Travel helps you develop skills for life, and shows you that there are worlds beyond your own.
I’ve loved going on journeys ever since my parents first took me on the ferry across our local river, the Tyne in north-east England. Many ferries, trains, buses and planes later, I still get the same buzz of excitement as that wee version of me did when the horn sounded, the engines roared and the cold wind whipped through my hair as we left dock. Here are 6 reasons why I think everyone should experience travel:
1. International travel promotes understanding, friendships and peace
I can’t put it better than Mark Twain: “Travel is fatal to prejudice bigotry and narrow-mindedness and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
My travel store, Unlocked Box, supports the UN’s sustainable development goal 1 to end poverty. We do this by supporting charities who share our goal and values. We believe that travel helps to open people’s minds to the problems faced by people around the world, and that this awareness is more likely to lead to positive action.
2. Travel shows you there’s an exciting world out there to discover
It’s easy to get stuck in our everyday routines and places. When we take time out to discover what else is out there, we can experience the most uplifting emotions. Different styles of artwork or architecture, for example, or incredible landscapes and gardens, can inspire us. I find that my strongest memories are of the experience itself, rather than any souvenirs I might have bought while visiting a place. I’ll never forget stepping outside during the interval of a show at the Sydney Opera House, only to be hit by the warm air and the jaw-droppingly beautiful sight of Circular Quay at night, shimmering in the city lights as the ferries passed by. The scene took my breath away, just as the sight of Manhattan at night from a rooftop restaurant did on another occasion. Then there are the gardens of the world that made me feel like I’d gone to Heaven – the Japanese tea garden in San Francisco, Monet’s garden at Giverny in France, and the Generalife in Granada, Spain. Thinking about these experiences still lifts my spirit, years after they happened.
3. We build our resilience and resourcefulness when we leave our support systems behind
As every traveller knows, things don’t always go to plan, and sometimes they go badly wrong. Delays, cancellations, accidents, thefts, terrorism, conflict – the list goes on depending on where in the world we are going. The big bad things can usually be avoided or mitigated through careful preparation and good insurance. But sometimes it’s the small things that affect us, such as a missed bus, an encounter with a rude or unhelpful person, or turning up at our accommodation to find it’s shut for the next 4 hours. At home we might call a friend or family member, but when travelling, we don’t always have access to our usual support systems. We have to sort it all out ourselves, and learn to grin and bear it. These are great life skills.
4. Travel develops our sense of perspective
Until we discover other worlds, we don’t always have a benchmark for our own. TV, films, books and the internet are great sources of information, but there’s nothing quite like the experience of ‘being there’ in person to experience sights, sounds and smells. Perhaps augmented reality technology is the closest we’ll get.
If possible it’s great to spend an extended time in another town or country, or living a completely different life from our usual one. Being among people who are richer or poorer than us, speak a different language, have different customs and practices, eat different foods, is such a wonderful opportunity. It gives us a more informed basis on which to judge our own lives. When we get back to them, we might find ourselves appreciating them more, or wanting to change them completely. I’ve often found that after a trip like this, I return home with different priorities. Things I worried about previously, no longer seem important, whereas loved ones and relationships are.
5. We don’t just discover the world – we discover ourselves
One of the best things about travel is that we get time out to think. This might not be the case if travelling with small children, of course! But sometimes, being in a different environment, and exposed to different events and circumstances, can reveal aspects of ourselves – good and bad – that we haven’t been aware of before. This can be revealing, surprising and life-changing. For couples, it can sometimes make or break a relationship. For single travellers, it can be a wonderful opportunity for reflection and resilience-building.
6. Travel is a great educator
I’ve already talked about how travel can teach us about the world and about ourselves, and how it gives us a wider perspective on life. Neuroscientists have already proved that new experiences and thoughts create new neural pathways in the brain, so getting out of our regular routines is great for our mental and intellectual health too.
Travel can help us acquire so many of the skills, and so much of the knowledge, that enhance our lives – with the added benefit of first-hand experience. For example: research, planning, risk management, evaluation, teamwork, communication, patience, kindness, acceptance, history, geography or art appreciation. We learn to put our egos aside and accept that we might look foolish as we attempt to speak another language or navigate the great unknown. Of course, we can also choose to get an education in the formal sense, by attending a holiday course. I rather fancy learning watercolour painting in the South of France!
I’ll be discussing these themes in more depth in future blog posts.
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