On one of my first travels when I was very young (not far from home at all) I gave 20 pounds to a homeless lady, and she started to cry. I remember being a bit taken aback and confused, a young gal, and super privileged (although I didn’t really know that yet).
Why is travel important, you ask?
At my latest long-term destination, I spent a lot of time looking for food, which was a bit hard to find. In 2023. And that is not the only place with this particular problem in the world.
My point, and bold statement, is that no other activity you embark on in life will teach you more than travel. Nothing else will provide you with the same perspective, humbleness, necessary lessons, confidence, and an infinite number of aha’s.
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Why Is Travel Important To Us (Or Should Be)?
It is not that you will become all zen just by getting on a plane, and pools and umbrella drinks are clearly awesome. You kinda need to be conscious about it, like Paul Theroux so neatly narrows it down.
“Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going” – Paul Theroux
Paul Theroux, an American novelist, and travel writer might be onto something. Finding a traveling mindset is (in my opinion) simply a path to a higher human state. And by higher, I mean compassionate and curious (not clever and successful).
The famous writer Mark Twain (whose real name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens) was born in 1834 in Florida and died just a few years before the first world war broke out. He put it this way.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” Mark Twain
Mark Twain was born into poverty in the south almost 200 years ago, and his life took twists and turns that turned him into a lifelong now famous traveler, travel writer, humorist, and satirist.
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Lessons From Travel
Although a beautiful quote, the drive to travel, even before we start traveling isn’t really explained there.
He talks about the insight travelers have found, because of traveling (or lack thereof because of the lack thereof).
Here are some scientific, some philosophical, and a few miscellaneous reasons why travel is as important as ever in 2023, and many human beings have tried to put these reasons into meaningful words often quoted among travelers.
We just have to find a solution to the whole issue of over-polluting airplanes, but the general idea stands.
Why Do People Love To Travel (Some People)?
The same Mark Twain also wrote in “Old Times on the Mississippi” (1875), that the village was a “white town drowsing in the sunshine of a summer’s morning,” until the arrival of a riverboat abruptly made it vibrant with activity.
Growing up in sleepy Hannibal, Missouri, along the Mississippi shores, the little boy Samuel seems to have felt a spark from observing the wide world arriving on his doorstep. They came via the wide lazy river and later unfolded as stories of colorful characters in his writing.
This inexplicable spark, perhaps universal, might be what makes some people travelers. The flare of the unknown, adventure, and the desire to discover something shiny and exciting beyond the horizon of the familiar.
“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
But it is also not just a state of mind (or emotion).
1. Why Is Travel Important | Statistics!
61% of people who travel often report being happy with their physical health and well-being, while only 39% of people who don’t travel much, or regular homebodies, say the same, according to the U.S. Travel Association.
That might also be connected to the finding that 43% of travelers say they value experiences more than things.
A typical chicken and the egg question, clearly, which came first? Do they value experiences more because they have traveled? Or do they travel because they instinctively prioritize that over buying things?
Nevertheless, approximately 37.79 million US citizens traveled overseas in 2019, which is also good news for personal health according to TCRS and the Global Coalition on Aging (GCOA).
They found in a survey that a strong majority of seniors say travel improves their overall health and well-being. The positive effects of travel include improvement and benefits to:
o Mood and outlook (86 percent)
o Stress level (78 percent)
o Physical well-being (77 percent)
o Friendships (75 percent)
o Mental Stimulation (75 percent)
o Health (70 percent)
A great slam-dunk argument, you can’t beat science.
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2. A Better Understanding Of The World
“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.”
― Gustave Flaubert
This, I think, is a “more-than-a-thousand-words” illustration, and incredibly handy in so many situations (not just travel).
Like when you have had a sh**ty day at work or made an a** out of yourself at the last Christmas party. When the walls are crumbling down, this is an amazing reminder to just, you know, chill.
But back on track, the idea is that travel might help you achieve an element of ego suspension, helping you realize not everything is about you. The world is huge, the universe huger.
And from that place, you quite possibly will meet the world with a more open mind, and learn some.
Like the headline says; you might find a better understanding of the world and learn all about the super interesting different peoples and cultures and religions and traditions, and last, but not least, humor!
Es una pena, as they say in Cuba, it’s such a shame, that we cannot travel all the way out in space (yet), but the globe is still quite diverse and eventful.
And as we are still completely incapable of keeping the peace on our own little planet, maybe it is just as well that we don’t embark on a journey (potentially) ruining someone else’s peace out there.
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3. Challenge Our Beliefs And Values
As we are all socialized into a group or community growing up, this group, or tribe, has a certain set of values and norms that we (most of us) abide by more or less consciously.
This clearly is important and also clever, as humans are a herd species, social animals, and we need to learn to get along (I guess one can debate whether we are succeeding strategically).
But it also has some downsides, we might be just a bit too comfortable with the ways of our own tribe.
If you never step outside your tribe, how will you become aware that you are, in fact, operating within a tribe? And that other tribes have humans too?
“When overseas you learn more about your own country, than you do the place you’re visiting” – Clint Borgen
To be able to see yourself and your peers in broad daylight, it’s very helpful to experience contrast. You need to go to a different world, to see your own in a different light.
Decoding Resistance To Change
Allow me to share a trivial and quite petty story. A million years ago, I went to celebrate Christmas with my then-boyfriend and his family, very involuntarily.
He spent Christmas the year prior with my family, and I did not think far enough to realize this would be the consequence. I was ridiculously attached to our way of Christmas back then, and could not imagine another way.
I’m ashamed to say I was not great company, I cried quite a bit, and I did not realize until after Christmas that I actually really liked the way they did it better!
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
― Marcel Proust
I was not open to new experiences, at all. And that was just crossing the polar circle! Imagine then, crossing the equator, throwing heaven and hell into the mix, and/or vast amounts of money and power.
Having understood that the other tribe has humans too, you, at least, might just find a way to respect what they believe. And, if you leave your bias at home and stay present, maybe you find you like their way of doing things better!
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4. How Travel Is Important For Personal Development
Who are you when no one else (or no one you know) is around?
This is an interesting thought to ponder, one that I really did not pay attention to until I started traveling for long periods on my own. When everyone you meet does not know your history, what happens to your identity?
When you are within your tribe, everyone you know has a clear impression of who you are and probably treats you accordingly. Rich, poor, educated, autodidact, religious, atheist, king, or vagabond.
And it is likely too, that you somehow act according to their expectations as you too know who you are, what is expected of you, and you play your part.
When you are traveling, especially if you travel alone (which is a whole separate subject), all these mental boundaries, or crutches, go away.
“Traveling allows you to become so many different versions of yourself” – Unknown
I have had the privilege to try this a lot, and lately also with the added bonus of actually leaving my life-long career. Having had to rediscover, or recreate my own identity has been (and is) an amazing journey!
Being a mix of a sensitive soul, a curious mind, and a pragmatic head, I have quite enjoyed the whole ego-suspension thing (most of the time).
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When your bottom line is that most things are not about you, it is amazing how rarely you need to be offended! This is one reason why travel is important for our personal development.
And you can spend your time and energy just living! Although, even in the most zen of states, you can’t always have it all.
“I am awfully greedy; I want everything from life. I want to be a woman and to be a man, to have many friends and to have loneliness, to work much and write good books, to travel and enjoy myself, to be selfish and to be unselfish… You see, it is difficult to get all which I want. And then when I do not succeed I get mad with anger.”
― Simone de Beauvoir
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5. Benefits Of A Traveling Mindset
Being a mindful traveler probably will give you at least one benefit. It is hard to be truly present in one place, and at the same time worry about stuff somewhere completely else, right?
To put us on the same page, I think of a traveling mindset as a good mix of an open and curious mind, tolerance, patience, and presence.
“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.”
― Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin Vol. 7 1966-1974
If you are able to implement some of these, even for periods of time, I bet you will miss out on a lot of stress and worry. Probably also open up to things that could have passed you by, or embrace things that may do you good!
- When you are present, you don’t worry about things in the past, future, or back home
- When you are curious, you ask a lot of questions, and you probably are a better listener
- And you also possibly will say more yes to trying weird new things
- When you have an open mind, you are less likely to judge, and classify stuff as right or wrong, but rather wonder
- When you are patient, you don’t stress, and when you don’t stress, your stress hormones have nowhere to go
Remember the statistics (pure science) about traveling reducing stress? Yeah.
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“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”
― Henry Miller (lover of Anaïs Nin)
6. You Will Not Have (So Many) End Of Life Regrets
Well, travel will not help you be a good friend, a loving and loyal spouse, or a trusted colleague, that’s all on you.
Studies show though, that there are a set of things people who are nearing the end of their life tend to think about and regret.
Palliative nurse Bronnie Ware and social worker Grace Bluerock respectively have worked with a lot of people toward the end of their life. They have found that the most common regrets most people have are:
- Working too much
- Living other people’s expectations instead of a life true to themselves
- Not having the courage to express their feelings
- Wishing they had more courage to take risks
- Not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved
- That they had let themselves be happier. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice!
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Hopefully, your dreams of a life true to yourself do involve some traveling. But even if you can not travel, you can still live by a traveler’s mindset!
“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough”
– Mae West
So the bottom line must be to live consciously the way you really want, boldly, compassionately, and take a bit of risk!
Wrap-Up Why Is Travel Important?
Not everyone has the luxury of travel. There are money issues, politics, visa intrigues, gender predicaments, you name it.
And will backpacking stop wars? Probably not. (Although I actually think heads of state should be required to have backpacked 6 months somewhere far from home in their 20ies).
“We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.”
― Pascal Mercier
I have this wild idea that it might be harder to bomb a country to pieces if you have been drunk there, made friends over cheap wine until sunrise, and felt at home.
On a less grandiose scale, I am confident that your, like mine, travel experiences on a personal level will make ripples in the water around you.
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” – Neale Donald Walsch
You will gain insight, and you can share it, and tell stories. You will be less stressed, happier, live longer, and be more able to identify what things really matter (and which don’t).
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This is so true and a fantastic article…loved reading this
Glad you liked it! Really good news that it resonates well with travelers 🙂
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