It’s strange to reflect on my life and try imagining how different of person I would be if I had never left ‘home’ in the first place. I expect my life would be unimaginably different.
First of all, traveling takes time. You can’t truly experience an entire country through a one-week stay at a hostel in a major city, it takes time. Although every minute you spend away from the place you grew up is a fresh experience, nothing compares to staying somewhere to the point of learning it the way you get to know a person. You know the stores you like to shop, the best vendors at the market, and the quickest way from A to B.
Although everywhere you end up traveling may remind you somewhere you have already been, it’s the subtle similarities and differences that really make it unique. What you take out of the contrast is what make every place you visit its own character in the world book of your life. You develop gratefulness and appreciation for the places you are privileged to see – good or bad. Traveling taught me patience. It taught me simple pleasures. It gave me a new appreciation for food, strangers, and the unfamiliar. The unpredictability of everyday life is an adventure in itself and what it really comes down to is – seeing new places helped get me to where I am in my life and I am forever grateful for the enrichment it has brought me.
If I never traveled, I would have never experienced communication in its barest form or tried ordering meals from a menu I could not read. Trying to communicate with a local in a place where you don’t speak the language serves to be a challenge when first confronted. It comes down to discovering the core essentials for human communication and forcing yourself to learn new words, traditions, and an overall respect for other world cultures. It’s about experienced learning over entertained learning – doing it rather than seeing it on a screen or reading it in a book. It’s about leaving your comfort zone and embracing the simple things that remind us of what is comfortable – like a bed, shower, or plate to eat on. It’s the open-minded outlook you need to explore the world without feeling overwhelmed, lonely, frustrated, or bored. It’s having the drive to make the journey rather than just get to the destination, since getting there is what often makes it an adventure in the first place. Sometimes it will be difficult, and sometimes it will be fun, but no matter what happens there’s always something to be learned when you’re dealing with unfamiliarity. Expect roadblocks and factor in delays because it’s not always going to be easy; optimism and an open mind are the best tools you’ve got.
The best experiences tend to come spontaneously. You meet a lot more tourists when you read it from a guidebook or see it in pictures, but some of the best encounters are hidden away from the general public – solemn from everything the brochures tell you traveling is. The locals know what makes their land great and they often take pride in it, which is why having a local on your side tends to make the destination that much better. The unfamiliar is often a catalyst for inspiration, creativity, and creation – for me at least. Traveling inspires us to naturally seek out that ‘newborn baby’ perspective on the world. It reminds us of the excitement we felt in that first awe-shaking moment of discovery we had while away from home.
For me, it was the first time I was completely alone in Prague that I realized what traveling was all about. My first 4 hours in Prague/Europe were spent aimlessly wandering the cobblestone streets with 3 bags of luggage, frantically looking for the hostel I booked a few months back. I almost accepted the fact that I would not be sleeping in a bed that night. When it started to rain I gave up on panicking and all my stressful inhibitions drifted away. It was as if the rain was the instigator in my self-realization. I love the rain for that reason – as well as the sound it makes when it hits the pavement, lake, or roof of a house. I stopped a French stranger and asked to use their cell phone to call the hostel. Turns out I walked by it at least 10 times and even rang the correct doorbell. I was simply not used to the Czech street signs and there was no one to answer the buzzer in the first place. It was frustrating, but the feeling of relief I had when I took my bags off and started to unpack was what I took out of the whole situation. It was a type of gratitude I never felt before that moment. It may not have been a glamorously shining moment for me but it gave me a new appreciation of what I am thankful for.
You learn to value the small things more and take the tougher days with a grain of salt. A shower should be appreciated rather than expected. A place to sleep for the night should be a relief rather than a luxury. You learn to meet people and make friends rather than stay in your room and close the door. Your mind opens and can never look at a world map the same again. Traveling has given me a perspective on life that I will forever be thankful for and I look forward to the years of journeying to come. If you are reading this and have never traveled, go book a flight now – you will not regret it.
See some of my travel videos here.