People always ask how travel has changed me.
“You’ve spent how long traveling the world? Wow! What did that do to you?”
If I look back at the person I was before I began traveling and compare that to who I am now, well, the difference is night and day.
Travel has made me a better and more well-rounded person.
It didn’t happen all at once. It happened through constantly encountering new situations, experiencing — and surviving — calamities, and pushing myself out of my comfort zone.
One day, I just woke up and realized I was a new me.
Someone more confident. Someone who talked to strangers. Someone who cared less about what people thought. Someone who trusted his abilities more.
I think travel makes everybody a more awesome, well-rounded person. We end our travels way better off than when we started.
I’m not saying this to be conceited or egotistical; I’m saying it because I believe that travel is something that makes you not only a better human being but a way interesting one too. The kind of person people gravitate toward and want to be around.
How and why does travel do that to a person? Let me count the ways:
1. Travel makes you more social
It’s sink or swim on the road. You either get better at making friends or you end up alone, crying each night into a pillow. You learn to make friends out of strangers and get more comfortable talking to new people. You begin to realize that people aren’t so different: they have the same fears, hopes, and desires you do.
When I first started traveling, I was an introvert and uncomfortable talking to those I didn’t know. “What are they going to say?” “Will they judge me?”
But I didn’t want to be alone. And so, in hostels, I would — timidly at first — ask people their name and if they wanted to go on a walking tour or hang out in the bar. Slowly I got better at this.
I’m now what is called a “learned extrovert.” I can fake it with the best of them, and I’ll happily talk to strangers like we’ve been best friends for years.
2. Travel makes you better at conversation
Travel not only makes you more comfortable talking to strangers, it makes you better at it too. After talking to people all the time, the same questions get boring. You start to even bore yourself. After a while, you don’t care about where people are from, where they are going, how long they’ve been traveling, or what their job is/was. Those kinds of questions don’t actually tell you anything about the person.
So you learn to ask more interesting questions about their likes, hobbies, and interests. You learn to shut up and let people talk (it’s most everyone’s favorite pastime).
3. Travel makes you more confident
You’ve traveled the world. Hiked Mt. Everest. Dived the Great Barrier Reef. Wined and dined that beautiful French girl in Paris, navigated unknown cities, and conquered your fear of heights. In short, you did some really incredible things.
You’ve lived a life most people will never get a chance to live.
After accomplishing so much, how can you not be more confident? How can you not be more sure about your ability to achieve anything you set your mind to?
When I look back on everything I’ve done on my travels, I realize I’ve done some really cool things that I’m very proud of — and that I never thought I would do in a million years. I’m a badass.
So are you.
4. Travel makes you more self-reliant
You’ve dealt with missed flights, slow buses, wrong turns, frustrating delays, bad street food, and much, much more. After a while, you learn how to adapt your plans to changing situations.
If you’re traveling solo, you can’t rely on someone else to solve your problems. You solve them yourself. Miss the bus in a foreign land — and there isn’t another for two days? You have to figure it out.
You don’t get frustrated, you don’t get angry; you just alter what you are doing and move on. Life throws you curve balls and you hit them out of the park.
It’s scary at first to know it’s all on you, but over time, you get better at solving problems for yourself.
5. Travel makes you more adventurous
When you become confident in your ability to do anything, you’ll let yourself experience more things. Despite not liking spicy food, I once ate the world’s hottest pepper and some pure capsicum extract. Why? Because I wanted to. What’s the purpose of life if not to break out of your comfort zone? My mouth was on fire for ages, but I’d do it again.
I’ve eaten friend maggots, parts of animals I didn’t know were edible, and hiked longer than I thought my body would last.
Plus, once you’re removed from the world you know — and away from the social anxiety of “what will my friends say?” — you learn to just take more risks.
Because screw it!
Everyone else is doing it, and no one is judging you if you do — or don’t! Travel is a judgment free zone.
6. Travel makes you more easy-going
All those mistakes you made? Those times you miss booked flights, were late to the bus, got scammed, or sick from that sketchy street food? They did something else for you, too: they made you more easy-going and relaxed.
Because you’ve dealt with all those errors before — and you survived.
If travel teaches you anything, it’s that it all works out in the end and that there’s no need to stress. Life unfolds as it should.
You know what to do when the next time a problem arises.
7. Travel makes you smarter
Unless you sit at a resort drowning your brain in frozen drinks, travel will teach you about the world. You’ll learn about people, history, politics, and culture, as well as arcane facts about places some people could only dream about. In short, you’ll have a better understanding about how life works and how people behave. That’s something that can’t be learned from books; you can only pick it up with on-the-road experience.
8. Travel makes you less materialistic
On the road, you learn just how little stuff you actually need. You’ll realize that all that crap they sell at the mall is pretty useless in leading a truly happy life. Once you’re back home, you’ll find yourself a minimalist simply because you realize what you need to live and what you don’t.
As they say, the more you own, the more it owns you.
9. Travel makes you happier
Travel simply teaches you how to be happy. You’ll become more relaxed, more confident, and see the world as a brighter place. How can you not be happy about life after all of that?
Think about all the happy, successful people in the world. How many of the qualities listed above do those people exhibit? A lot. Why? Because being outgoing, funny, social, happy, confident, and smart are all qualities that make people more successful in everyday life.
Travel makes people better. When you learn more about the world and the people in it, push your boundaries, and try new things, you become a more open, outgoing, and awesome person. All the people I’ve known who have traveled are better people because of it.
With all the ways a trip can make you more of an awesome person, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be planning your next adventure now — whether it’s an around the world trip or just a short, two-week vacation.
For more thoughts on travel, how it makes us better, and more check out my new memoir Ten Years a Nomad: A Traveler’s Journey Home