We all hear stories about how Americans don’t use all their vacation days and how we don’t travel that much, especially internationally. I’ve personally never understood this. Why would you NOT use those days? You need a break from your job, for pete’s sake!
Then I’ll hear about folks who use their vacation days, but they stay at home. Huh? I don’t get this either. Well, maybe a day or so, but not an entire week.
Here’s the thing that people don’t understand – travel is good for you. All kinds of travel. Whether you simply get in your car and drive an hour down the road or you jump on a plane and travel halfway across the globe. Travel does your body, your mind, your heart and soul good.
Now, because I love to travel internationally, I’m going to focus my why’s more specifically on international travel. Not that I don’t love traveling domestically, here in the US, because I do. But, I want to encourage folks to travel more internationally.
So, here’s why you should travel internationally:
- Anytime you’re in a new environment your senses become heightened. You become more observant. And you tend to have better focus. So imagine being in the middle of say, Rome. You hear the sounds of Italian. You see the ancient, crumbling ruins of the Roman Forum. You smell garlic and oregano in the air. You run your hands over the ancient stones, worn with time, of the Colosseum. You taste saltimbocca alla romana (a veal dish) for the first time. Your senses are in heaven. And as you take all this in, your mind is exercising – getting a much-needed workout – as you enjoy the world.
- Along with the above, comes gaining perspective. When you travel, especially internationally, you put things into perspective. Your so-called monumental problems suddenly seem pretty insignificant. You see how other people live – with a lot less than us in America. You see that while their way of life is different – their traditions, their language, their food – they’re still human beings and aren’t really so different from you. You learn that what you’ve been seeing on tv, reading on the internet, hearing on the radio about a certain country and certain people is not quite true. You gain a new perspective by firsthand observation. And more than likely, you become more open-minded and accepting in the process.
- And with the above comes education. Truly, I believe travel is the best education. Seriously, I have 3 degrees (plus a couple of certificates) and I’ve learned so much more through travel. They just don’t teach this shit at any college or university. You observe history first hand as you wander the streets of Dubrovnik. You see great works of art as you peruse the Louvre. You experience the passing of geological time as you sail through the fjords of Norway. No book can teach you like first hand experience.
- Linking in with the above is what you learn about yourself. Travel is the best education – not only to learn about the world around you, but the world within you. Travel presents challenges and opportunities. How you deal with these will teach you a lot about yourself. Sometimes there are problems to solve. Sometimes an unexpected opportunity knocks on your door. How you handle these situations – what decisions you make or don’t make – are how you learn as a person – how you grow as a human being. And, you often find that you surprise yourself. “I didn’t know I had it in me.” Yup, travel definitely boosts your self-confidence.
- Most other cultures walk a hell of a lot more than we do. So, you’ll get a lot of great exercise. Yes, you’ll be eating all that wonderful food, but chances are you’re walking it all off. Travel is a great way to work out your body. And typically, you also are reducing stress. I mean, how can you be stressed while gazing out at the rolling lavender fields of Provence?
- You get to try new things. How fun is this? You get to taste new food and drink. You get to try a new activity or skill. Or brush up on an old one. This ties in with number one on the list. It gets your brain rolling. You can even try to learn a few words of the language. The locals love it when you at least attempt to say “hello” or “thank you” in their language. And it ties in with education – both about the culture you are visiting and about yourself. Didn’t think you could learn to make a proper Viennese apple strudel? Think again! Didn’t know you could hike up Ben Nevis, the highest peak in Scotland? Yes you can! So, not only are you trying some new things, but you are building that confidence in yourself. Yay You!
- And you get to meet new, interesting people. As a solo traveler, this is one of my favorites. I have friends in other parts of the world thanks to my travels. You meet locals and other travelers alike. It might be the owner of your B&B in Ireland. It might be a Aussie on the same train as you in Germany. It might be the taxi driver in Madrid. Sometimes these people are in your life briefly, but they stick with you. You simply had an interesting interaction with him or her. Sometimes these people become life-long friends. You never know.
- And lastly – why not travel internationally? Seriously, it’s not unsafe (as the media would lead you to believe). And sometimes it can actually be cheaper than that trip to Disneyland or the beach in Florida or wherever you have in mind. And, you’ll create memories that will stay with you for the rest of your life. That, my friends, is priceless!