Ten Ways Travel Can Save Your Soul


1)    Travel is the antidote to cynicism.
Over and over again as we travel, we find ourselves relying on the goodness and hospitality of strangers.  Although there are some hic-cups here and there, cases of being overcharged because of our nationality or sent places we don’t really want to go, I’ve found that the vast majority of the time, I am treated with kindness by people who have absolutely no reason to bother with me at all.  Travel gives me a more positive view of humanity.  And I’m not the only one.  Social scientist have found that the more people travel, the more trusting they become.  And that truly is priceless.

 2)    Travel helps you see things with “fresh eyes”.
The more you travel the more you notice things, similarities and differences.  Small details catch your eye – what people wear, or what they eat, or the sounds that animate this place in the early morning as opposed to the sounds I hear at home.  Daily routines are novel and interesting.  There is beauty in the mundane, as I go through the world as both participant and observer.   Best of all, if I stay in this mentality long enough, I can take it home with me and imbed my own routines with a sense of meaning and wonder.

3)    Travel reminds you that there is no one right way to live.
I’ve seen people who live, farm and go to school all on floating barges in a river.  And people who have never used a fork or sat on a toilet. Mark Twain’s quote that, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness…,” proves true time and time again and that alone is reason enough for traveling.  Witnessing all of these various cultures is also liberating.  It means encountering people approaching things in a different way.  The question, “Why do they do it like that?” is quickly followed by another question. “Why do we do it like this?” Suddenly there are choices where things were once automatic.

My new home town..

My new home town..

4)    Travel stimulates your imagination.
What would it be like to have been born here? What would I be like? How was this place different before Europeans arrived? Why have they adopted this from Culture A and that from Culture B?  Like any voyage of discovery, travel breeds more questions than it answers- which is the whole point. 

5)    Travel pushes you out of your comfort zone.
Once abroad, complacency will not work.  Stagnation is broken.  You have to think on your feet.  Removed from your area of competence and expertise, you are now a beginner.  This is the land of novelty, the place where discovery can happen. It is simultaneously humbling and stimulating. 

Few things are as uncomfortable, or as unforgettable, as a day on a camel...

Few things are as uncomfortable, or as unforgettable, as a day on a camel…

6)    Travel reminds you how lucky you are.
If you are able to be traveling, it means you are the lucky one.  The one who got to take time off work to be here, the one who can afford a flight, most likely someone who was born in a place of relative peace and affluence.  Travel reminds you not to take these things for granted.  Meeting people who have had their homes destroyed by war, or who never had the opportunity leave their homes, or to complain about school teaches us compassion.  Knowing more of the world makes it smaller, and makes us better citizens. 

7)    Travel teaches patience.
Patience isn’t so much something you feel, as something you do.  And traveling provides lots of opportunities- all those hours on the plane/train/boat/bus, or worse yet, waiting for the plane/train/boat/bus.  Knowing how to wait, how to just hang, doing nothing, accomplishing nothing on any “to do” list, is not a glamorous skill, but it is a useful one which will serve you your whole life long.

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8)    Travel reminds you to take joy in simple pleasures.
It’s good to be reminded that hot water is a luxury and home cooked meals are a privilege, and to enjoy them as such.  A sink can be a laundry room: a paperback, a treasure; and a quiet corner, your own little piece of paradise.  A friend once described me as someone who doesn’t need a lot to be happy.  Fabulous! I think travel has cultivated that quality and what better quality could one ever wish for?

9)    Travel makes you know yourself better.
Travel provides the context for examining your own life, for measuring the degree to which you are a product of your culture and your environment, for questioning your identity and assumptions.  Travel has taught me the origin of many of my values, which was sometimes surprising. 

10)   Travel exercises the gray matter.
Ever read those lists of suggestions for maintaining a healthy brain?  They say things like, “Take a different route home,” or “Do crosswords or sudoku puzzles.”  Here’s an idea.  Instead of doing puzzles, try to figure out the Metro system in a large foreign city.  Or put yourself in a situation that forces you to learn new words for hello and thank you every week. Calculate how much of your own currency you’re spending whenever you hand over some of that funny-looking money. If your “home” keeps changing, than it’s guaranteed that you’ll be using different routes to get there.  Brain training is a good excuse to continue traveling when you’re beyond your youth.

One of the main goals of all this brain exercise to maintain memory.  Travel not only gives you a healthy brain and happy soul, it means that you bank up memories to enjoy in the future.  Happy travels!

 

Published in Yourself - Personal Growth

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Seasoned traveler, avid reader, over-eater, clumsy but determined hiker and wannabe Spanish-speaker.

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Comments

  1. La Jefa

    Beautiful thoughts, Jennifer, and all so true! But don’t forget another bonus: all those times you have had to unexpectedly repair things or create replacements, such as your own great discovery that you can make two wine glasses out of a plastic water bottle. 🙂 Priceless!

  2. Cindy

    These are sooo true ! I love #3 🙂 I’m always surprised by how convinced we can be that “this is how we do it – and anyone else not doing it this way is simply doing it wrong” like eating dessert with a fork (crazy Americans !) or counting up to 10 with only the fingers of ONE hand (smart Chinese !) etc…

  3. Jennifer Choban Post author

    Thanks for your comments. I had forgotten about my home-made wine glasses. Must be time to go on a trip.

    Cindy, I enjoyed the video of the walking shark. The terrain must be hard on their poor bellies…

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