Sitting by the waters edge | Photo by Simon Migaj on Unsplash

Eight reasons why travel makes you a better person

Paul Ryken Last Updated: Saturday 7 March 2020 Explore the world, Travel safely Leave a Comment

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On 15 March 2019, New Zealand lost its innocence when a terrorist attack occurred resulting in the deaths of 50 people, many of whom 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 and now Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. Travel has had a profound impact on us too, but in a very different way to the alleged perpetrator of the Christchurch attacks. We believe that travel makes you a better person if you do so with your heart and mind wide open. We 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 men 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.

Frustrated in supermarket | Photo by Phuong Tran on Unsplash
Not everything works in a foreign country as it does back home | Photo by Phuong Tran on Unsplash

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.

USA map book | Photo by REVOLT on Unsplash
Travel is a great opportunity to learn more about the world and about yourself | Photo by REVOLT on Unsplash

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’.

Portugal is one country where travel has taught us all of these things. Is there a specific country or area that has done this for you?

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.

Many things we take for granted are missing in other countries, making it difficult for kids like these to concentrate at school | Photo by Bill Wegener on Unsplash
Many things we take for granted are missing in other countries, making it difficult for kids like these to concentrate at school | Photo by Bill Wegener on Unsplash

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.

Police officer standing guard with a rose and a hijab in solidarity with the Muslim community in Christchurch | Photo by AP
Police officer standing guard with a rose and a hijab in solidarity with the Muslim community in Christchurch | Photo by AP

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.

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How has travel made you become a better person? Please share your experiences in the comments below or send us an email.

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Eight reasons why travel makes you a better person
Eight reasons why travel makes you a better person
Eight reasons why travel makes you a better person

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