If travel had to be a teacher, the first type of teacher that comes to mind is a geography teacher. It takes you on a journey and makes the world known to you in ways you never expected. If you move across borders, you learn, change and evolve in so many more ways than one. In fact, if you realise it or not, you start to learn new things from the moment you set foot outside your comfort zone. You can look at a map and have an idea of where a country or region is, but when you travel and physically drive from one country to another, you begin to understand where a given location is in relation to others. You start to get just how small we are and how big the world is. You also realise how much more exploring there is to be done! Sometimes it’s only upon your return that you find how you’ve changed and what you’ve learnt.
Travel is a special kind of teacher. Here’s why….
1. You learn more about people
Yes, there are people all over the world and this is something you can do in your own neighborhood, right? Wrong. Getting in touch with people from a different culture than your own teaches you things on a whole other level. Whether it is the idiosyncrasies of your fellow travellers, or those of the locals you meet, there are different lifestyles, modes of etiquette and types of heritage to dig into. You will think about things you’ve never thought about, and realise just how much your own culture differs from the others out there. There is a wealth of knowledge out there.
2. History becomes part of your story
When you travel you have the time to learn more about history and grapple with the meaning thereof. There is just no textbook like exploring museums and visiting historic landmarks. To touch the colosseum, stand inside the Acropolis in Greece, or walk through the Judenplatz Holocaust Memorial in Austria is like a history lesson in itself. And it moves you as a person. You’ll understand more about how nations were shaped, where we come from and where we’re headed.
3. You get cultured
In Italy people go for post-meal walks; in Portugal people sit on street corners drinking coffee and eating pastries; in England people have tea and scones somewhere between breakfast and lunch. Outside of your culture there is a whole world made up of others. And the same way you realise the differences, you also get to know the similarities, and you realise that people are people and there’s more common ground than you think.
4. Your palate expands
In truth, Italian cuisine is so much better when you’re actually in Italy. Eating a macaron in a French street cafe while listening to the French locals in the background – nothing like it! Eating pretzels and drinking local beer while visiting a Bavarian beer hall? Party in your mouth. Food experiences is a massive part of travel and it changes the way you look at food and local staples. You also find and taste food that you’d never thought you would even consider eating. Back home you will go grocery shopping with new items on your list. It’s just one of those things travel does to a person.
5. You learn a different love language
Travel forces you to learn new languages; to try and say “hello” and “thank you” in someone’s mother tongue. Even if you’re not into learning a 2nd or 3rd language, travel will develop your communicative capabilities and teach you how to slow down, listen and speak in a way other people can understand. Friendliness is the international language after all, and when you travel, you get to hear it in every dialect!
6. It provides perspective
Our views of other countries, cultures and people are often influenced by what we are fed by the media. Travel gives you the opportunity to get out there and figure it out for yourself. You get to experience people inside of their culture, their own context. You get to know their history, their reality, even the weather and the way they commute to work and school. The more you travel, the more you begin to understand people and the world we live in.
7. You learn how to function outside of that comfort zone
To get around without your car or the bus you’re used to taking. To order coffee in a language you don’t speak nor understand, and to wake up in a city you’ve never been in. That’s what it means to be outside of your comfort zone. It asks of you to grab the opportunity and make the most of your time. You get into a new routine, shake off any insecurities and get by with what you’ve got – fellow travellers, a map, some wi-fi and good old human instinct. In short, you gain independence and that’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself.
8. You learn to plan, budget and make your money go the extra mile
There’s an expense to travel. Saving to travel and planning a travel budget is something all of us have to figure out in order to travel. Learning how to do some forward planning and learning how to manage your money out on the road is a valuable skill. There’s no better place to learn how to balance a budget than in a foreign country with a foreign currency. Things like exchange rates, tipping, lodging, entry fees and so on come into play, and you you rely on locals and guide books (or your Expat Explore tour leader) to find the best deal, the nearest ATM (cash machines) or a rad free experience in town. You’ll soon learn that the important thing is to come home with a bucket load of memories, and not bills or debt.
9. You learn more about yourself
Possibly one of the most important things about travel. You experience yourself in a whole different context. You become a photographer, a storyteller, a nomad, a daredevil, a globetrotter. You learn how to live and not simply exist. You learn that adventure is the best way to learn. It also makes you more thankful. Thankful for the opportunity to travel, expand yourself, to be able to make memories and have stories to tell.