Most serious travellers are convinced that travel is one of the greatest things in the world and is one of the most powerful tools for education, personal growth, slowing the ageing process, and generally just unlocking the secrets of the universe.
However, for those who have never travelled before, these and the many other benefits of travel are not necessarily self-evident. It is healthy to be skeptical about the virtues of anything new or unfamiliar but reading this article will hopefully eliminate any doubts you have may have about whether travel is worth your while.
Without further ado, here are 11 compelling reasons to pack your bags and start travelling.
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page.” - St. Augustine
‘’Experience, travel - these are an education in themselves.” - Euripides
’Travel is like an endless university. You never stop learning.’’ - Harvey Lloyd
If you travel far enough and for long enough, you will receive a very broad and practical education that is far superior in many ways to the type of education one would receive at a university or other third-level institution. Travel is the perfect antidote to the increasingly abstract and specialized education that is required of most graduates today.
"Travel broadens the mind" is one of the most clichéd phrases but it's true.
Globetrotting moulds you into a very well-rounded and broad-minded individual. As you pass through and explore a country, you become acquainted with that country’s history, geography, politics, currency, language(s), religion(s), architectural styles, culture, cuisine, ecology, environmental problems, natural wonders and so on. This is then repeated over and over again as you keep moving from country to country.
When we travel, we acquire much of the new information through our own curiosity and personal observation of what’s unfolding around us. Other information we acquire from secondary sources such as local people, guidebooks, tourist information centres, tour operators, guesthouses, museums, libraries, the Internet or from other travellers that we meet along the way.
This type of broader approach to learning has its advantages because it helps you to see the bigger picture in a way that a more specialized education cannot. You are not delving into the inner workings of a single atom as a chemist or physicist might do, but instead starting to discover how the world works on the global scale.
Travel steadily provides you with the little pieces of the global puzzle and as you acquire more and more of these building blocks, you slowly start to fit them together and a picture or pattern begins to emerge.
“Only he that has traveled the road knows where the holes are deep.” - Chinese Proverb
“The world is not in your books and maps. It’s out there.” – Gandalf, The Hobbit
“I mean that they (students) should not play life, or study it merely, while the community supports them at this expensive game, but earnestly live it from beginning to end. How could youths better learn to live than by at once trying the experiment of living? Methinks this would exercise their minds as much as mathematics.” – Henry David Thoreau
Travel makes you street smart.
Being street smart is having the ability to function effectively, solve problems and make wise decisions in the real world. The term especially relates to the urban environment and the shrewd resourcefulness required to survive in it. Street-smartness is about knowing all those little things that you can’t learn in school or from books. It’s knowledge that can only be gained through experience and lots of ‘dirt time’ making mistakes and learning from them in the real world.
When travelling, one spends a lot of time just living in the moment, experiencing the world through the five senses. Sure, you may have a guidebook or other second-hand information sources when you travel, but they are only aids or accompaniments. You are still forced to confront the big bad world and are thrust headlong into an unfamiliar environment full of new threats, challenges and obstacles.
Spending time in unfamiliar urban environments is an inevitable aspect of the new reality as a traveller and this is where you'll be forced to develop street-smartness.
You’ll need to learn how to avoid getting scammed or cheated, how to distinguish allies from enemies, how to navigate chaotic streets, how to avoid food poisoning, how to communicate with non-English speaking locals, how to protect your valuables from thieves and countless other things.
You will undoubtedly make innumerable mistakes along the way but every single one of them will teach you a new lesson and make you that much more street smart.
Not only will travel broaden your mind and increase your knowledge, it will also compel you to learn valuable new life skills.
There are several fundamental skills that are needed to be a competent traveller. If you haven’t travelled much before, some of these skills are probably in need of a good honing and there is no better way to hone them than to travel. Here are some of the fundamental skills that you’ll develop when travelling:
1. Budgeting – Few travellers earn a sizeable income while on the road and most people’s savings are finite. Travel (at least the long-term sort) teaches you discipline in adhering to a tight budget and not losing control of your spending.
2. Haggling – Another essential skill in the traveller’s toolkit is haggling or knowing how to negotiate a mutually beneficial price with a merchant. This skill takes some practice to develop and to execute without offending the merchant or losing control of your own emotions.
3. Communication – Your communication skills cannot help but improve if you spend enough time in lands where a foreign tongue is spoken. In many places the local people won’t know a single word of your native language. You will have to resort to body language and hand gestures to get the message across and you will have to learn to read theirs too.
4. Socializing – Travelling solo is one of the best ways to improve your social skills because it puts you in a position where you’re forced to interact with people a lot more than usual. Even if you're travelling with a good guidebook, you'll still need help with a lot of things; finding budget accommodation in a new town, translating signs or restaurant menus, renting a motorcycle, finding out what time your bus is at etc. Even if you’re shy, there is nobody else who can ask the question on your behalf so it has got to be you. This forces you out of your shell and over time you will gradually overcome those uncomfortable feelings of shyness and social awkwardness.
5. Navigation – Travel is all about getting from A to B. Sometimes however, that’s not so straightforward and when you're the one behind the wheel you realize how complicated road networks can be. There is perhaps no better way to become an expert map-reader and navigator than to travel the length and breadth of a country with your own vehicle (or on foot). We learned so much about navigation when we motorbiked the entire length of Vietnam from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi with a very inadequate paper map. If you would like to do this too you can read our ultimate guide here.
6. Driving – It will often be the case that driving your own vehicle is the best way to explore a country. This could be due to a poorly developed public transport infrastructure or perhaps you just want the untrammeled freedom of not being restricted to bus and train routes. You might find yourself renting a car, buying a motorbike or indulging yourself with some more exotic type of motorized vehicle like a tuk-tuk (trishaw). Whatever the vehicle of choice, travel is sure to hone your driving skills – as long as you’re brave enough to try driving a motor vehicle on those (often) chaotic foreign roads.
7. Hitchhiking – Although it’s partially a game of luck, there are some basic rules you need to follow to maximize your chances of getting a ride. If you’re adventurous enough to try hitchhiking when you travel, you’ll add another new skill to your arsenal. You can learn about hitchhiking more by reading our article entitled "These 10 Simple Tips Will Turn You Into A Hitchhiking Pro In No Time".
8. Personal logistics – Travel requires a certain amount of research, planning and forward thinking to avoid major screw-ups. The logistics of getting to certain places can get very complicated when they involve several changes in modes of transport and many different timetables to be aware of. You also have to factor in things like visa requirements, visa expiry dates, airfare fluctuations, availability of ATM machines, availability of budget accommodation, weather, busy seasons, festivals and countless other things when planning your trip. Travel turns you into a skilled planner.
These are just some of the fundamental skills that travel helps you to develop. If you decide to start documenting your travels in a major way and sharing them with the world, you could also find yourself becoming proficient in many of the following skills:
- Verbal storytelling
- Public speaking
- Website design
- Online marketing
Novel and exotic environments also create opportunities to try out many new and unfamiliar sports, activities and hobbies that simply weren’t a possibility where you were living back home. Some of these could end up becoming useful new skills if you’re passionate enough to pursue them.
Some new activities that travel may introduce you to include:
- Scuba diving/Freediving
- Rainforest or jungle trekking
- Volcano climbing
- Rock climbing/Ice climbing
- Canyoning/Gorge walking
- White-water rafting
- Bungee jumping
- Horse riding
- Camel trekking
- Wild camping
… and so on, ad infinitum.
We’ve just discussed the opportunities for trying out new activities and learning new skills that travel can yield, but it can create other kinds of opportunities too, like those of a social or business nature.
You simply never know whom you might encounter when travelling. Travel gives you the opportunity to meet people of rare ethnic minority groups or tribal communities still living in the jungle. These people have fascinating cultures, rituals and traditions that are so different to our own and are well worth investigating.
Travel also yields opportunities to meet other fellow travellers and indeed these can often be some of the most interesting characters on the planet. Many deep and meaningful friendships have been forged between those who have met on the road and then travelled together, even if only for a brief period. There is something about travel that brings people together. When we share amazing new experiences with others it creates a very strong bond. You can probably recall how easy it was for you to make new friends whenever you were on holiday or vacation and it is for the same reason.
You might also meet your soulmate or the love of your life while on the road. Indeed travel has the power to give birth to and sustain whirlwind romances. The sense of being destined to meet is never stronger when two future lovers first encounter each other in a foreign land. The ready supply of new and fresh experiences that travel brings then keeps that passion alive and sharing all of those magical moments together creates incredibly strong and lasting bonds.
Business owners can also benefit from travelling. It’s a chance to meet lots of new people who could potentially become new clients and an opportunity to spread the word about your business to new parts of the world. Thus travelling is one way to expand the reach of your business and you can do this by planting little seeds wherever you go.
Travel may also give you ideas for a new business as you see how people in other countries earn a living. In developing countries where the Government does not offer welfare assistance, the local people tend to be incredibly entrepreneurial and creative with finding ways to earn money.
Some of the places you visit may also be ideal for testing out a new business idea. The lower cost of living in many foreign countries leaves more capital for businesses to invest in a new start-up and foreign labour can be much more affordable.
“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving." – Terry Pratchett
The word ‘perspective’ has a few different meanings but the definition that suits our purposes here, as the word relates to travel, is this one:
Perspective - true understanding of the relative importance of things; a sense of proportion.
Travel gives you perspective. It reveals the bigger picture and thus allows you to see the ‘forest for the trees’. It provides a great deal of information that was previously missing so that you can finally see the much larger global context in which everything exists. You thus gain a more accurate perception of things by having other yardsticks to measure them against.
One thing that changes because of this new expanded awareness is your perception of your home country. You now see it in a new light after seeing so many other countries. This can work two ways of course; you might come to really appreciate or feel deep gratitude for some aspects of your homeland that you took for granted before or you might develop highly negative opinions of certain things that you previously thought were normal or acceptable before travelling.
“When overseas you learn more about your own country, than you do the place you’re visiting”. – Clint Borgen
You also come to understand the broader context in which you as an individual exist. It can be incredibly humbling how travel brings you to the realization that the world is physically vaster and full of more human beings than you ever could have imagined. We have all heard that the world has around 7 billion human inhabitants but travel allows you to see what that number means. You are but a grain of sand on a beach or a speck of dust in the atmosphere.
“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” - Gustave Flaubert
Travel is also useful for providing perspective on our own life circumstances. You cannot accurately assess your own life circumstances without knowing the bigger picture regarding how people live around the world.
For example, you may think that you’re poor but if you travel in Africa you might change your mind about that and decide that you’re actually incredibly well-off. Perhaps you thought that you were a happy person, until you saw true happiness in children's faces when you travelled across the Indian subcontinent.
Travel therefore gives you the perspective you need to evaluate your current life and decide whether it’s time for a change of direction.
“ Of all the books in the world, the best stories are found between the pages of a passport” – Saber Ben Hassen
“Travel. It leaves you speechless, then turns you into a story teller.” - Ibn Batutta
Our material possessions are not a part of us. We may ‘own’ them or identify with them but they will always remain separate from us and this is especially so if they were bought as opposed to having been created with our own two hands.
What is a part of us however, is our experiences. What are we, if not the sum-total of all our experiences? Every experience changes us incrementally and gradually shapes us into the person we are today.
Ultimately, all we are is our life story and as we grow older and less valuable to society in the productive sense, we can continue to provide immense value to the world if we are full of stories to tell. And we will surely have no dearth of inspiring adventure tales and fond memories to recount if we have travelled plenty. It is chiefly when we travel that life becomes a rich tapestry of extraordinary events and each one of these makes for a compelling story.
It's also not just for the sake of providing value to society, but for our own sake too. If we lose all of our material possessions or they start to lose their value in our eyes, we will at least still have our wonderful memories to fall back on if we have travelled. If we have truly lived our lives to the fullest and accumulated enough beautiful experiences, they will forever enrich us in a way that material goods never can, right up until the day we die.
“All that we are is story. From the moment we are born to the time we continue on our spirit journey, we are involved in the creation of the story of our time here. It is what we arrive with. It is all we leave behind. We are not the things we accumulate. We are not the things we deem important. We are story. All of us. What comes to matter then is the creation of the best possible story we can while we’re here; you, me, us, together. When we can do that and we take the time to share those stories with each other, we get bigger inside, we see each other, we recognize our kinship – we change the world, one story at a time…”
- Richard Wagamese
Travel has a seemingly magical power to rejuvenate and reinvigorate, to make you feel young again and perhaps even to slow the aging process. It does this by re-connecting you to your inner child and re-awakening the spirit of play within you.
When you’re travelling, it’s like being reborn again into a world where everything is new and fresh. You spring back to life again with wonder and curiosity, feeling like a small child discovering the world for the first time. Indeed, you are a child again, in terms of your extremely limited understanding of this new world you’re trying to navigate.
“But that's the glory of foreign travel, as far as I am concerned. I don't want to know what people are talking about. I can't think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again. You can't read anything, you have only the most rudimentary sense of how things work, you can't even reliably cross a street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses.” – Bill Bryson
Travel is also inevitably about recreation, relaxation, play and engaging in leisurely activities. We have more time to spend playing or relaxing when we travel than we do when all our time is consumed by a deadening routine of work. The playful and carefree pursuits that we associate with travel not only keep us physically healthy but are also critical for our psychological health.
They help to reduce our stress levels and high levels of stress are believed to accelerate the ageing process. Thus travel may actually indirectly help to slow the ageing process.
Through travel, we also regain the emotional vigour of youth; that energy, enthusiasm and eagerness to learn, to explore and to experience new things. There is something about a change of scene that jolts us awake and brings all of our senses back online. We feel alive and young again, alert, connected and excited to engage with the world.
“Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.” – Seneca
‘’She was free in her wildness. She was a wanderess, a drop of free water. She belonged to no man and to no city.’’ - Roman Payne, The Wanderess
“One of the gladdest moments of human life methinks, is the departure upon a distant journey into unknown lands. Shaking off with one mighty effort the fetters of habit, the leaden weight of routine, the cloak of many cares and the slavery of home, man feels once more happy.”
- Richard Burton
Do you want to experience that feeling of true freedom? Like you’re the master of your own destiny and beholden to no one? Of course you do. We all want to be footloose and carefree.
Travel is one of the best ways to experience that feeling of pure bliss. Imagine riding a motorcycle along an impossibly picturesque coastal road with the wind blowing in your hair, knowing that you’ve made it. You’re finally free. You can go anywhere you want. You can live life on your own terms. The world is your oyster.
And this freedom you deserve, because you had the courage to lose sight of the safe harbour and take a leap of faith into the unknown.
‘’Freedom lies in being bold.’’ - Robert Frost
“A person susceptible to "wanderlust" is not so much addicted to movement as committed to transformation.” - Pico Iyer
“A mind that’s stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” - Oliver Wendell Holmes
“To travel is to evolve” - Pierre Bernando
When we say that travel can transform you, we are chiefly referring to its ability to engender rapid and lasting personal growth. The reason travel is such a powerful tool for bringing about growth and metamorphosis is because it involves stepping outside our comfort zones, into new and unfamiliar worlds.
“If we’re growing, we’re always going to be out of our comfort zones.”- John Maxwell
It is the challenges, the problems, the setbacks and the hardships of life on the road that are ultimately responsible for our personal growth. Every time we successfully surmount one of these obstacles we essentially 'level up'. The new environment forces us to change and to adapt.
If things start to become too easy or familiar after spending a few weeks or months in the same country, we need only change to a new country or tighten up our budget to kick-start the growth process all over again. Having less money to spend can really help to keep things interesting.
Travel also transforms our character over time. An entire article could be written on this subject but suffice it for now to say that travel causes us to become more self-confident, creative, mentally acute, energized, resilient, patient, humble, trusting, open-to-experience, happy and adventurous.
These changes to our character have far-reaching implications into many aspects of our lives. For example, we are more likely to get promoted at work after taking a vacation because we return feeling so energized and creative and this boosts our productivity and the quality of our work. Our social interactions and relationships with the people back home are also improved by the new positive traits that we have developed from travelling.
And this new enhanced version of us does not just benefit us. When we grow and become better people, we inevitably become more valuable to the people around us too. We return from our travels in a better position to help others, teach others and solve old problems that proved intractable before we left home. We bring a totally new outside perspective to an old situation and that is only possible because we have travelled.
“Travel far enough, you meet yourself.” – David Mitchell
“To travel is to take a journey into yourself.” - Danny Kaye
‘I met a lot of people in Europe. I even encountered myself.’ – James Baldwin
From a young age society attempts to mould us in certain ways so that we’re a better fit for serving the current corporate-consumerist paradigm in the future.
This behavior regulation and social engineering is achieved initially through parenting and schooling and later reinforced by our very own peers, at which point the system becomes self-propagating.
Our social environment suppresses our natural behavior and we are no longer willing to express ourselves naturally out of fear of being condemned. Hence we ‘lose’ ourselves. We become disconnected from who we truly are.
When you start travelling however, many of the normal pressures to conform are lifted. There is no boss or teacher telling you how to dress, how to behave or what to do. Other outside influences like nagging parents, pressurizing peers/partners and even the brainwashing effects of T.V are similarly negated or reduced when we leave it all behind to travel.
Additionally, everybody you meet while travelling is a stranger that you’ll probably never see again, so you aren’t as worried about how they will judge you. You aren’t even sure what kind of behavior is ‘expected’ of you by these foreign people that belong to cultures that are so different to yours.
Because all of this environmental ‘noise’ and external pressure disappears when we travel, we finally have a chance to hear our own inner voice and figure out what we really want to do or want to be.
We therefore slowly begin to feel free to express our true selves again. When we make a physical journey into the unknown, an inner journey is also unfolding behind the scenes; a journey back to expressing the self more authentically - and this parallels the physical journey.
‘’The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark’’ - John Muir
The truth is that none of us really knows when it’s going to ‘get dark’. It could be today, it could be tomorrow or it could be 50 years from now. A beautiful poem called by Robert H. Smith helps to remind us of the unpredictability of death:
“The clock of life is wound but once,
And no man has the power
To tell just when the hands will stop
At late or early hour.
To lose one's wealth is sad indeed,
To lose one's health is more,
To lose one's soul is such a loss
That no man can restore.
The present only is our own,
So live, love, toil with a will,
Place no faith in "Tomorrow,"
For the Clock may then be still
What we should never assume though is that our time here on Earth is abundant. It’s wiser to treat time as a precious, scarce and finite resource. Unlike money, there is a limit to how much time we have and wasted time cannot be replenished.
If we hold this mindset and our time on Earth runs out sooner than we had anticipated, we’ll at least not have wasted any of it and will have accomplished many of the things we really wanted to accomplish before it ‘gets dark’.
Many people have dreams of travelling the world. This is one of the things that they would most love to do before they die. But too many people make the terrible mistake of postponing this until after retirement. The writer Henry David Thoreau described this mistake as “spending the best part of one’s life earning money in order to enjoy a questionable liberty during the least valuable part of it.”
There is firstly no guarantee that we will even reach retirement age and even if we do, we are perhaps no longer in our prime capacity for travel and so we may not be able to make it the incredible adventure it should be. It’s best to travel while you’re still young and while you’re still in peak condition to make the most of it.
“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
When asked during an interview in 1923 why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, George Mallory replied ‘because it’s there.’ You can apply a similar logic to travel.
Why should you travel to different countries?
Because they exist. Because you can.
This is the first time in the history of mankind where humans have been able to so easily and so affordably traverse the globe and explore whatever part of this amazing planet they wish to. It would be a terrible shame not to take advantage of this extraordinary opportunity that we are so privileged to have been granted.
So there you have it. 11 pretty damn compelling reasons to pack your bags and start travelling. You probably don't need to hear any more reasons than that. Travel is definitely worthwhile. The next step is to start preparing and planning for your big trip. We'll be writing an article about that very soon.
Do you have any other reasons to travel that we didn't mention in this article? If so, we would really love to hear them. Please leave us a comment below and we'll get back to you as soon as possible.