Reasons to Travel
I'll be honest. I haven't really known a life without travel. It's something that has been an integral part of my life. I have family all over the world and I've been going to visit them since before I can remember. There have been periods of my life when I didn't travel much. Now, I'm in a period of my life when I travel all the time. I am so very grateful to have a job that gives me the opportunity and flexibility to travel for work and pleasure.
Travel itself has made its indelible impression on me as a person. And I hope that it can do the same for you.
Travel Makes You Brave
Through my travels, I've learned to be a little more brave. To stray away from the typical touristy path and venture out to the unknown. Mind you, I don't do this without thorough research. I always like to know what to expect and how to get from one place to another.
Prior to my trip in 2014, I'd never been to Munich, let alone anywhere in Germany. A few hours before signing in for the trip, I Googled "things to do in Munich" because I refused to sit in my hotel room all day. After searching a few webpages, I found out that the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site was fairly close to my hotel via public transit. Right then and there, I decided that I would do that on my layover.
And I did.
With my limited German comprehension and complete lack of knowledge (aside from what I learned on the Internet) of the Munich public transit system, I bought a train/bus ticket and made my way to the memorial site. And it wasn't difficult at all. *insert praise for German efficiency* No, this wasn't hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro or snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef But it was one of the first times that I ventured out on my own in a completely foreign country - no other crewmembers, no friends in town...just me and Google Maps. This gave me the boost I needed to push myself out of my comfort zone with travel.
Travel Teaches Preparedness
Before I became a flight attendant, travel preparedness used to mean packing a couple extra outfits just in case I got stuck somewhere. Now, preparedness goes far beyond a few pieces of clothing. It's being situationally aware of my surroundings at all times, especially in unfamiliar places. Preparedness is making sure I know where the exits are, no matter what country I'm in. It's making sure that I have enough battery power on my phone just in case I needed to contact someone in an emergency. Preparedness means always having a snack on my person...because you never know how long you'll be waiting for the bus or train and hey you might get hungry. ? Preparedness means doing intense research before I visit a place. And yes, my research is intense. I kind of love researching things. That's another story for another day.
Travel Shatters Stereotypes
Are all Parisians rude? Not in my experience. I mean, it does help that I speak French. I've found, even with my friends/colleagues who don't speak French, if you just try and communicate in French, Parisians are more accommodating. Are all New Yorkers rude? No. More brutally honest than rude. Just don't walk slowly in the city. One time, I was in a ride-share van going from LaGuardia to Manhattan. Three ladies from Louisiana were also in the van with me. It was their first time in NYC and they were full of stereotypes about New Yorkers. One of them said to the driver, "Wow, you're nice. You're not rude like I thought New Yorkers would be." SRSLY LADY? Goodness gracious. Anyway, I digress...
There's nothing that gets you out of your comfort zone quite like being immersed in another culture. Different languages, cultures, and customs constantly challenge what we believe is right or true. It is so easy to believe something about a certain people group if you're never around them. The internet and social media have kind of made this worse. It makes it easier to spread hatred, lies, and prejudices.
Go out and immerse yourself in another culture. You don't even have to leave your country to experience something totally different. Anyone who expects Boston, Seattle, Miami, and Houston to all be similar will be sorely disappointed and completely surprised at the same time. The language may be the same, but the slang, food, mannerisms, and customs will be different. Don't even get me started on barbecue in the States. It's basically a religion with its own denominations.
Travel Makes You Flexible
There's something we always say in the airline industry: The only consistent thing about it is change. Delays, cancellations, strikes, weather, you name it. They happen. And life gets more interesting when they do.
Since I have to cope with these things on a fairly regular basis, I've chosen to take the path of least resistance and go with the flow. It's a lot easier than stressing about something that I cannot change. I can't change the weather. I can, however, change my attitude to what that weather does to my plans. Rather than view these obstacles as stressors, I view them as exciting challenges because I enjoy creative problem-solving.
When my friend and I arrived in Dublin last year for our backpacking trip, we planned on taking the public bus from the airport to the hostel. Once we got to the bus station, we learned that the bus drivers were on strike. Great. But no problem - we took a taxi into the city. A little more money than we planned on spending, but we got to where we needed to be. I was recently in London on holiday with family. We were staying close to a Tube station where the Circle and Hammersmith & City lines were operating. About halfway through our stay, the Circle and H&C lines stopped operating through our station due to Tube driver strikes. Great. No worries though - we ended up taking buses. Less efficient, but a lot cheaper than a taxi.
Travel teaches you that it's always good to have a Plan B. and Plan C. and Plans D-F with six subpoints each.
Travel Helps You Unplug
Whenever I'm traveling for leisure, I try not to bog myself down with electronics. First of all, they can be cumbersome. Secondly, there's the added stress of these items possibly being stolen. Lastly, using them too much can take away from the experience of exploring a new place.
I love photography. I consider myself a bit of an amateur photographer. And I love the images that I can get with my camera. BUT I hate carrying it around. It's awkward. Then I go back and forth between my smartphone and my camera. I get so internally frustrated with this technology dance that I do when I'm traveling. I try to be more conscious of this when in new cities.
Some of the best memories I have of cities or layovers aren't on my Snapchat or Instagram. They're in my heart and head. They're the stories I tell people when they ask me, "Where's the best place you've been to?" Sometimes, I have a few landscape pictures to prove a point. But most of the time, I rely on my expert storytelling skills to paint the picture for my avid listeners. LOL. I use a lot of adjectives when telling a story - it's no wonder I like Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy so much. They're so descriptive in their storytelling.
Travel Helps You Make Friends
As an ENFP, I draw energy from social interactions. I often feel a "post-friend-hangout-energy-rush" after spending time with friends or getting to know new people. Seriously. I'll be hyped up for hours. I've met so many people in my travels that have left an indelible mark on my heart. Some, I don't know if I'll ever see again. Some have become close friends of mine.
There's nothing like going on a pub crawl and bonding with a complete stranger in your group over a shared interest and a G&T. Or over an emotional story being told through flamenco. Or playing beer pong in Galway.
If you're open to it, you can meet so many interesting people on your travels. The local restaurant owner may have a really interesting story to tell. Hint: they usually do. You may never become best friends with them. But that stranger that you chose to chat with may end up enriching your life.
Travel Shows You That No One Has It Right
If you stay in one place your whole life, it could be easy to believe that your city, county, state, region, country, whatever is the best in the world. Hey, when you're comfortable, why leave? Why think that anyone could have it better than you?
In my travels, I've learned that not one country has everything completely right. Where one thing might be better, there's lack in another area. Nowhere is perfect. No government or people group has "it" completely worked out or 100% right.
I frequently get asked, "Which is better: the UK or the US?" And my response is, "They both have their advantages and disadvantages for residents." I usually take the example of socialized medicine. I explain that, while the NHS isn't the best system, it's there as an option. Meanwhile, the US can't even really sort out Obamacare, which has its own issues.
Travel Gives You Enriching Experiences
Visiting a WWII concentration camp in Germany. Enjoying a baguette, brie, and rosé on the Champ de Mars. Taking a night ferry in Amsterdam. Walking around the monuments in DC at night. A pint of Guinness from the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin. (This one ruined Guinness in the US for me. Guinness does not import well, in my opinion.)
All of these experiences and more are experiences that I couldn't get anywhere else. They are memories that will stick with me for life. I can't drive down the road and have these experiences.
I will never forget standing on Utah Beach and Omaha Beach and thinking of the sacrifices made there on D-Day. I will never forget being able to walk around the entirety of a 15th century Franciscan Abbey in Killarney. I will definitely never forget seeing HRH Queen Elizabeth II ride past me in the passenger seat of a Land Rover 4x4 at Windsor Castle.
Travel to have experiences that you can't have at home. Travel to learn about history. To see and feel where history took place. To see where history is memorialized.
Travel Makes You Prioritize Your Time
I always take my sweet time when I'm in a museum or at a historical site. I want to take it all in as much as I can. My husband and I were at the Louvre for three hours before he said, "Ummm are you ready to go?" I let him know that we'd barely scratched the surface of the massive permanent collection at the Louvre.
When you have a limited amount of time in a new place, you have to pick and choose what to do. Unfortunately, this means choosing one experience over another, but that doesn't meant that you can't enjoy yourself.
I am thankful that I get to live a life full of travel and enriching cultural experiences. I hope that the lessons travel teaches me never end. Get out there. Experience life. Dive into a foreign culture. Let it shape you.
Here's to personal growth,