Travel has long been touted as a great way to improve yourself. There is no shortage of articles out there that encourage spending your hard-earned money on experiences like travel as opposed to possessions. Traveling abroad can create lasting, priceless memories that you’ll cherish for years to come, and can radically change the way that you see the world.
Getting to know other cultures and how they deal with the same problems that you have can give you a refreshing perspective on life. Travel is also a way to get in touch with your roots, as the majority of citizens in the United States have ancestors from around the world. Exposure to other cultures can make you a more mindful, thoughtful, empathetic human being.
Expanding Your Horizons
When you travel abroad or even to a different state, you immerse yourself in the culture present there. Through this immersion, you are given the opportunity to see situations in a different light because all of the societal pressures and norms of your home country don’t apply when you’re in a different culture. You get to see how people deal with their problems, stay happy, work with each other, even the way people talk to each other in an entirely new way. While we are all human beings, learning from a different culture can never hurt.
In order for travel to truly broaden your horizons, you need to actively immerse yourself in the local culture. Heading to Dublin is all well and good, but if you spend the entire time in the hotel room or eating out at Chili’s and McDonalds, you won’t really be initiating any change within yourself. Without engaging fully in the culture, you are really just doing the same thing you do at home, just several thousand miles away. If you do, you’ll find that the changes will be profound and nearly immediate.
Travel makes you a better person by giving you the opportunity to have a different perspective through different culture, and can fill you with a general sense of awe when you see a whole new landscape. You are inherently pulled out of your comfort zone when you travel, which can inspire you creatively, giving you new ideas whether you express yourself through cooking, photography, or writing. Experiencing the world outside of your comfort zone can also help you to appreciate the things in your everyday life back home that you take for granted, essentially recharging your spirit for long after your trip is finished.
Making New Friends
Life at home can be stressful and overwhelming, no matter your age or profession. Dealing with the day-to-day drudgery of all of your obligations can take a serious toll on your social life, and the longer you are out of school, the less opportunity you have to meet and connect with new people. The less time that you spend with friends or family, the harder it becomes to empathize with the people around you every day. However, deciding to leave the stresses of your regular life behind you and travel the world can help to rekindle and reinforce empathy within you.
While the prospect of heading across an ocean, striking out into an entirely new culture, and absorbing as much food, art, music, and architecture as possible, all the while trying to make new friends may be daunting, it is actually quite easy. It can be easy to let the fact that you’re a stranger who most likely doesn’t speak the local language dissuade you from trying to befriend locals, but if you are able to put those fears aside, you might find that people around the world are warm and welcoming. No matter where you find yourself, you have the potential to meet people who share your interests and values, and can make for lifelong friends.
If you’re looking to make new friends while traveling abroad, don’t be afraid to cast a wide net in your approach. While heading to the hotel bar or using social media to mingle with the locals is always a good option, there are plenty of other ways to meet new people when traveling. Going on guided walking tours or planning one for yourself alone are great ways to not only familiarize yourself with a new city, but are also fantastic ways to get out into the public and meet many different people. Other options include staying in hostels, which put you in close proximity with both locals and other travelers alike, volunteering at local charities, or even taking up a team sport that requires you to interact with others.
If You Love it, Stay!
There are plenty of ways to extend your time abroad, even if you have hardly any money to work with. Get yourself comfortable with going a bit slower than you might like, as transportation is often the most costly part of traveling. Spending your time traveling across Europe by train instead of plane will let you truly see the countries you’re traveling through in a way that a more costly but much quicker flight ever could. Don’t be scared of keeping your schedule fluid and staying flexible, as doing so will allow you to capitalize on any travel opportunities that might come your way.
If you’re looking to actually set your life up semi-permanently in Europe, you’ll want to get a job as soon as possible to ensure that you don’t end up penniless and stuck. While every country will have different requirements for obtaining a work visa, getting a job in Europe isn’t as hard as it might seem. Instead of a resume, you’ll present potential employers with a Europass, which is a curriculum vitae that shows employers a quick look at your job skills and experience without in depth detail. The Europass is just one part of a larger document called a European Skills Passport which contains everything an employer needs to know in order to make an informed hiring decision. If your skill set is in high demand, you will have less of an issue in finding gainful employment.
Living abroad can radically change you, as when you stay longer you are compounding all of the positive effects of overseas travel. By immersing yourself fully into a new, exciting culture, you are given the opportunity to grow through your new experiences. You essentially get to pick and choose the best of both cultures, and when (or if) you ever head back home, your outlook will be forever changed.