My heart sank to my stomach. My vision blurred as I held back tears. I took a deep breath and tried not to panic as I watched a ramshackle bus with the numbers “66” scribbled on the windshield pull away from the station. Bus 66, the bus that I was supposed to be on...
My hand clutched a piece of paper that included directions to my next destination, a hotel that I could barely pronounce. I had already traveled six hours in the heat through rural Vietnam and all I wanted was a hot shower and a clean bed.
After traveling to 23 countries, there are some things you learn, like “write down the name of your hotel”, “always keep a spare phone charger with you”, and “keep your passport close”. However, no matter how experienced you are, some things are simply out of your control.
And the bus that left me stranded on the road was one of them.
“Why do people travel?”
It's a big world out there. And it can be tough to navigate. But that shouldn’t be a reason to avoid venturing into the unknown. As seasoned world travelers who have seen both the highs and lows of travel, we’re here to share why choosing to travel may be one of the most important steps you ever take.
Travel is great, even when things don’t go your way. Sometimes, travel is great because of the things that don’t go your way.
And the list of benefits is limitless: Travel will make you happier; it offers unparalleled education; it advances personal growth; it will expose you to new and delicious food.
Let’s unpack a few of these benefits and explore why people travel.
Traveling Will Make You Happier
The biggest and most important reason why people travel is that it will actually make you happier. Granted, you don’t “NEED” to travel in order to be happy, but if you do travel it WILL make you happier.
“But why should I care about happiness?”
If you’re not striving to be happier, then what in life are you striving for?
Travel Helps Because…
Travel teaches you to value experiences over material things. You see firsthand that money spent on a three day vacation will bring you more joy than money spent on a new gadget, or even a billion gadgets.
Travel gives you a nice bang for your buck. You get the anticipation of joy, the in-the-moment bliss, and the memories to reflect on whenever you need a pick-me-up. Studies show that those who travel are happier than those who don’t.
- Travel opens your eyes to beauty. When you travel, you see that there is always beauty around us. In every street, beach, mountain or horizon, there will always be something beautiful. Traveling trains your eye to see this beauty and it makes you appreciate it more.
Learning By Doing > Learning By “Thinking”
Why travel? There is no better education than an education offered by the world. Why is traveling the best way to learn? Because, many times, the lessons come directly to you.
Travel Helps Because...
You will be forced to speak other languages. It’s great to practice French at home in your bedroom, but language immersion will push you much harder than any textbook.
You will learn about culture and traditions. Without even realizing it, you will learn about a new country’s culture and traditions. The world is a walking, talking, dancing, classroom that comes to you whenever you want.
You will learn about yourself. It may sound cliché, but it’s true (otherwise it wouldn’t be a cliché!). Seeing yourself in a new context will lead you to discover new things about yourself that you’ve never seen before. You’ll learn how you handle stress, how much you are willing to pay for certain comforts, and how to use your ingenuity to navigate a foreign country on your own.
And you won’t even realize how much you are learning because it won’t feel like learning at all.
Food, Glorious Food!
Let’s be honest. Food is a major reason why people travel. Food is life. Literally. Food sustains us and keeps us healthy and strong and alive. And, as we all know, it’s delicious.
Travel Helps Because...
The real thing always tastes better. Enjoy Indian food? It’s exponentially better in India. Like Pad Thai? You will love it in Thailand (and it’s NOT even the best noodle dish available!). There is something special about tasting a cuisine in the place that it was born. The ingredients are fresh from the original source and the flavors are more authentic, and therefore, more delicious.
The food will connect you to the culture. The flavors also help you connect to the culture. Restaurants are like art museums for your mouth. Through food, you can learn about a society’s values, history, and lifestyle. Eating food activates all five of the senses. Not only do we enjoy the taste of our food, but we also touch it, smell it, drink it in with our eyes and listen to it sizzle in the pan.
New food = new ideas. Eating new foods in a different culture will also open your eyes to the different concepts of food. For example, guinea pig is a common meat in Ecuador. Ostrich is often served in South Africa. Alligator meat is quite popular in Louisiana.
You can learn about a new culture just by tasting it. How delicious is that!? Do you want some culture drizzled on your ice cream? Sure! Just remember, every bite is an adventure.
Big World, Bigger Brain
“You do not understand the basic assumptions of your own culture if your
own culture is the only culture you know.”
— Alan Watts
Why do people travel? There is a HUGE world out there! And the more you travel, the more you will grow.
Travel Helps Because...
Every day is new. An adventure can be trying a new food or seeing a new museum, or even buying a new shirt from a local shop (after negotiating of course). Travel teaches us that adventures come in all shapes and sizes.
Different strokes for different folks. Would you ever think of using motor bikes as the primary way to get around? Probably not, unless you’ve visited a place like Ho Chi Minh City. People do things differently all over the world. Traveling gives you a chance to learn from them, and consequently grow your brain.
Travel makes you appreciate your home. Sometimes, you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone. You will never appreciate your own bed more than after a long, exhausting trip. Travel will make you realize the things you take for granted back home, and how important home is.
If you’re interested in experiences, gaining a deeper understanding of people and cultures, and challenging yourself to broaden your horizons, then you have the perfect travel mindset.
Adventure depends on your mindset. And traveling helps you cultivate the adventure mindset, which is something you do NOT want to miss out on.
Here Come the BIG Buts…
I know what you’re thinking. All of these benefits of travelling sound appealing, but you still think that there are plenty of legitimate reasons why you can’t travel. If I can be right about what you’re thinking, then I can also know that you are wrong.
But #1: “I Can’t Afford It…”
It’s a common myth that you need to be a millionaire to enjoy travel. You can travel on any budget if you’re willing to make a few sacrifices for it.
Travel can be CHEAP. It’s very easy to travel on a budget. You can look into couchsurfing or hitchhiking. A day’s worth of meals in Southeast Asia will run you under $10 if you do it right. You don’t need to spend $300 a day to receive the benefits listed above. The Broke Backpacker has a blog dedicated to budget travel, with tips on how to spend $12-30 per day including transportation and lodging in many countries.
You can make (small) sacrifices. Take a second and step back in order to look at the things you spend money on. Four dollars every morning for a cup of coffee? That $4 is enough to enjoy a delicious meal in many parts of the world. And how many of those coffees would it take to equal the expense of one plane ticket? And that’s JUST COFFEE. What about food? Booze? Other questionable expenses? Track your expenses for a month and you’ll be shocked how much money you could have saved.
You can make money while you travel. You can even get creative about how to make more money. See if you can put your apartment on Airbnb while you’re gone so you can get paid while you travel. Do online translations, get paid to blog, or even open a lemonade stand** and sell it everywhere you go!
**Warning: This doesn’t work because not all countries like lemonade much. Some prefer water/tea/milk, etc. I learned this the hard way. :)
Everyone has the ability to travel on any budget. So forget about “the money problem” because it is not a problem. You don’t need much money to join the many people enjoying the advantages of traveling the world.
But #2: “I Don’t Have Anybody To Go With…”
If you don’t have a travel partner, it’s actually a blessing in disguise. Solo travel is one of the most rewarding, empowering, and exhilarating forms of travel. And the best part is - you can do it whenever, wherever, and for however long you’d like. You make the rules!
You don’t have to actually be alone. The best part of solo travel is that, if you don’t want to, you won’t actually ever be alone. People in general are extremely friendly to travelers. If you put in a little bit of effort, you can make friends at the park, the pub, a hostel, a restaurant, or anywhere you see people.
There are lots of solo travelers. If you keep an eye out, you can easily spot another solo traveler that could be interested in joining you on your adventure. Traveling alone is a great way to get even more outside your comfort zone, which is great.
Like Nelson Mandela said, “There’s a time and a place to surround yourself with others”. Just because you are alone doesn’t mean you will be alone for long. In fact, sometimes the best friends you will make will be those you spend the least amount of time with.
But #3: “I Don’t Have the Time…”
Here’s the truth: Everyone has 24 hours in a day and seven days in a week. You don’t have any less time than anyone out there. How do they make time to travel?
Make it a priority. If travel is something you truly care about, you will make time for it. New mothers don’t have time to take care of a baby, but they MAKE time because they care. Make travel your baby. Think about all the days you’ve wasted binge watching Netflix in your bedroom. Would you rather spend your vacation time surfing the web, or surfing the beautiful beaches of Australia?
Get creative. You can always ask your boss for more time off. Offer to check emails from abroad. Offer to train someone else to take over your responsibilities. Worst case scenario? They say no, and then you can go to Iceland for six days instead of ten.
But #4: “It’s Dangerous…!!”
All too often, the people who equate travel with danger are the ones who have never traveled.
Danger is often about perception. An article by CBS wrote that “Americans are 10 times more likely to be killed by guns than people in other developed countries.” Leaving America might be a safer option after all.
“Different” does not mean “bad.” Just because people are different than you doesn’t mean that they are bad. At the root of it all, we are all humans who want to love and to be loved. In general, humans in other countries are not out to hurt you.
Be smart. If you’re nervous, do some extra research before traveling. The U.S. issues travel alerts and warnings for all the countries in the world. Look into your social networks and see if you know anyone that has been to the countries you’re interested in visiting. And of course, use common sense. Stay aware of your surroundings while traveling, especially in crowded areas. Keep your belongings close and your valuables hidden.
Keep in mind, if you’re going to be scared of the world around you, you might as well be scared while enjoying some beautiful sightseeing and tasty meals.
Why Travel? You Hold The Power
No matter where you are, remember it’s your call. Are new experiences, scrumptious meals, broadening your horizons and unforgettable memories worth 40 minutes of frustration and fear standing on the side of the road in rural Vietnam? (Hint: I ended up making it to my destination safe and sound, albeit a bit delayed).
Travel is new and exciting, exhilarating and inspiring. Travel is also unfamiliar, and sometimes frightening or uncomfortable. But, once you’ve discovered all of the wonderful things that come out of it, despite any challenges or fears you may face, there’s one thing you’ll find remains true: Travel is always worth it.
What makes travel worth it for you? Do you have other reasons why people travel?
Comment below to share why you travel, and help inspire others to pursue their own travel adventures!
Jeremy Ginsburg is a world traveler, language expert, performer, and author of the book Faking Fame. Learn more about Jeremy at jeremyginsburg.com and follow him on Facebook, YouTube, and Medium.
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