There I sat listening intently as my Thai friend showed me how to use a wash pan. The expert instructing the novice - a strange feeling for me having grown up used to others always asking for my help. But at that moment, I was the one who felt helpless outside of my friend's patient instruction.
Years later, I look back on this experience and realize that it's often when we feel the most helpless that we have the most opportunity for growth.
Think about it. Have you ever had that moment when you realized that you didn't know everything? And that your ability to accomplish whatever was in front of you relied upon assistance from someone else? If not, just keep living - that moment will come. It happens to all of us.
And when you do encounter it, there you'll face a choice of either pretending to have it all figured out or accepting the opportunity to learn something that you didn't know before.
For me, I faced this choice in Tao Ngoi, Thailand with a bag full of worn clothes in need of a good washing. I'm thankful that I chose to learn something new.
I've found that most of the aha moments in my life came while canvassing a different part of the world. It's why Charles and I advocate for entering the zone of the unknown and taking the road less traveled. Traveling has a way of unveiling some of the most rich life-changing moments you can imagine.
And today I'd like to share with you my top five ways that world travel can change your life. Without further ado, here we go!
PERSPECTIVE: As a young child, family members often told me, "You never know what someone is going through until you take a walk in their shoes". In other words, empathy is gained by understanding someone else's perspective. Experiencing places, foods, and customs outside of your day-to-day life helps you take a walk in someone else's shoes. Stumbling through a new language or meeting locals in a foreign city can truly transform your perspective on life. When traveling, you encounter different belief systems, currencies, landmarks, governments, and so on - all of which challenge you to view the world outside of your normal vantage point.
LANGUAGE: Of course you'll learn exciting, new words from traveling the world, but here I'm referring to the way that we use language to communicate with others. After returning from some of my first trips abroad, I remember experiencing a major shift in how I communicated with people around me. My conversations took on a deeper level of engagement - I wanted to know why someone believed what they believed, not just what they believed. Meeting people from various cultures in unfamiliar settings sparked greater curiosity about the world and the people around me. And as a result, I started to ask more thoughtful questions and I watched my relationships with family, friends, classmates, and even complete strangers develop into more meaningful connections.
APPRECIATION: I know without a doubt that my family's road trip adventures when I was a child laid the foundation for the appreciation that I have for the people and places around the world. Traveling will do that to you! For me, it's heartbreaking that so many young people do not have - or in some cases take - the opportunity to see the sights beyond their local zip code. And what a world of difference I believe it would make in their lives especially in terms of appreciation. Whether it be appreciating your hometown more than you did before or being grateful for the variety of awe-inspiring wonders around the world. I believe that we grow in gratitude when we get out there and actually experience the world of travel for ourselves.
NOSTALGIA: One of the most lasting ways that travel can change your life is the ability to relive past experiences at the most unexpected times. Sometimes I feel like I live in a world of nostalgia. Just the other day, a work colleague shared her summer vacation plans of traveling to Paris. Almost instantaneously, I had a flashback to my two months in France as a teenager exactly a decade ago at the time of this post. I could almost hear the bustling of downtown Saint-Brieuc again and smell the fresh baguette from the local bakery. When traveling across the world or traveling to a different part of your state, you are constantly making these very vivid memories. And as you build up this mental archive of various experiences, don't be surprised if conversations or life events take you on a quick trip down memory lane.
EXPERIENCE: Experience is often regarded as one of life's best teachers. And when it comes to travel, I couldn't agree more. Let me be clear - traveling will not always be a picture-perfect experience. Moments will come where your patience is tested or you have to adjust to uncomfortable surroundings. You may meet some people along the way who don't treat you the best. This all comes with the territory of gaining experience through travel. I believe that the culmination of different travel experiences - the good, the great, and the not so good - matures the character in a marked way. Your experience while traveling will truly never leave you quite the same.
So, there you have it - Perspective, Language, Appreciation, Nostalgia, and Experience. My top five ways that world travel can change your life.
If traveling has changed your life in one of these ways above or in a completely different way, we'd love to hear about it. Make sure to drop us a comment below.
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Stay Educated. Stay Empowered. Stay WellTraveled.