Alex Cequea took a trip around the world, and all he came back with were these practical life lessons.
7 Reasons Why You Need to Travel More
Last year I decided to fulfill a dream I’ve had for many years: I took a trip around the world. Over the course of 3 months, I visited 13 countries in 4 continents, and in addition to making a cool little video about it called “High Five Around the World” (below), I learned a few lessons that will forever affect my current and future relationships.
First things first: how did I afford to travel so much?
Going to all those countries must have cost me tens of thousands of dollars, right? Wrong. Traveling around the world, contrary to popular belief, can be quite affordable, especially if you’re traveling through less expensive parts of the world like South East Asia and South America. I booked my tickets as one big package through Airtreks.com, who specializes in these types of trips, and I stayed in youth Hostels or with friends abroad. I ate street food, and stayed away from expensive tourist traps. I also met some solo travelers and some couples who managed to work remotely as they traveled, or they took a break from traveling to work in another country for a few months, save money, then continue traveling. I met traveling families with children, and I met travelers of all ages who’d saved up for short and long getaways.
So let go of the internal excuses. You can travel! And in addition to the adventure and new experience, traveling could actually equip you with some valuable skills that you’ll use in your relationships. Here’s what I took away from my trip.
You Can’t Travel and Stay Close-Minded
It’s extremely hard to be close-minded (and stay that way) after traveling around the world. Sure, you can hole yourself up at a Marriot in Kenya, and only go to the pool and hotel restaurant, while leaving intact all your preconceived assumptions about what life in Kenya is like. That’s not really traveling. That’s taking your life bubble to another country and changing the view.
When you expose yourself to everyday life at each of the places you go to, when you talk to locals and spend time with them, when you put yourself in other people’s shoes and see life through their eyes, you’ll inevitably come away challenging some of your own assumptions. Better yet, you’ll come away understanding and respecting someone else’s view of life, even if you don’t necessarily feel the same way. My biggest lesson: everyone’s view of life makes perfect sense when you take into account their experiences.
Adventure Creates Stronger Bonds
Going on a quest is a unique experience, and traveling gives you the opportunity to partake in a shared journey. I met so many people in my travels, but because we would embark in little adventures, we bonded way faster than under normal, everyday circumstances. From exploring an abandoned skyscraper in downtown Bangkok to hiking up a remote lookout post in Athens, the people I shared those experiences with will remain in my life as fond connections.
Now when I want to get to know someone better, instead of taking time aside to sit down and chat with them, I might invite them to go on a little adventure. Not only will we see each other in a different light, the adventure will serve as an opportunity to create a shared memory.
Travel Makes You Go Outside of Your Comfort Zone
There’s nothing like being in a foreign country, preferably one where you don’t speak the local language, to jolt you out of your comfort zone. If you’re looking to shake your life up a bit, just pick a country and go. Once you get over the initial culture shock of the new environment, you may discover that you’re capable of expanding your comfort zone considerably. Nothing in my current life could have recreated the panic of losing my ATM card in Bali or having to rely on my friend to translate from Swahili so I wouldn’t get ripped off or robbed in Nairobi. As humans we’re resourceful beings, but that skill, like a muscle, needs to be exercised.
You’ll Learn to Be Ready for Anything
I was a bit paranoid about every possible thing that could go wrong, and it saved me from sticky situations several times. When Iberia Airlines lost my bag for good, the one with everything I needed to travel the world for 3 months, I had a backup day sack with all my most valuable items including my passport, credit cards, and electronics. When my phone lost power and there would be no way to recharge for days, my battery pack came to the rescue. Ultimately, I learned that no matter what trouble you get into, as long as you’re alive, you’ll probably be ok. However, the biggest skill I took away is the habit of quickly analyzing a situation and preparing backup plans for possible bad scenarios.
Traveling Will Make You More Grateful
Traveling is a privilege. Most of the population of the world can’t travel. In fact, for social and economic reasons, the vast majority of the world will not leave the general area where they’ve grown up. If you live in a wealthy country, your passport gives you easy access to the majority of the world (to see how “powerful” your passport is, check out this cool infographic: http://awesome.good.is/infographics/how-powerful-is-your-passport/516
I was already extremely grateful simply for the opportunity to travel, but after seeing extreme poverty and the types of struggles people live with everyday, I can’t help but be grateful for the smallest of everyday comforts.
You’ll Learn How to Adapt
One internal message I held onto throughout my trip was, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” From knowing how to cross the streets in India, to figuring out where to go in a crowded market in Peru, knowing how to blend in and adapt to your surroundings is a skill that can save your life. In relationships, that skill will help you read the subtleties of social interactions, and adapt to changing circumstances.
Adventure Makes You Say Yes to Life
Before I left for my trip, a friend who’d gone on a 14-month trip around the world had just one piece of advice for me, “Say yes to as many new experiences as possible.” I realized that so much of my life was about abstaining from participation. I remembered his advice throughout my entire journey, and every time a new experience would come up, when I felt the urge to decline, I would remember his words and say, “Yes! I would love to do that.” If someone put forth the effort to invite you to participate, then accepting their request, like graciously receiving a gift, reinforces that relationship and lets it move forward.
(And if you have any cool travel insight, please share it with me via Twitter @alexcequea).
All photos courtesy of the author