On the surface, travel is about seeing new places and (if you’re heading abroad to volunteer) giving a bit back at the same time. But underneath it is so much more, opening your horizons to experience completely different cultures, cuisines and landscapes. While photos are proof that you went and saw, it’s the transformation that takes place within that is often the strongest evidence of why travel is important.
Some argue that it’s an indulgent expense, spending money to travel that could be spent saving for a home loan or “building for the future”, but travel addicts would debate a strong case against this. It’s not about ticking off the “bucket list” and being able to recount all the countries you’ve visited, but the way travel impacts you as a person, your interactions with others and your humanity towards the rest of the world.
So if you need a little help convincing yourself or others why traveling is a worthy pursuit, here are ten reasons why it’s important.
1. It gets you out of your comfort zone
Whether you travel independently or as part of an organized tour or volunteer placement, you’re stepping into a completely new world that may be well out of your comfort zone. Perhaps you’ve never traveled alone before or being around people other than your close family and friends makes you feel intimidated. But once you take the plunge, you’ll probably be surprised at the transformation that takes place. Chances are you’ll find a confidence you never knew you had and be able to take on challenges you never would have tackled previously.
2. It puts life in perspective
If you’ve grown up with all the comforts of the modern world and had the opportunity to go to school or even university, it’s easy to forget that this isn’t the case for everyone in the world. Traveling to other countries, particularly those in the developing world, can be a big wake up call and put your own life in perspective. Things that you may take for granted, like having running hot water, modern appliances and the opportunity to study and get a well-paid job at the end of it are not available to everyone, purely because of where they were born. You’ll probably come away with a new appreciation for everything you have and the opportunities that life throws your way.
3. You’ll make friends from across the globe
One of the best things about travel is undoubtedly the friendships and connections you make with people from across the globe. You might be surprised at just how close you can come to people within a matter of hours if you’re thrown together by circumstance in a country that is home to neither of you. Volunteer placements are a great way to establish firm friendships as you work towards a common goal, not only with other travelers, but also the local community. The interactions you’ll have will provide an incredible local insight into cultural traditions, beliefs and way of life on a communal level – something that you just can’t experience on TV or in a text book.
4. It looks great on your resume
Taking a Gap Year or time out to travel and volunteer always looks good on a resume, and employers see it as a sign of maturity and worldly experience that will make you a better employee. Most understand that travel improves confidence and independent thinking, and they are secretly hoping that you’ll step into your new professional role having seen some of the world and (perhaps) having kicked the travel bug a little!
5. You’ll discover the world’s incredible cultural diversity
Even if you live in a multicultural society and there are people of all beliefs and cultures living in your city, this is only scratching the surface of what is out there. Travel is a great way to immerse yourself in the cultural diversity that exists in our world. From festivals to food, weddings and funeral ceremonies, it’s mind blowing the unique ways different ethnic groups and tribes choose to celebrate life and the ancient customs that dictate everyday living.
6. You’ll experience places you never imagined existed
If you’ve ever been awe-struck by a photograph of a landscape somewhere exotic, then just imagine how you would feel standing within it! Travel gives you the opportunity to trek, bike, raft and drive through incredible landscapes, uncovering places you never believed existed, and not only view them with your own eyes, but soak up the indescribable feelings that come with standing amidst places of natural beauty. You can scan travel brochures and the internet for photos of the most beautiful places across the world, but nothing equals actually experiencing them first hand.
7. You might learn a new language (or three)
Whether it’s just a few words or you decide to go fluent, travel is the best excuse to learn a new language. Once you’re immersed in a new destination, you’ll be surprised at just how fast your language skills develop with everyday interactions. Even if you can only manage “Hello, how are you?”, chances are the locals will warm to you and your efforts to learn a little of their tongue.
8. You’ll have incredible adventures (and stories to tell)
Whatever your initial expectations and travel plans are, it’s more than likely that you’ll have incredible adventures along the way that not even J.K. Rowling could write the script for. Sometimes it’s everyday encounters that dish up unimaginable experiences, or wild side trips that you take on a whim, but chances are you’ll be going home with a few tales to tell.
9. Experience completely new cuisines
One of the best things about discovering new destinations and cultures is the food! It might be creamy coconut curries and fried insects in Thailand, foul-smelling fermented shark in Iceland or roasted guinea pig in Peru, but the opportunity to sample traditional delicacies from other corners of the globe will introduce you to unique flavors and customs. Cooking classes are a great way to learn a few techniques and better understand the ingredients used, allowing you to recreate recipes for friends and family back home.
10. Travel happiness is infectious!
Some might think that ditching all your modern comforts, friends, family and beloved belongings from back home sounds like misery, but there is something about travel that infects most with happiness. Perhaps it’s the freedom of being on the road with no deadlines or chores, or the everyday discovery of new destinations, foods, cultures and friends, but travel is a great way to realign and find balance in your life, resulting in a happier, healthier you!