We humans are constantly dreaming. We dream of what tomorrow might bring and fantasize about the amazing things we’re going to do in our lives. For most of us, however, those dreams remain just these: dreams. When we do the same thing day in and day out, it’s easy to fall into a seemingly inescapable rhythm. We don’t count minutes, hours or even days—we count weeks, months and years.
“Only 2 more months until I can finally take my hard-earned 3 days of vacation.”
“Only 3 more weeks until that concert I saved up for.”
“Next year, I’m going to turn my life around.”
“I used to love cooking, but never have the time anymore. I’ll take it up again someday.”
All of the incredible things we want to do with our lives are happening in the future, but all too often the future never comes. We make plans and say, “someday”, but it’s often too difficult to say, “right now.” It’s scary to break our rhythm and step out into the unknown, but we will always feel a sense that something’s missing in our lives if we don’t take that step and see what lies beyond the horizon. This is true with anything—whether you want to start a business, go back to school, take up a new hobby or finally grab a backpack and travel the world for a year.
Human beings are natural explorers. We long to uncover the mysteries of distant locations and feel a sense of incompleteness when we do not. Travel helps us feed this hunger, but we get so much more than just a sense of fulfillment when we travel. We gain new perspectives and new understandings of the world, people and nature around us. It is through travel that we discover our place in the world and the role we play in it.
When you’re standing in the frigid north, watching the winter sun set over the treeline, after providing only a few brief hours of warmth, it’s hard not to be reminded of just how fragile we are. After that same sun goes down, majestic colors light up the sky as the Aurora Borealis shows us that there is still beauty to be found in the darkest places of this world. Even as that lights fade, the pitch black sky becomes speckled with the light of infinite stars, planets and galaxies—a final reminder that we are among the smallest things in this vast universe.
When going about our daily lives, we don’t think about everything that once happened where we’re standing. Travel helps us appreciate that much more. Seemingly meaningless locations are transformed for us when we learn of the events that unfolded there. When visiting a location where something terrible has happened, we often can’t help but feel a sense of empathy for the ground we stand on, as if we owe the unconscious material an apology for the atrocities our kind has committed upon it. When we leave such places, we go with a new sense of responsibility to ensure such crimes are never repeated.
Likewise, one often feels honored to be able to stand at the scene where an heroic act of selflessness occurred or at the site of a speech that changed the course of history for the better. We then leave these places feeling inspired to continue on that path of righteousness. Just as traveling exposes us to tragedies occurring on a daily basis, it helps us acknowledge opportunities for improvement. Travel forces us to think critically about ourselves and triggers our innovative spirit to come up with solutions to previously unsolvable problems.
While traveling, you notice that days feel like weeks and weeks like months. In only a few weeks, you are able to experience what most people need entire lifetimes for. The more you travel, the more you regret all of those 12 hour days where you did the same thing over and over again for an employer who may or may not have fully appreciated it. But that’s okay. You’re not mad at yourself for putting yourself through that nor are you upset with the employer who is simply on a different path.
The more people you meet with different backgrounds and daily routines, the more you realize that everyone is just trying to make their way in this world. Everyone is doing what they believe they have to do in order to survive and live their best lives.
Traveling isn’t about crossing items off a bucket list, taking the perfect Instagram picture or pretending to have a great time at a disappointing destination; traveling isn’t always fun and it’s almost never glamorous. Traveling is about growth. Traveling helps us go from a “someday” mindset to a “right now” mindset. Traveling long-term is the single best thing you can do to grow as a person, learn about yourself and tune into the world around you.
Once your journey has ended, you come home with a new appreciation of everything around you that you once took for granted. Your home is no longer confined to a few walls. You now consider the entire planet your home and the living beings on it your neighbors. All of the conflicts, drama and politics that everyone else is so obsessed with just seem so petty, as you know there are more important matters at hand.
Through travel, you overcame prejudices and fears and unlearned bad habits, as you were forced to adapt to ever-changing situations. You now realize what is most important to you, as you finally took the time to reflect on your own life. Now that you’ve traveled, you’re ready—ready for anything this world could throw at you. You’re motivated to make your life truly your own. You know what you want and you’re going to get it.