If we trust dating and social media profiles (and why shouldn’t we?), traveling counts as one of the favourite activities for millennials, Generation Z’ers, and whichever letter came after that. In fact, it often ranks in the top 3, along with ‘watching Netflix’ and ‘eating sushi’. Now, I don’t really like sushi but I do love travelling. And besides the almost instant gratification I get when 1. I’m in a random place that’s awesome, and 2. I get to boast about it when I’m back, there are really valid reasons why travelling is important to me, to us, and probably to you too.
Do you really need to travel?
Let me get this out first: if you’ve already tried travelling and you’ve realised it’s not for you – don’t sweat it. No one should be compelled to travel just because it’s the trendy thing to do. You should travel mainly because you like doing it; because it makes you feel good.
We spend our time in an online world saturated with beautiful profiles of people who love to travel, and pseudo inspirational quotes constantly reminding us what a bunch of losers we are if we don’t push our comfort zone as far as the very end of the world.
It’s important that you try it out and then listen to yourself. Was it too stressful, did you feel uneasy most of the time? Did you feel you were not yourself? Did you look forward to going back home? Then you’re not a traveller and that’s perfectly fine: don’t let anyone judge you, not even yourself.
There are also different ways to travel : find out what type of traveller you are.
With that out of the way, let’s dive into what travelling can actually bring you…
Travel helps us discover ourselves
The main advantage of going abroad is that it puts us in situations of (mild) discomfort. By confronting us to unknown situations, unknown food, unknown languages etc., it challenges our understanding of life. It gets us out of the infamous comfort zone.
I see every situation that’s different from my usual routine as a gradual expansion of my self. Visiting new places, tasting a local recipe, learning a few words of the lingo or even taking a city bus abroad all contribute to expand my sphere. They all show me how I react when I am in a different environment.
Let’s be honest, flying over to the other side of the world just to eat at McDonald’s and have morning coffee at Starbucks doesn’t bring much. Actually, it brings zero. We shouldn’t try and recreate our home habits when we’re abroad, that defeats the purpose.
Travel inspires us
How many decisions were taken, hobbies were started, projects initiated after a trip? By putting life into a new light, traveling counts among the most inspirational activities. The same way it expands our own self, it brings up new ideas.
We don’t have to spend several months in a remote tribe, living the struggles of an Indigenous community, in order to get an idea for a novel or the will to start a charity. More often than not, the mere fact of trying out something different from our normal routine is inspiring.
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Travel educates us
I don’t know about you but the best way for me to learn something is by experiencing it first-hand. That might prove difficult for historical events or the scientific discoveries on Mars. But I swear that I remember better the two capital cities of Bolivia or the name of the highest mountain in the Americas if I’ve been around them. It leaves a more durable mark onto my brain. Reading about it just doesn’t do the trick.
Unless we’re stuck inside our own bubble, a trip leads us to encounter realities we didn’t even expect. Whether social or historical, travelling puts our mind at work through different worldviews, knowledge and habits. A family travel is certainly a great gift for a kid.
Travel makes us more tolerant
At home, we tend to soak in the comforting bath of similar political views and social backgrounds. But when we’re abroad, we’re on our way to discover different cultures, traditions and lifestyles. Our ego isn’t hurt there because it’s part of the game.
Yet it’s really beneficial to reflect both upon those differences and upon the similarities; those intrinsically human characteristics that unite us.
Travelling done right both broadens and sharpens our mind: it shows us the diversity and the unity in the world.
Travel makes us rediscover our home
This inspiring confrontation with the Unknown and the Different has another consequence: it opens up our eyes to our daily routine. Not only does it push us to reconsider our old habits, we also see our usual surroundings with renewed curiosity.
I’ve moved quite a bit in my life and one constant disappointment is that the interest in my new home always becomes tempered over time. I wish I could keep looking at my hometown with the same baby eyes I had when I first moved. But that’s just not the case.
Whenever I come back from a trip though, the curiosity is revived for a while. I’ve been discovering so much, looking up, paying attention to details… When I’m back home, I naturally feel like doing the same; maybe as a means of comparison, or maybe to get to know my hometown better.
Travel makes us grateful
As a direct consequence of the renewed curiosity that comes from meeting new people and experiencing new things, we become more grateful of what we have. When we come back from a trip, we look at our life, our surroundings, our friends, etc. with fresh eyes. That automatically leads us to realise their existence and the good they bring us.
It doesn’t have to come out of a contrast with a heartbreakingly poor country. Any trip instinctively triggers a comparison between what we face and what we’re used to. And any country, rich or poor, will have us reflect on things we miss at home and things we have on a daily basis and are really sweet. This can be a comfortable weather, a good transportation system, cheap prices or friendly people…
Check out a few travel and lifestyle hacks that will help you travel more often
Travel fills our head with memories
Obviously, one of the main advantages of travelling is the countless memories a trip leaves on our mind. A hardship, a spark of joy, a meaningful encounter, a demanding experience create fascinating stories for our long winter evenings.
Out of experience, the most vivid memories are those that happen outside of our comfort zone. The events that pushed us to discover ourselves in the first place. Because even a bad experience becomes a good memory.
Let me add something here. A ‘memory’ is what fills our head, our heart and our anecdotes; a ‘souvenir’ is what gathers dust on our shelves and in our photo galleries. A souvenir may well help revive memories but it will never replace them. That’s why, when we travel, we try and live the moment as much as we can; even before taking a picture of it.
Finally, travel makes us happy (yes)
Inspiration, education, tolerance, gratitude… It’s obvious that traveling helps with our mental health and contributes to making us feel good about ourselves. Even when we push ourselves, when we face situations that are unusual or even demanding, the final consequence is a better appreciation of ourselves, our life and our surroundings.
In parallel, all the activities and experiences we live outside of our routine also make us happy. This study has shown that the money we spend on doing (the “experiential purchase”) leaves us with a longer-lasting sense of happiness than the money spent on having (the “material purchase”).
Why is travelling important for you? How does it help you or make you feel happy?
Share your anecdotes and travel tips with us in the comments!