6 Reasons Why You Should Travel
Updated: May 28, 2020
While having a conversation with a friend the other day about my recent trip to Aruba, she asked an interesting question: “What is it about traveling that you love so much?”
As someone who has traveled to quite a few countries so far, the thing that I really wanted to say was, “Well, why not?” But then I started to think about the reasons why I kept looking for new places to explore after my first trip abroad and discovered that there were many reasons why I had a love for travel, and why you should too.
Here they are, in no particular order:
1. Traveling gives you the opportunity to learn about and appreciate other cultures in the sincerest way.
While walking down the streets of New Orleans one evening with a friend from Puerto Rico, we met a girl who said that she had no interest in traveling outside of her home state of Louisiana because she felt that there’s nothing she could find elsewhere that she couldn’t find right there at home. After giving her a slightly confused look and slowly backing away, we both couldn’t stop talking about how WRONG she was, and how dangerous that type of mentality was.
True, the U.S. is considered a melting pot, but it will never be a replacement for actually traveling to a different country and being in the midst of everything it has to offer. Sure, you can pick up a book and read about a place, its language, and its customs, but nothing is quite like visiting and seeing for yourself.
You can’t taste the savoriness of a local staple from a photo, can’t experience the everyday life of a country through the words on a page, and can’t interact with a local from your couch. The absolute best way to learn about another culture is to live it...and from that you will learn to appreciate it.
2. You have the opportunity to pick up a different language.
Sadly, only about 25% of those living in the U.S. know a language other than English. Traveling not only exposes us to a different language, but it gives us a better opportunity to learn that language (assuming you travel to a non-English speaking country and actually attempt to speak the other language).
One of the reasons I have traveled to mostly Spanish-speaking countries is because I have a true interest in learning Spanish, and I find that the more I’m around those who speak the language, the more likely I am to use it, and the closer I am to my ultimate goal of being bilingual.
Sure, you can learn another language through other methods such as sitting in a classroom or using a program such as Rosetta Stone, but nothing is quite like being immersed in an environment where the language is spoken. In fact, most of my Spanish-speaking friends who came to the U.S. not knowing a lick of English can attest that the only reason they picked up the language so quickly is because they were put in an environment where they had no choice but to learn!
3. You will have the opportunity to meet life-long friends outside of your “typical” social circle.
Some of the best “souvenirs” I’ve gotten from my travels abroad are the lasting friendships that I’ve made with the local people that I met while on vacation. One of the benefits of stepping outside of my comfort zone and meeting new people is being able to see and learn about a place directly from the heart, not just from a tourist pamphlet.
I’ve been taken to the best local restaurants, visited the non-touristy off-the-beaten-path places, and have learned so much more about the culture than I ever would have elsewhere, thanks to my friends in those countries. And thanks to social media and apps such as WhatsApp, I’ve been able to maintain these friendships and keep conversations going long after I’ve left.
Now when I visit those places again, I feel that much more comfortable-- because I know that I have a friend (or several friends) who will look out for me and always ensure that I am having a good time.
4. You will learn the real meaning of “authentic” foods.
Everywhere we turn, there’s a restaurant boasting to have the “best” or “most authentic” international food of some sort, whether it is Mexican food, Chinese, Thai, Italian, or whatever. The sad part is, people who are actually of that nationality wouldn’t dare eat in those “authentic” establishments that people love, because there is nothing authentic about them!
Let me tell you, my life was forever changed the first time I had a street taco from Mexico. Oh-Em-Gee. It was clear that up until then, I’d been doing it all wrong. Flour tortillas, cheese, tomatoes and lettuce as toppings? Get out of here. Taco Bell? Are you kidding me? What is that meat, anyway? That Mexican restaurant down the street that everyone loves? Ummm, no thanks! And who knew that you could fill a taco with potato?! I sure didn't.
Now, I’m not saying that there’s no reason to love a box of Old El Paso tacos, or a Taco Supreme from Taco Bell, or a good meal from your favorite Mexican restaurant. Sometimes we have cravings that need to be satisfied. But my point is that traveling to country provides us with the opportunity to taste the real authentic food and realize all that we’ve been missing.
5. You’ll see that most of the stereotypes and stories you hear at home simply aren’t true!
Oh man, if I listened to all of the news reports and social media reports about how “dangerous” a certain country is and all of the reasons why I shouldn’t travel there, then I’d have absolutely no use for a passport. The funny thing is, most of the time these stories are coming from people who have never even been there!
Oftentimes, we are taught to fear certain places for all of the wrong reasons (i.e. political agenda, fear of differences, etc.)...but in fact, these very same places are actually much safer and friendlier than some of our own cities in the U.S.. Of course there are probably areas that should be avoided, just as there is at home, but eliminating an entire country from your list because one person had a bad experience or a different agenda all together wouldn’t be fair to you or that country.
Do your research-- and when I say research, I mean talk to people who have actually lived there and can give you their first hand experiences. If available, join social communities of expats or people who frequently travel to that location and ask questions-- don’t just “Google” it.
And when you do visit those places, make it a point to explore outside of the tourist area so that you can get an experience outside of the stereotypical experience that unfortunately helps create those negative views. You may be pleasantly surprised to find that about 95% of the negative things you’ve heard were flat out WRONG.
And last but not least…
6. Seeing other places may make you appreciate more what you have at home.
I remember just how eye-opening my first international trip to Jamaica was when I was 16 years old. Prior to then all I knew was the glorified vacation advertisements, showing nothing but the pristine, beautiful beaches in Montego Bay with happy, smiling people everywhere. However, when I arrived, I was shocked to find that things weren’t as “picture perfect” as they were portrayed to be.
We traveled with a large group, so instead of staying in a hotel, we stayed in a large villa in one of the nearby local towns not so close to the beach. We drove down the local streets where animals roamed freely, and where we saw dozens of homes made literally of cardboard boxes. We picked up our meals from local restaurants where hungry children begged us for money or food.
During a trip to Pizza Hut, we had children literally run behind our van and jump onto the bumper, begging us to give them a box. I remember asking, “Why are they doing that? It’s just Pizza Hut…”
And that’s just it-- it wasn’t just Pizza Hut to them. It was a hot meal, purchased somewhere that was seen in their eyes as a luxury. A luxury that drew tourists who could afford to travel there for leisure and have the option to eat it if they wanted to.
I’ll never forget that moment, because it was that moment that I started thinking of things differently. See, up until that moment I was the typical ungrateful teenager who often complained about the things we had (or didn’t have). I complained about our “small” house, and the fact that my mom couldn’t afford to buy me all of the top name brand clothes like my friends had.
But after that trip, I realized that what we had were true blessings, because somewhere in the world, someone didn’t have a meal.
Someone didn’t have a roof over their head or clothes on their back.
Somewhere in the world, someone would do just about anything to have just a piece of what I complained about...even run behind a van full of tourists for a slice of “just” Pizza Hut.
Sometimes it’s so easy to get caught up our everyday lives that we fail to realize the things that we have and how blessed we are to have them. My perspective was forever changed.
Whether I’m alone, with a group of girlfriends, or with my son, traveling to different places has provided me with experiences of a lifetime-- experiences that I have learned and grown from, and that I will never forget...and that alone is a good enough reason to travel. So for those of you who haven’t traveled before, I encourage you to take the plunge, get your passport, and make that first trip.
The world is waiting for you-- don’t let it down!
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