Before my wife and I took our first mission trip to Cuba, we had no idea of the impact this experience would have on our lives. Our two weeks on the island exposed us to a range of emotions from utter heartbreak at the poverty in many areas to pure joy as locals invited us into their homes. Venturing from house to house, we jotted notes and snapped photos to help us remember as many stories as possible. So many of our friends and family had supported our trip that we could not pass up the opportunity to share this life-changing experience with them back home.
In the weeks leading up to the trip, our local church collected a special offering to support our team’s work. Their overwhelming generosity compelled us to host an official presentation recapping the trip upon our return. Members were so moved by this presentation that donations are still pouring in on a weekly basis to this day. It is incredible to see how many people - though not able to travel with us to Cuba - can still connect with our experience through the videos and other stories that have been shared.
Moments such as this are timely reminders that traveling is really not for you.
Sure, it is enjoyable to see new places, try different cuisines, and meet people from around the world, but is the value of travel merely one-dimensional?
Much of the current research on traveling focuses on the personal benefit to the traveler. In fact, a quick Google search for “benefits of traveling” resulted in several lists of advantages such as broadening your horizons, sharpening your mind, and relieving stress. Many of these resources are spot-on in their assessment of how world travel can enrich your life and we have even written on similar themes such as learning different languages and improving as a student.
Nonetheless, we also believe in constantly pushing the envelope on travel while challenging ourselves and our students to reach for greater heights. Imagine for a moment that your trip abroad did not just equip you with a greater set of soft skills. Imagine the potential benefit of expanding your travels to have a larger circle of influence amongst family, classmates, and even your local community.
Instead of only asking “how did this trip improve my life?”, challenge yourself with “how can I share what I learned with someone else?”.
We promise that this will give you a revolutionary perspective wherever you travel in the world. It is a substantial shift in focus from what you personally receive from traveling to what you have to give from traveling.
Be prepared for a transformation in your relationships as you bring back even more value to those around you. We know that this can happen for you because we have personally witnessed it from our own travels:
Family & Friends
While studying abroad in Rome, I had the opportunity to take a photography course that exposed students to piazzas, exhibits, and art studios around the city. Since my family and most of my friends were back in the United States, I made sure that they could follow these adventures through my Tumblr blog where I regularly shared journal entries and photographs. This blog eventually became a valuable resource to other students curious about what to expect for their trip to Rome.
Some of you might remember my trip to northeastern Thailand from an earlier blog. As a follow-up to that exciting adventure, our team presented our findings to our colleagues at King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi in Thailand as well as our fellow students back at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. These settings created greater conversation about our project and generated interest in continuing the work in the following years.
Earlier, I forgot to mention that our church community was so enthusiastic about supporting the mission work in Cuba that they designed a permanent display board to showcase in the building’s main hall. Anyone and everyone can now view pictures from our trips and see the progress on the church’s fundraising goal. One member was so moved by what he had seen and heard that he joined the following year’s trip to Cuba and participated in the presentation upon our return.
You see, traveling can indeed change your life, but the possibilities become endless when its impact extends to those around you.
Educators/Parents - Help your students and/or children brainstorm different ways to share what they learned from a recent adventure. Encourage them to explore with the goal of this experience eventually benefiting someone else.
Students - What is your favorite way to document something important in your life? Photos? Videos? Journaling? No matter the medium, outline your next trip and how you plan to share your experience with others.
Stay Educated. Stay Empowered. Stay WellTraveled.