Have you ever been so passionate about something, you can almost feel it oozing out of you?
For the past year or so, I’ve been sharing posts about travel. Places to go. How to save money. Practical tools and gear for travel. But why? Why have I spent hours in front of my computer writing and researching and proof reading and engaging with readers? Why have I spent my hard earned money on plane tickets and hostel reservations? Why do I continue to leave the comfort and safety of my home? Why travel?
I’ll tell you why.
I am so passionate about travel it makes me feel like I’m going to explode. I write my blog posts in the hopes that some day my travels will inspire other people to travel. I want to be an example to the normal, every day people that travel is not only something you can do, it’s something you need to do.
Travel is so much more than getting on a plane or in a car, and staying in a hotel for a week. Travel is more than collecting stamps in a passport or miles on a credit card.
Travel is powerful. Powerful in ways that you have to experience to understand. I have felt the power of travel time and time again, and I am able to look back and see how travel has impacted me through the years.
So, Why Travel?
Travel changed my life
Before my family and I spent a year in Australia back in 2007, I was a very different person. I was a freshman in high school, with a small handful of friends and a fear of my own shadow. I didn’t talk to people outside of my friend group. I had little to no self-confidence. I had no plans or vision for my future. When we moved to Australia, I was beyond terrified. Everything I knew and was comfortable with was on the complete opposite side of the world.
Can someone say awkward young teen pic??
Now, having been through it, I see that I was given a chance to start over from square one; to re-establish myself as whoever I wanted to be. With the chance to re-create myself, I blossomed. I made so many friends, gained a ton of confidence and became comfortable with the idea of challenging myself.
I now have a tattoo in the shape of Australia. Every time I peer down at the top of my foot, I see that black outline and I am reminded to lift my head and venture on with the same confidence that I discovered in Australia. I owe so much of who I am now, to that life-changing experience. Who knows where I would be now if I hadn’t moved abroad when I was younger.
Challenge: Why travel, when you can remain unhappy with who you are?
Returning to Australia 9 years later…
Travel educates me
I can look back at every single trip I’ve taken and identify a key lesson that I learned during my trip. Whether it’s a lesson about life or the world at large, I am always impressed with the ways that travel expands my mind. I learned how to put my trust in others while traveling in Nepal. When I got Zika Virus in Central America, I learned that risk taking is part of life, but I won’t let it stop me from living. I’ve learned about animals, and food, and people and customs. I learned the sad truth about elephant tourism, and the importance of examining how your actions impact in the world. I’ve learned that I love guava, and the medieval cities of Belgium. I’ve learned the importance of a good stock of pepto bismal…
The education that travel supplies cannot be found in a classroom or textbook. You have to get out there and open yourself to what the world can teach you.
Challenge: Why travel, when you can just google everything you need to know?
Exploring and learning about the Copan Ruins
Travel challenges my beliefs
I think back to my time in Nepal, when I first had the experience of feeling ashamed to be an American. I was traveling on a bus with my Singaporean friend and two backpackers came up to us.
“Let me guess…” one girl said, rolling her eyes “You guys are from America.”
My travel companion was very quick to correct them, but I was left feeling like there was something wrong with my being American. Fast forward to a few days later, we were having dinner at a restaurant in Kathmandu. A group of local musicians were on stage, playing upbeat Nepali music. The atmosphere was awesome. That is- until a group of American high schoolers arrived. They were quick to announce that they were from Texas and before long, they were dancing around their tables whooping and hollering and overpowering the traditional music that was being played. In that moment, I felt so ashamed to be grouped in with these obnoxious people, as a fellow American. My time in Nepal challenged my belief of how The United States is perceived in other places. I now strive to be a good and respectful representation of Americans while abroad.
Having your beliefs challenged can be a scary concept for some people. But I think that having your beliefs challenged can make them stronger, and can make you a more open-minded and understanding person.
Challenge: Why travel, when your opinions are the only ones that matter?
I have a belief that birds are the worst. Travel continuously confirms this for me.
Travel expands my comfort zone
Remember that super shy, pre-Australia version of Brianna we talked about earlier? She was also a very picky eater, and cried at the thought of any perceived impending danger. Adventure was not a word in my vocabulary. One time, when I was a little girl at camp, I even voluntarily peed my pants so I didn’t have to use a scary, smelly latrine. Now, after all the travel I’ve done, there are few toilets that scare me. I’ll try just about any food once. And I enjoy the adrenaline rush from adventure activities like hiking to giant waterfalls in El Salvador, ziplining through the Daintree Rainforest in Australia, and black water rafting through caves in New Zealand.
Challenge: Why travel, when everything around you is safe and comfortable?
Travel eases my anxiety
This one honestly just doesn’t make sense to me. But it’s true. Like many other people, I struggle with anxiety. For the most part I can handle it, but there are times when my brain goes straight into panic mode over the littlest things. My social anxiety is a big one. Many times I struggle to converse with other people, and if I’m not mentally prepared to be around people, my brain can trigger a panic response. I’m also a very organized, schedule-oriented person. I like to plan things and know what is happening. Changes in plans can often trigger panic responses as well.
But for some reason, when I travel, my anxiety just falls away. It doesn’t make any sense, as travel often requires extreme flexibility in plans, as well as a lot of socialization with strangers. Somehow, my brain just finds peace within my travels and let me tell you, that feeling is unbelievably amazing.
When my friend and I booked a taxi ride from one small town in El Salvador to another, we thought we knew just what we were getting into. Imagine our surprise when the car showed up to take us, and it was held together with glue and rope! You won’t even believe what happened during the 2.5 hour drive, but it really should have thrown me into a full blown panic attack. But instead, the situation was met with laughter and I merely accepted the fact that shiz happens.
Challenge: Why travel, when you can keep fighting to control everything around you?
Travel gives me confidence
I think this goes hand-in-hand with travel alleviating my anxiety. When my mind is not preoccupied with anxious thoughts, I find myself to be exponentially more confident. I have no problem sitting alone in a restaurant. I speak up, start conversations with people I’ve never met, insert myself into group settings, and shed my need to appear perfect. My clothes are often unwashed, my face is free of make-up, my hair has probably not even seen a brush in days, and yet I feel at the height of my confidence. It’s like I’ve moved to Australia all over again and can keep reinventing who I am. And the best part is, if (and usually when) I make a huge goof of myself- there is comfort in knowing that I will most likely never run into the same people or places again.
Challenge: Why travel, when self-improvement is unnecessary and unimportant?
…And these are merely the ways I have seen travel impact my own life. There’s no telling what it can do for you. There are people who have discovered new skills through travel. Some have found a new place to call home. There are some who have even fallen in love while traveling.
So please, if you are thinking about traveling, or even if you are against it, I invite you to contact me. Send me your questions, your fears, your doubts. Trust me, I’m sure I’ve been in your shoes. I may be a little awkward and huge dork, but overall I’m incredibly average. And I want nothing more than to help you experience the life-changing power of travel.