If you asked me to pick my one favourite thing about travel, I’d tell you that I love the way it forces me out of my comfort zone. Few things in life are more intimidating than rocking up to a new country on a new continent where you don’t speak the language or know a single soul.
Travel has helped me get over my fear of the unknown. It’s helped me get better at coping with my social anxiety by forcing me to make friends with perfect strangers – and some of those friends are the closest I’ve ever had. It’s helped me learn to say yes more, agreeing to do things I’d never ordinarily agree to do.
Each time I’ve left to travel alone, I’ve come home different in one way or another.
I was curious how travel has impacted other people’s lives, so I connected with 5 other travel bloggers to hear their stories.
It makes them aware of their privilege
In 2013, I was freshly 18, in Bali, Indonesia on my first big overseas trip. One afternoon, my friends and I were chatting to a driver who beamed with pride talking about his baby daughter, Sakirah. He told us of his work, hardships, and things he loves the most; I asked about his daily wage, which was significantly less than mine. My heart went out to this beautiful man, who seemed to have little but whose heart was full of happiness.
After the kindness and laughs, we gathered 40AUD to tip him. The car pulled to a stop and my friend in the front seat handed him the cash. He didn’t flinch; thinking he was holding it for her a moment. She giggled and gently pushed it into his hands: “it’s for you.”
He sat still, staring at it, then with soft eyes asked, “for me?”
Then, he cried.
He hugged my friend in the front, then shook all of our hands with both of his. He thanked and blessed us. We all walked inside crying bitter-sweet tears. I couldn’t get over it. I witnessed a grown man cry over 40AUD. It was the most eye-opening and humbling experience I’d ever had. My heart was heavy, realising how spoilt I am; how privileged. But that was enough for me, to never take anything for granted. To open my heart to others, and to help anywhere I can.
This man changed my life, and I don’t even know his first name.
-Alysha from Adventurous Alysha
It teaches them independence
An ugly situation brought my 15 year marriage to an end. Divorce, then depression, financial strain, and lack of identity, went on for 4 years after. One morning I woke knowing that I needed to go. Anywhere.
Through fast arrangements, I had time off and 10 days later, was flying to Puerto Rico, alone, and terrified, with no plans.
In the morning, I got a map, and picked a place to walk beaches, and rocky outcrops, scared and lonely. Another day, I toured Arecibo Observatory and Cueva Ventana, intrigued, but empty, out of place. The next, I explored coffee fields and mountains, at peace.
The last day, I drove to Rojo Cabo salt flats and light house. I stopped for dinner at a beachfront bar. I shot pool with young men, having fun, drawing an audience. The expat bar owner offered me a drink, and explained that the crowd watched because women were not allowed to play pool in Puerto Rico. I laughed aloud. I told him what an adventure I was having. As it was definitely an adventure, a coming of age, a discovery of peace; a moment, that was pivotal in my life.
Did the travel change me, or did I travel because I had changed? I cannot say. But my strength, my clarity, and my optimism would not be, had I not have taken that trip. That I could do it, and did do it, still wows me a bit!
-Roxanna from Gypsy with a Day Job
It opens them up to new experiences
Melted cheese on toast. Scrambled eggs. McDonalds chicken nuggets. As a stubborn pre-schooler, I lived off these foods for months, maybe up to a year. No matter how hard my increasingly frustrated parents tried, nor how hungry I was, I refused to eat anything else.
Though my diet did gradually broaden, the fussy eating and total lack of culinary/dining adventurousness continued through to my twenties. I was doomed, entirely by my own making, to a life of boring food.
Then, I travelled. Without the go-to snacks and meals to fall back on, I was forced out of my comfort zone and into a whole host of dishes I never would have dreamt of trying back home. There were the mouth-watering curries of London’s Brick Lane, the authentic Sicilian arancini, the endless beef noodle soup in hole-in-the-wall Taiwanese eateries, the visually unappealing yet surprisingly moreish liverwurst on traditional German pretzels, the simple yet delicious Sri Lankan hoppers…
Somewhere in between the new flavours, scents and textures, a whole new world unfolded for me plate by plate. At restaurants, bakeries and food stalls alike, I was intrigued by the traces of history and culture indelibly woven into every recipe, menu and ingredient.
I’m still not exactly an adventurous foodie, but now trying new foods is as much a part of my travels as seeing new places. Best of all, returning home to multicultural Western Sydney with its myriad cuisines, I get to relive the memories of past travels through everyday meals. Travel has transformed my palate, my diet and — for sheer nutritional diversity — my health. Next month I’m going to Morocco; bring on the tagine and couscous!
-Sarah from World Unlost
It puts things into perspective
I sat there answering email after email of things my managers at my top accounting firm job deemed “emergencies” after my third trip to Europe and realized I had changed. In high school, I was Valedictorian, and in college, I was Summa Cum Laude. I got into one of the top five Master of Accounting programs in the nation and even landed a job at a Big Four firm. I worked endlessly, tirelessly, thinking this was the path to success: the well paying job, to save all my money, to retire, and hopefully to take vacations. I thought that was the best way to happiness. I thought I was doing everything expected of me. But, then I traveled.
It started with my study abroad trip, where France taught me how to slow down. Why was I racing at the speed of light? Few things were ever truly emergencies. I learned to enjoy the moment. Then, I backpacked Europe by myself prior to beginning my career, and I learned independence. I learned I no longer felt jealous of material things I didn’t have but rather hungered for experiences I longed to achieve. Travel taught me to live for my passions, and not chase what is expected of me by society. It taught me to chase my dream of helping others travel more frequently rather than sit behind a desk at work. Life isn’t about ticking off the list of things we have to do to be successful but about defining our own success.
-Kat from Worldwide Honeymoon
It inspires them to choose travel as a lifestyle
Last 2016, I went alone to Myanmar, in Bagan to be specific. I checked in at a hostel to meet other backpackers. I met a Korean, a Vietnamese, an American, a German, a Brit, and a French.
We rented e-bikes and drove between temples. We ate together, shared stories, entered some of the temples, took some photos, and biked some more. We even watched the sunset on top of a temple.
It was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever done – temple hopping with complete strangers.
At the end of the day, we drank a couple of beers to cap the night off. It was just surreal to bond and share an experience with a group of new found friends from all over the globe.
I was inspired because most of them, if not all, are on a long term journey from three to six months. And I’ve never done long term travel like that before. The most I’ve done is a two-week vacation off from work.
That night… things changed… long term travel became a reality…
The concept left a permanent mark on me.
Someday it will happen.
-Jason from Where’s Jason