way through a market just so you can have something to eat for the day, you will always be faced with challenges that you would never have to deal with at home. Once you step outside of your comfort zone, you’ll realize “Hey, maybe I CAN do this!”.
Because you have no choice. If you don’t, you’ll end up stranded and hungry.
Endless Natural Beauty
We should be counting our lucky stars each and every day. We live in an incredibly diverse, beautiful, awe inspiring world.
For me, I will always have a soft spot for the wide expansive emptiness of the prairies. For me, it is home. But there is something incredibly special about seeing, for the first time, an endless ocean, thick jungle, towering volcano, or sprawling desert. To think – life flourishes in each and every corner of the earth, as bountiful or harsh the environment may be.
We truly live in a beautiful world.
Planet Earth – In Real Life
I still get excited every time I see a moose, bear, or heck… even a pronghorn. Coming face to face (or rather, face to a very safe distance away) with wildlife can leave you amazed, excited, and perhaps even a little scared. But the rush you get when an alpha male orangutan rushes at you whilst in the Borneo jungle, or the utter joy you feel from watching a group of King penguins only a few meters away interact at the very bottom of the world – seeing animals in the flesh (and fur)(and feathers) that you’ve only ever seen on Planet Earth – there’s nothing else out there that can replicate that.
Food, Food, Food – Did I Mention Food?
Don’t get me wrong. I adore poutine and maple syrup. Us Canadians do have a few foods that I love and crave, wherever I am in the world. But how often can you go to the local Safeway or Sobeys and buy a water buffalo steak, banana flower salad, or cuy (grilled guinea pig)(yes, I’ve eaten a small cute pet).
It’s amazing to see the wide array of culinary delights that abound all across the world (I could eat street pad thai and alpaca skewers for days). And while some of them may not be the most appetizing (read: scorpions, tongue, tripe, intestines, and heart), keep one thing in mind: you’ve traveled how many miles, spent how much money, getting here? And you’re telling me you’re not going to eat this deep-fried tarantula?
One piece of advice: always eat the tarantula (just make sure you have a bathroom nearby).
Befriending the Porcelain Throne
With trying new foods, experiencing new climates, being subjected to new bugs and diseases, the temptation of drinking foreign water because, come one, how bad can it really be… you are bound to get sick.
Don’t let it ruin your trip.
It happens to everyone. The only difference is whether you’re able to accept it, allow your body to rest, and then move on from it. There’s a wide assortment of maladies you may come across (most of which are too graphic to write about here, but I’m sure you get the idea), so all you need to do is come prepared. One of the most important things you can possibly bring on your trip? A ziploc pharmacy.
Gravol, imodium, anti-malarials, anti-nauseants, advil, charcoal tabs, vitamin c tabs – anything and everything you can possibly think of. When you have to take a sixteen hour bathroom-less bus ride, you’ll be thanking me.
Lifelong Traveler Friends
You’re going to be experiencing a lot. And what better way to create memories than with other travelers?
If you’re travelling with friends from home, you will test the limits of your friendships and, hopefully, come out even closer than before. When you relay stories of your travels once back in the “real world”, you’ll realize people won’t really “get it”. But your childhood friends who climbed (barely) with you to the top of Mount Machu Picchu in what was the worst hour and a half of your life? They will always “get it”.
And if you’re travelling with friends you’ve met while abroad, get ready to learn a lot about each other. Real quick. Especially if you are sharing a bathroom after eating a bad batch of ceviche. And hopefully, after it all, you’ll have a couch, somewhere in the world, that you are always welcome on.
The Local Life
You may have already made some lifelong traveler friends, but what about befriending the locals? You’ll learn more about a community, culture, country, and human interaction itself when you begin communicating with locals than you could have ever imagined. Perhaps you will happen upon a house in the middle of a jungle on an island off of Vietnam and end up getting a tour of a nearby cave, share in some shots of “mystery alcohol” from a recycled bottle, and get a motorbike ride along an impossibly narrow dirt jungle road – all without understanding a single word each other is saying.
Just because the words don’t translate, doesn’t mean you aren’t communicating. This is the purest form of connection.
So, Jesus, Muhammed, and Buddha walk into a bar…
Often times, we find ourselves living in a bubble at home. This is never more true than our own religious belief systems (or lack there of). Whether you’re Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or Atheist, we often find ourselves stuck in our ways, and rarely have the opportunity to see how other people live and carry out their own religious or spiritual beliefs.
Whether or not you agree with what someone or a group of people believes, you can’t deny the utter beauty of world religious monuments, nor the benefit gained from taking the time to just listen and learn about why people believe things, and how it shapes the history of themselves and their culture. Ask questions, digest, and make your own decisions in regards to what you believe. But most importantly, respect others’ decisions to do the same.
2. The Culture of it All
It’s not just a way to learn French as a kid.
When you completely immerse yourself in a culture, you really get to know that culture. The music, the art, the dance, the food, the religion, the festivals… everything mixes together in an intricate web that creates a people. It’s about learning what connects a group – not what defines them as individuals. It’s the way they talk, and walk, and act.
And it’s beautiful.
Even just to act as a fly on the wall and watch a culture flourish in front of you; that’s something you’ll never forget.
After everything is said and done, when you’re on your flight back home, you’ll have a defining moment. An epiphany, if you will.
You’ll look back on the volcano trek, the abseiling down waterfalls, and multi-day river journey through the Borneo jungle. You’ll remember climbing the final steps of Machu Picchu and Angkor Wat. You’ll think about how you felt as you slept out under the stars in the Amazon or out in the middle of a vast desert. After all the planes, trains, boats, buses, back of pick ups and crazy tuk tuks, you’ll realize how far you’ve come. Not just in kilometers (which will be more than you can count). But as a human.
And as the wheels of the plane land for the last time on your home runway, you’ll be ready to do it all over again.