On 15 March 2019, New Zealand lost its innocence when a terrorist attack occurred resulting in the deaths of 51 people, many of whom were refugees from war-torn countries who had made New Zealand their new home. In the aftermath of the attack, it was disclosed that the alleged perpetrator, an Australian man with anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim ideology, had travelled widely to Asia and Europe, his extremist ideas reinforced by his travels.
We have been location-independent since October 2016, travelling full-time, first around the Americas, then New Zealand, Europe, and back to New Zealand during the COVID pandemic. Travel has had a profound impact on us too, but in a very different way to the alleged perpetrator of the Christchurch attacks. I believe that travel makes you a better person if you do so with your heart and mind wide open. I would like to share with you today the positive impact travel has had on us as human beings ever since we’ve made our very first trip.
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 people and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime. – Mark Twain (1869)
1. Travel makes you more resourceful
Travel, through the very nature of experiencing something different, takes you out of your comfort zone. Arriving somewhere new (even in your own country), you need to adapt quickly to find your way around. If you don’t speak the local language, you need to adopt new ways of communicating, whether it be through basic sign language (pointing and gesturing), by using a few basic phrases you may have learned or by using the help of a translation app.
2. Travel teaches you to be patient and go with the flow
Travel may introduce unfamiliar time constraints: While your department store back home may be open 24/7, shops in other parts of the world are closed overnight and on weekends. Museums and banks may be closed over lunch. Public transport runs based on a schedule in some countries. In others, buses turn up whenever they do, and there may be none whatsoever on public holidays. You learn not to get upset with what you can’t change. Instead, you do more research upfront and/or allow yourself extra time to get from A to B.
3. Travel increases your knowledge
Through travel, you learn: about the culture, history, language, food, politics, etc of your host destination… but also (and very importantly) about yourself.
4. Travel recharges your batteries
For many, vacation is an escape from daily life. At least for a little while, you can leave your worries behind, take a break from the ‘rat race’ and slow down, enjoy the sunshine, soak in the fresh mountain air… do whatever gives you new energy for your life ‘back home’.
5. Travel makes you realise and appreciate your privilege
Travel gives you a renewed appreciation for your home environment. Once we don’t have the daily comforts we tend to take for granted, we realise how privileged we are… having a comfortable bed, a warm shower, clean drinking water, (super)markets with a variety of food options etc.
6. Travel makes you more tolerant and respectful in your interactions
Whenever we are asked what it is we most love about our life on the road, the people we meet always feature among the top. Travel makes you realise that human beings are all very similar. No matter our gender, colour, race, nationality or age, we all have the same basic needs and emotions.
By being nice and pleasant in your interactions with others, even if they may seem indifferent or unfriendly in your eyes, you often get a better response. You don’t know what is going on in their lives. A smile, and saying please and thank you (in the language of your host country) go a long way – as they do at home.
7. Travel raises your awareness
As in your own country, there are good and bad people in other countries. Travel makes you experience both – those who want to help you just because they see you’re stuck, and those who try to take advantage of you. That’s life. If nothing else, experiencing the bad of human nature, raises your awareness and helps you avoid a similar experience in future. Likewise, travel also makes you realise that there are so many more good people out there than those who want to hurt you.
8. Travel creates lasting memories
Missing a flight in 2012 and our subsequent Amazing Race across Cuba is a story we’ll probably still tell our grandchildren. Travel creates lasting memories more than any physical purchase ever will. Many of us like taking photos when we travel, and looking back at those images, even decades later, reminds us of those little anecdotes that made our travels special.
A final note: Sandra and I try to travel sustainably, which means we consider the economic, social and environmental impact when deciding where to go, how to get there and what to spend our limited funds on. If you would like to learn how to travel more sustainably check out our Sustainable Travel Tips.