Four Ways Travel Changed Me When I Least Expected It | Travelling may be ephemeral, but the lessons it teaches us last a lifetime.
By Dario De Santis
For many travelling is just a hobby, a leisure activity, a break from daily life. For others, including me, travelling is so much more. It is a way of living, a raison d’être. People often ask me why I keep travelling and if I ever grow weary of moving from place to place. Well, simply put, I travel because I feel an urge to, and I firmly believe that travelling makes you better person. Here are just four of the many ways travel changed me for the better.
Travel Broadens Horizons
Sometimes while reflecting on life I say to myself: “Who would have thought that an introverted kid born and raised in a medium-sized city in Italy would some day travel the world, live in many countries and learn to speak many languages?” When I was 18 year-old my outlook was limited. I would have never imagined my future far from home, and least of all in a foreign country.
My first trip abroad changed everything. It was not a holiday, it was an adventure. I didn’t know when I would return home and hardly had an idea of what awaited me. Thanks to those unforgettable months during my first adventure to Ireland, I realized that there was a whole world out there waiting for me. And once you are beholden to the spell of true freedom you can never go back! I could walk the forests of Germany, sail beside whales in Iceland, safari in the savannah, climb the Himalayas, work in an office in Manhattan, swim the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, drink ouzo in a Greek tavern… all of which I actually ended up doing, and that I’m sure I would have never done if I hadn’t taken that first step into the unknown.
Travel Questions Beliefs
Travel reveals the world is full of everything and its opposite. “The world is beautiful because it’s varied” says an Italian proverb. When you are stuck in a local mindset you often end up convincing yourself that your values are the only ones that are valid. Travelling exposes you to other realities, pushes you to call into question your beliefs, to pay attention to the differences. Every trip—every travel experience—adds a tile in the vast, ever-changing mosaic that is our perception of the world.
Travelling has touched every aspect of my being: life philosophy, spirituality, political ideas, the way I express myself, dress, eat and so on. For example, as an Italian my breakfast always consisted of a mug of coffee and milk and a croissant. At first, the idea of any other food for breakfast repulsed me, but today I sometimes have eggs, bacon, cheese, tomatoes and cucumbers in the morning—I still can’t eat beans though!
Travel Teaches Adaptability
The example of my transformed breakfast habits leads me to the next point. One of the most important things that travel has taught me is adaptability. When you travel you will without a doubt experience a unique type of difficulty: canceled flights, expired IDs, lost luggage, no vacancy, getting lost, getting sick, getting robbed… the number of things that have the potential to go wrong is almost endless and the first time you face these situations abroad it is normal to panic or to feel frustrated.
But with time you begin to embraced a fluid perspective, a roll with the punches sort of philosophy. Every obstacle becomes an opportunity for self-improvement. “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger”, wrote Nietzsche. Without challenge and the drive to overcome we often find ourselves stuck in a pattern of turning small issues into insurmountable ones. Most of the time for every problem there’s a solution at your fingertips, and anyway, the consequences of these problems are seldom as dramatic as they seem.
One of the most effective ways to overcome difficulties is to adjust ourselves, and the more adaptable we are the easier it becomes to avoid them. Once developed, these skills are of tremendous help in daily life.
Travel Reveals Real Value
Travelling forces us to confront the ephemeral nature of life. We can try to forget or ignore this truth, but we cannot escape it. We live in a world where having often seems to hold greater value than experiencing. In my travels I have had the chance to encounter other cultures where people are happy with a life defined by the value of experiences.
You don’t need to go too far to realize what really matters to you. Try to be separated from your family, friends and loved ones for a while. Being an expat has taught me that the most important things in life are not things but immaterial goods like love, affection, respect, friendship, knowledge and experience.Collect moments, not things is the motto I try to live by. Traveling grants you riches that money can never buy!