Not too long ago I had someone ask me why I’m so passionate about traveling outside of the USA when there is so much to see here. I couldn’t quite put a finger on it, but after much delay (weeks later) I’ve come up with a valid list. Here it goes:
- Nothing compares to the sense of awe created by experiencing a foreign city or seeing a land mark in person. Walking in places people only read about and touching the centuries old cobble stone is a gift only you can give yourself. It’s incredible and I long for that sense of complete wonder and amazement everyday.
- Shattering comfort zones. I have realized I become bored in a place where I feel “comfortable”. I want to be where I can’t understand the language or traditions and I have to force myself to learn a new way of living and I blame this desire on my year abroad.
- It CAN be done cheaply. I went to Europe on a college student budget and found my year in Europe was cheaper than any year spent at Central Michigan University. I was forced to budget my life and it was probably the most financially organized I’ve ever been!
- Speaking of finances, everyone should experience foreign currency. For some reason, the USA missed the memo that currency CAN be colorful pieces of art.
- Even for the extroverted, travel elicits a sense of introspection that no other experience can give you. Yeah, you travel to new places and somehow end up discovering random facts about yourself!
- You end up appreciating home. As much as I have an obsession for Europe and travel in general, I did end up missing random strolls along lake Michigan during the sunset, tubing down the Chip river with a massive group of people, and the simple smell of home.
- You’re forced to realize what really matters. If you’re lucky you will have two suitcases in which to pack your entire life. I really enjoyed living simply and there’s something about only living out of a backpack (I wore the same outfit three different days, *gasp*) that gives the middle finger to society. It’s just you and a backpack, the adventures are limitless and societal norms are shattered!
- You meet the most entertaining people. The people you meet along the way all have stories to tell as well, I remember in Poland I met a girl traveling by herself and to this day I admire her.
- Many of your friendships established during your time abroad will stand the test of time. Though you may be separated by countries and oceans, you pick up right where you left off. I joke that my best “souvenirs” were the friends I’ve met while abroad.
- You begin to see things differently. I was extremely sheltered and it took going abroad on my own to realize the world isn’t the utopia I believed it was. The world has flaws, lots of them, and we need to acknowledge them.
- 2 am closing time? Nah, the bars (and parties in general) last way into the night anywhere other than the US.
- Your ignorance will be tested. None of us is perfect and we will never be but while chatting with people with differing views, religious backgrounds, and cultures you might learn a thing or two.
- Are you running from something? I actually read an article on how those who are doused in a longing to travel are most likely “running from something”. In reality, I think we all are running because we really don’t know what the heck we’re doing in this world and running means we are determined to find answers even if that means breaking the shackles of tradition. Travel gives one the time and space for contemplation and self discovery, so run as fast and as far as you desire!
- You will discover hidden talents. I bought a paint brush and canvas in order to decorate my room in the Netherlands. I ended up taking those pieces of canvas with me everywhere since then. By no means am I a Picasso but I never would have considered painting as a past time before then.
- It’s easy. Stop saying “someday” and simply order those tickets, fill out that study abroad application, apply for the position abroad! You don’t have a passport? GET ONE. There’s nothing more valuable than a passport.
- It not only builds a resume, it builds confidence. You have conversed with complete strangers in the Czech Republic, saw the realities of World War Two in Poland, slept in a Hungarian airport, and explained your culture to a lecture hall of foreign students from all over the world. I’d say you have some experience under your belt now.
- Forces adaptability. Spend a week living out of a backpack and you become really good at improvising. Both a burden of the traveling life and a virtue, one begins to take a cancelled flight as a cause for more adventure.
- You discover better music. Sure, you’re stuck on your favorite Beyonce song but there’s a whole world of new sounds waiting to be discovered!
- Nothing compares to the sense of freedom you experience while on the road to an unfamiliar location. I learned very early on in my travels to never travel with an itinerary or with a large group of people.
- You have so many stories to tell. Two blogs and several journals later, the stories never seem to get old.
“But that’s the glory of foreign travel, as far as I am concerned. I don’t want to know what people are talking about. I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again. You can’t read anything, you have only the most rudimentary sense of how things work, you can’t even reliably cross a street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses.”
It’s you and one GIGANTIC world, do yourself a favor and see it, experience it, savor it.