Originally published on 27 October 2015.
Why would anyone want to travel? And more than that, why would anyone think they need to travel? What is this burning desire to see what’s beyond the front door or the city limits? Why can’t everyone just be satisfied to “grow where they’re planted” anyway?
Well, because different people need to see and do different things! I know lots of people from my tiny hometown who love where they live and see no need to leave. And I respect that. There are a lot of good things about living in a small town. But for me, and for lots of people I’ve met along my life’s journey, there are a great many positive things about exploring and experiencing the world God made out there!
Here are some reasons why travel is in some people’s blood. This goes for domestic travel, sure, but mostly for foreign travel. What would you add as a reason why you travel?
1. Understand Others
Traveling somewhere new is the only way to begin to understand people in a place and culture other than your own. You don’t have to know the native language to communicate with people, you just have to be willing to understand that your way is not the only way–and perhaps not even the best way! As I began to travel, I also began to understand that in fact I don’t have to understand. No one who lives anywhere else, doing something I’d never want to do for a living, needs me to understand their way of life. I only need to respect them and be kind.
2. Understand Yourself
Traveling has taught me a great deal about myself. I’m smarter than I thought, but also a bit clumsier. I can also make do with just about anything, just about anywhere. And I can make friends with just about anyone! This doesn’t mean I “found myself” while traveling; I know who I am and where I’ve come from. What I didn’t know was whether or not I could survive outside of my little town. Turns out, I could. And anyone else can, too! Traveling makes people realize there’s more to themselves than meets the eye when they look in the mirror.
The Wedded Rocks and me at Futami, Japan, on one of the last days of my first ever trip abroad! I learned so much about myself and God’s love and care while I was there.
3. Gain Confidence
Traveling has given me opportunities to see and do things I never could have imagined on my own. I’ve climbed glaciers and learned to ski in the Alaskan wilderness, seen the Fairy Chimneys in Goereme, Turkey, from one of the largest hot air balloons in the world, and eaten codfish ovary sushi, and snorkeled at the Great Barrier Reef.
Sure, those are cool things to do. “Once in a lifetime” opportunities, if you will. But what’s more, they’re the kind of opportunities that give a person confidence.
4. Gain Humility
So now that we’ve talked about confidence, let’s point out the humility that also comes with traveling. I don’t mean utter humiliation, although that sometimes happens, too! I mean the realization that others have it harder than you do. Others have a better way of doing things that you never would have thought of on your own. Many people around the world speak two, three, or even more languages very skillfully. I have a dear friend in Switzerland, Bianca, who has achieved fluency in four languages and can communicate in six more! It amazes and humbles me, especially after I traveled to France with her–she’s fluent in French, and all I can say is “merci!”
5. Learn to Roll with the Punches
Sometimes you have to sleep in the airport. And sometimes volcanic activity cancels your flight 10 hours in advance, and there seem to be no other flight options for the next 34 hours. Sometimes your travel companions are not where they said they’d be, and they totally say it’s your fault–but then you have to swallow your pride and spend the next week with them. Maybe the train employees in Paris are on strike and you nearly miss your flight. And you just have to roll with it!
I’ve never once had a perfectly smooth trip, but I have survived each and every one, and I’ve had to learn a lot of patience along the way! Traveling teaches you how to take every moment for what it’s worth. It also teaches you how to adjust your expectations and your own reality to make it to the next moment. There is always another flight, there are always people there to help you (but sometimes you have to stick your neck out and ask), and you will make it!
The guesthouse where my friends and I ended up staying in Ireland after several hours of tracking each other down. These kind folks let me use their phone and gave us a place to stay on very short notice!
So, what’s your reason for traveling? What snafus have turned into great experiences or learning moments?