- Travel forces you to solve problems: There is nothing like being stuck in a country where you don’t know the language, you don’t know what a celebration hamburger is, your cellphone doesn’t get any service, and the bathrooms are gender neutral. So, you pick up new skills that your ordinary life would never permit: how to read a map, how to follow people’s hand gestures (because you can’t understand the language).
- Travel gives you opportunities to connect with other people, both home and abroad: Before my trip, everyone who had ever been to Paris wanted to tell me about their experiences, and give me advice on what to pack, where to go, how to navigate the metros. And, upon my return, they wanted to hear about my experiences, compare their own, listen to the different things I did, and how they can’t wait for their next trip.
- Travel allows you to appreciate what you often take for granted: On the way to the airport, we sat down next to a resident and asked her how much she thought a cab would cost to take to the airport tomorrow morning. She said, “Oh, pretty expensive. Probably about $35″. In my world, a “pretty expensive” cab ride would be $100, not $35, and it made me realize just how fortunate my own life is.
- Travel helps you learn stuff about yourself: Travel teaches you a lot about things you like (citron macroons), and things you don’t like (duck confit–never again). It teaches you how you react in stressful situations, such as when your bag is the last one on the carousel, or you miss your flight. It teaches you what kind of people you get along best with, what kind of aspirations you have for yourself, how rigid or flexible your personality is, that you way over pack, how much sleep you can actually function on. And, the good thing is–traveling as a 20-something, you can always change any of those things that you learn and don’t like.
- Travel causes you to break habits: Perhaps some of these other habits are eating too much sugar, skipping the gym, not following through with engagements. In our lives, we need constant; we need to wake up at a constant time, so that we don’t get sick. We need to work a constant job, so we aren’t constantly re=inventing the wheel. We need to eat at constant times, so that our bodies know when to expect nourishment. But we also need change; without change, we become static, monotone, robotic. I think travel gives us a natural affordance to re-vitalize, re-align, and re-set ourselves.
- Travel shows you the world is much, much greater than yourself: As humans, we are innately selfish and narcissistic. We want what is best for OURSELVES, and we want OUR desires met. Paris alone has a population of about 2.3 million people, which means that 2.3 million other people also need to feed themselves, to get themselves to work, to use the bathroom, to dress themselves, to take care of their families. I am really no better than anyone else.
- Travel teaches you really are also no different than anyone else in the world: Of course, cultures have their own little nuances. In France, they eat a gillette cake for New Years, and whoever gets the bean is supposed to have luck for the rest of the year. In New Orleans, they stick a baby in a cake for Mardi Gras and whoever finds the baby is supposed to have a good year. During Thanksgiving, whoever gets the wishbone is supposed to have their heart’s desire granted. But, all of these traditions have relatively the same purpose: to give us the false illusion that good things will happen to us.
- Travel enhances your illusions of the world: Seeing Paris will inevitably change my experience of reading books, and watching movies, and buying products that are anything related to Paris. We can always look at pictures, and we can always watch videos, but actually being in places–actually walking up from the subway to Notre Dame rising in majesty above you–is a completely different thing.
- Travel gives you a lifetime of enjoyment: When you look back on a trip, your memory never focuses on the stomach pains you felt from ravage hunger, or how miserably cold you were while waiting in line for Crush’s Coaster, or how badly it hurt because you had to go to the bathroom but didn’t want to pay. Instead, you think about the funny stories, like when you threw away your boarding passes because you were so tired.
And, it’s always a pleasant reminder when you find a ticket stub in your coat pocket, or come across an unspent euro. The trip certainly doesn’t end when you arrive home, but rather exists forever in your memories.
- Travel inevitably always changes you: I always love the anticipation leading up to a trip, because inevitably, I know I will come out a different person than I started. When I start the trip, I am not sure what that change will be, but I know that I will never be the same. Experiences change us. Of course, it’s not always immediately evident what those changes might be, but they will subtly infiltrate the everyday behaviors and perceptions. I picked up a few new French words, perhaps a slight accent, and some extra pounds from eating so much bread. But, the other slightly more meaningful changes–the ones that will change and alter my soul forever–the ones that will alter my perceptions of and interactions with the world–I will just have to wait and see.
Money always finds a way to replenish itself; experiences can never be bought. So travel, see the world. Learn about people, learn about cultures. Learn about yourself. Be changed.