5 Lessons Learned from Traveling Abroad: The Case for Making it an Essential Part of Your Life Journey

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If you have been bitten by the travel bug, then you know it becomes a permanent itch! Not only does travel offer a change of scenery and a reprieve from day-to-day drudgery, it will open your eyes to new experiences, cultures, and perspectives. It can test your mettle, resilience, and tolerance for challenges you would not otherwise encounter.

What are your takeaways from travel? Here are five to consider.

Teaches you to be present and in the moment

“Traveling tends to magnify all human emotions.”  –Peter Hoeg

How many times have you found yourself looking ahead and planning, instead of living and appreciating the moment you are in? Let travel pull you back from what may be and appreciate what is. When immersed in a scene you will not again encounter, absorb the enormity of the present. Feel the beauty and the connection to it.

You meet unforgettable people

“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.”   –Tim Cahill

When you travel abroad, it is inevitable that you will meet unique and unforgettable people along the way.  Perhaps it is someone you meet on the beaches of Belize, or it’s the tour guide who takes you off the beaten path in New Zealand, as Canadian traveler Karen McCleave recounts:

“You have to connect with the residents to enjoy the full dimension of travel. Take the time to speak with people wherever you go. Seek out bed and breakfast spots where hospitable hosts are a font of knowledge. If only for an hour, connect with a local person to take you to their favourite spot. There are special places not in guidebooks, known only to those that live there, that may become a trip highlight. The best meal I had in Italy happened because I asked someone: “If you were taking your Mamma out for dinner tonight, where would you take her?”

I guarantee that spending time with the residents will make you more knowledgeable and connect you to a location that otherwise would have been passed by. We are still in touch with some people we met during our travels. It’s been the gift that keeps on giving!”

Karen McCleave added that international travel reinforces that, while cultures differ, the innate kindness of most people is universal. Immerse yourself in it! 

Forces you to leave your comfort zone

“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you….” –Anthony Bourdain

When was the last time you pushed yourself out of what is comfortable and felt vulnerable in embracing the unknown? Travel is the passport to leave your well-worn routine and expand your horizons, taking on new things in the process.  You will be on a dynamic voyage, learning about new cultures, people, cuisine and languages. You may feel apprehensive, but lean into it and let it become one of the most impactful chapters of your life.

Sam Opp, an avid traveler from North Carolina, is always in search of authentic experiences abroad.  She writes, “Being in different countries and not knowing the language was something I was a little worried about. As we traveled from country to country we learned that even with a language barrier, people were more than happy to try and help us!”

Puts you closer to nature

“Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.”  –Ray Bradbury

From hiking terrain you had never set foot upon, to swimming in azure waters among tropical fish, traveling abroad can connect you to nature you have not experienced. Revel in the beauty of a different, picturesque landscape, and be mesmerized by the image of a beautiful sunset in a new setting.  Traveling opens these kinds of opportunities. Seek them out.

It educates you

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.”  –Saint Augustine

Young or old, learning about the world should not stop because you have left school.  Traveling is one of the greatest teachers of all. It inspires a sense of wonder and discovery. There is an entire planet full of things to do and people to meet.  Tap into the possibilities!  You could try a different cuisine or learn about an island’s vegetation and wildlife. Trust that you will return a more informed person.

The world is a gift to us. Unwrap, respect, enjoy and revel in it!

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