The reasons to travel seem pretty obvious. Usually, we travel because it’s time for well-needed vacation or a mini break away from the daily monotony of routines and schedules. We often view trips as a time to enjoy an adventure or an opportunity to endlessly sunbathe on a beach with a piña colada in hand.
But travel can be more than just a good time or a relaxing getaway, it can be a unique opportunity to transform part of who we are, not only while we’re away but more importantly, when we return to our everyday lives. Among other things, here are three of the most important reasons to travel:
Perspective: Stepping out of your regular environment and away from your daily experiences allows you to acquire a broader understanding of the very places you call home. You may not always feel uniquely “American,” for example, but when abroad others may identify you not by your race or ethnicity but primarily by your nationality instead. Or you may be greeted, as we were recently in Nairobi and Istanbul, as hailing from “Obama’s land” (whether you like his policies or not).
When you are abroad, you may look at the comfort you once took for granted with a new-found appreciation (like being able to brush your teeth with the tap water). On the flip side, you may experience something elsewhere that you think should immediately be imported here (two-hour lunches over wine anyone?). Either way, you can return from your travels with a different perspective of the world around you and your own place within it.
Detachment: Detachment carries a negative connotation, but in this case I mean detachment as freedom from the material things we think we need. This doesn’t mean living in a cave or giving up all your worldly possessions; rather, it is a peace that comes from not clinging to things too tightly, knowing that you’d be okay without them.
Often when you travel, you find that you don’t need all that “stuff” you normally rely on. That your material goods have less value than your experiences, that your possessions are less important than the people you are spending time with. That life is short and wondrous and demands that we take the time to enjoy its daily miracles rather than constantly running after the things we don’t have.
Growth: When people come back from a long journey, you can’t always tell that they’ve changed. Sometimes, they themselves don’t think they’ve changed, but often the world they return to looks different.
Traveling expands your world view by giving you access to places and people you would never come into contact with otherwise. It’s more difficult to hold fast to all of the views and assumptions you grew up with when you become aware of the different philosophies, belief systems, and experiences of other people across the globe. Out of these unique experiences, you may find yourself growing in compassion, in curiosity, in capacity for adventure, and a sense of self.
Indeed, a long trip can be a life changing event. Not bad for the price of air fare.