Contrary to common belief, traveling has the potential to educate you more than any classroom, profession, or relationship ever could. I’ve discovered that individuals’ definitions of “the real world” differ considerably. For me, the real world entails packing up and leaving your comfort zone, your familiar, your safe haven, in order to encounter the unknown—a new location, new people who may not understand you, unfamiliar customs, and the list goes on. Traveling is experiencing the current world, and it teaches you ten critical lessons.
1) To be more patient
Being an American and a resident of a large city, the fast-paced lifestyle is ingrained in me. Waiting for anything—meals at a restaurant, restroom queues, or even for a professor or boss to respond to an email—drives me insane. The most important lesson I’ve learned from my trips and backpacking is that it’s acceptable to wait and have lag time and that it’s necessary to be patient while seeking assistance. Though it may appear that way, traveling is far from the opulent experience that advertising and glossy Instagram feeds portray. Your flight is canceled due to a pilot’s illness, leaving you stranded at the airport; you contract stomach sickness and are placed on bedrest; your bus is late; you board the wrong train; inclement weather limits outdoor activities-it happens on every vacation, and believe me, it builds character. If everything went according to plan, the adventure would not exist. There is no doubt that patience is a virtue, and you’ll learn how to deal with situations as they happen, which will make you more grateful for the experience.
2) To compel oneself to leave one’s comfort zone
People dislike traveling because it requires them to leave behind things that are familiar to them, whether it’s their circle of friends, air conditioning, favorite cuisines, or pets. Simply boarding an aircraft and departing is the first step. It’s exhilarating to temporarily forget about the familiar and broaden your horizons. Once you’ve done it, there is no greater sensation than conquering foreign territory and transforming it into something familiar. All it takes is one shot, and you’ll return home with an infinite supply of stories.
3) To be more curious
I recently finished listening to a TED Radio Hour audio titled “From Curiosity to Discovery,” and I adored every minute of it. Complete comprehension of something that was once only a concept makes traveling so worthwhile. Being in unfamiliar terrain stimulates fresh thoughts and curiosities about local customs, food, language, and religious activities. Traveling and connecting with locals and indigenous people will increase your understanding, transforming your curiosities into discoveries. This will then make you want to learn more, ask questions, and fully immerse yourself in a new place.
4) To foster an appreciation for different cultures.
It’s natural to criticize and critique civilizations that are dissimilar to your own. Traveling or living in a foreign country provides a unique viewpoint that cannot be obtained just by hearing or reading about it. Being in a new place allows you to really immerse yourself and appreciate everything about it, from the people to the language to the dress. Allowing yourself to emerge from your shell and interact with the local culture allows you to really experience and appreciate it. Again, this is not something that can be taught; it must be experienced.
5) To live a simple existence
Believe it or not, you can survive on very little and still be quite happy. Not only that, but sleeping in shabby guesthouses, bedbug-infested hostels, and tents pitched wherever there is available space is not the end of the world; you simply learn to live with it. Avoiding extravagant dinners out and fancy cocktails on outdoor patios is another experience you may have to forego while traveling if you want to save enough money to travel longer. As a result, when you return home, you’ll realize that you don’t require anything more than the bare necessities to thrive.