“When we get out of the glass bottle of our ego and when we escape like the squirrels in the cages of our personality and get into the forest again, we shall shiver with cold and fright. But things will happen to us so that we don’t know ourselves. Cool, unlying life will rush in.” ~ D.H. Lawrence
It is often said, “Travelers are the best storytellers.”
It took me a while to realize the real essence of traveling, until I met a friend of mine who had traveled from Poland to India, to study and experience the life in the East. We were in the same class, and what drew me toward her was the sack full of stories that she had.
There came a point when I realized that she knows my country better than I do! That triggered my interest to set out and explore the beauty that India beholds. Undoubtedly, my friend was my inspiration.
Now, when I look back, I can trace how things have changed over time and how I’ve evolved into a better person. Often, there are certain changes that happen to us, which we fail to realize in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives. But if only we pay thoughtful attention, we can understand the importance of those changes.
A year back, when I chose life on the road over a corporate job, I faced a few negative reactions, like people telling me that traveling is more of a bourgeoisie pleasure, which not everyone can afford. But it is not entirely true in the 21st century, when the concept of “budget traveling” is booming, evidently, and travelers often choose volunteering trips, WorkAway opportunities, or freelance jobs in order to sustain themselves during the journeys. When we return home after a trip, we aren’t the same person as we were when we left.
Here’s how, in my experience, traveling makes us awesome:
1. Traveling makes us more confident and independent human beings.
“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” ~ Andre Gide
Traveling essentially turns us into independent beings as we move away from home, and discover there’s often no one to fall back on. In the process, we become confident enough to discover the paths we never considered taking—or even know existed.
We are the bosses of our lives, and we often fail to realize this in an otherwise monotonous life, when things are taken for granted. Navigate through unknown cities, dive into the deep waters, climb up the difficult mountains, jump off a cliff, and dance with the locals as they celebrate—know that nothing in this world can stop us if we wish to do it.
How can we not be sure of our own abilities with all the things we’ve done? After conquering so many great travel experiences on the road, we surely feel a whole lot more confident in our own abilities to accomplish anything we set our mind into.
2. Traveling makes us happier.
“Investment in travel is an investment in yourself.” ~ Matthew Karsten
It’s a general observation—you’ll find a well-traveled person to be happier than the one who’s not. We have friends and colleagues around us who always complain about not having enough time or money to travel, but they often fail to realize that they are comprising their happiness by postponing all those trips that they wish to take.
Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University in New York, has been studying the question of money and happiness for over two decades. His research has shown that when we go traveling, we experience the same increase in happiness when we initially purchase something we desire. However, while the level of happiness we derive from our purchase falls over time, the memories of our travel experiences continue to supply us with happiness hormones for far longer.
3. Traveling helps us gain different perspectives.
“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” ~ Anaïs Nin
In most cases, our thought process is shaped by our upbringing. Everybody has a different belief system, education, and sets of experiences that affect our outlook. Traveling is, for me, a great way to see things from different points of view.
Often, we think on a line that’s known to us, but as the wider world slowly unwinds, our perspectives broaden. Being a mountain lover, I am easily attracted to the gusty streams, but until recently, I never paid much attention to the fact that an upstream river and a downstream river flow with different rhythms.
It’s only when we travel, that our sense organs become more active, and help us to see, listen, feel, and taste things that we often miss out in the chaos and cacophony of urban life.
4. Traveling ignites a sense of gratitude in us.
“Traveling tends to magnify all human emotions.” ~ Peter Hoeg
Nowadays, it has become easy to forget just how privileged and lucky we are. Most of us who can read, write, eat and have a roof over our head, forget to express gratitude for all the blessings that we are showered with.
We live in a world where we can afford almost everything that is necessary for us, yet we often forget to appreciate what we have been given, and we keep craving more material objects.
A trip to a developing country or a journey to the part of your own country where the underprivileged ones live, however, can make you realize how much you really possess. Take a volunteering trip to any of the developing African countries and spend a couple of weeks there. Sometimes, it’s a real life stir that we need, in order to understand life’s darker sides and to feel more thankful for the lights that we have.
When I traveled to the tribal villages in Rajasthan, India, I realized that people there have so little—often they didn’t even have two meals a day. It gave me perspective on those things I failed to appreciate throughout my life.
5. Traveling sparks creativity in us.
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” ~ Neale Donald Walsch
Each one of us has some creative cells that remain dormant until we put them to proper use. Perhaps I would have never known my narrative skills if I hadn’t set out of my comfort zone.
Many of the renowned writers in the world are extremely well-traveled, and so are the painters and the photographers. Exploring the world provides us with the adequate exposure that’s needed to fuel creativity. When we travel, we usually step out of our normal routine, allowing our brain cells to think differently. Plus, it gives us a surplus of cool ideas that we may not think of when we are stuck in a cubicle or a four-cornered wall.
So, next time you have an opportunity to be awesome, don’t miss it. Pack your bags and set out for that much-awaited trip—embrace the journey and experience the changes that life has to offer.
As H. Jackson Brown Jr. said, “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Author: Riyanka Roy
Image: Thelma & Louise/IMDB
Editor: Sara Kärpänen
Copy Editor: Emily Bartran
Social Editor: Emily Bartran