I often write about the intrinsic benefits of traveling: How lives can be changed forever by the sole act of visiting a new country or culture, how discovering a new place is also an act of self-discovery, how travel can be so inspiring, it literally transforms us.
I say and write these words so often that it can become mechanical, and I have to remind myself, as a traveler, the transformation that occurs is genuine. The changes are perhaps not so tangible that you find yourself unrecognizable – in fact, sometimes they are so deep-rooted that they might go unnoticed.
But they are very real.
If I could benchmark my worldview throughout my life, I would find that I thought much differently about the world when I was younger than the way I think about the world now. Everyone would, right?
But, travel has molded my perceptions in ways that they never could have been otherwise.
Did you know there are places in Southern France where the toilets are just holes in the ground? I discovered this when I was nine on my first international trip with my family. Sure, I remember the Eiffel Tower. Sure, I vaguely remember Notre Dame. And yes, I think I remember seeing my first Monet at the Musee D’Orsay.
But I definitely remember those hole-in-the-ground toilets.
As silly as it sounds, it is the little experiences like these that change our small worldviews. I was forever connected with a memory of another place that was unlike anything I had been used to. As children, these connections begin to reframe us.
And yes, travel can cause discomfort. We can be suddenly awakened to the fact that we are incredibly small and unimportant. And our place within the world can become challenged.
And sometimes we feel very spoiled.
But this uneasiness is just our mind’s way of telling us that it’s changing. And these transformations could never occur without taking us out of the safety net of our home surroundings.
And then we start to see the world differently. We begin to feel grateful. We begin to realize there is no us and them– that really, people are people anywhere in the world. That a country’s GDP doesn’t necessarily correlate to its people’s levels of happiness.
We discover life is not just about how much money we earn or how many things we own. That what we see and learn and experience is what truly defines us. And the more connections we create – the bigger our mind grows.
This is how travel changes us.