Why travel?

Mike Weppler
Adventures in Life and Leadership
6 min readNov 5, 2021


Four life-changing gifts you’ll discover by experiencing the rest of the world

Two travelers celebrating the beauty of their travel destination, sharing the moment.
Photo from youmatter.world

As we emerge from COVID lock-downs and other restrictions, many of us are itching to travel and enjoy once again the opportunity to explore the world around us.

It may be useful to talk about the abundance of cheap flights available now, or to discuss whether you should feel safe traveling. For now, let’s chat about the deep, meaningful, lasting reasons to travel regardless of our moment in time.

Traveling through 21 countries over the few years before COVID, I discovered four deep motivations to continue travel as an important personal goal. What’s more, I was changed by many of these experiences, and always for the better. Let’s dive in…

Become a better version of yourself

First, travel changes you, and in my experience it’s almost always for the better. For example, talking politics with a group of travelers in Madrid before the 2016 election helped me see a global view on US issues and politics. Additionally, I have experienced the roar of city life in Mumbai, talked with amazing youth leaders in an African town who offered to work for me if I’d only start a business and hire them, and witnessed healing in the lives of girls who had been rescued from sex slavery. Each of these altered my worldview in terms of what it means to be a responsible citizen.

And there is so much more — the incredible hospitality I experienced in Ghana, stumbling upon delicious cuisine in just about every corner of Spain, or the peacefulness of sitting alone on a train and watching the French countryside, the Swiss Alps, or the Black Forest in Germany pass by. Respectively, these experiences reframed how I want to welcome people into my home or city, in what areas I want to prioritize ensuring excellence in my life and work, and where I mentally escape for periods of rest when travel is not possible.

Further, through observation and conversation with other travelers or locals, there is so much to be learned about other people, cultures, and our world. We’ll almost certainly never learn these by staying close to home. Experiences change us in a way that simply studying cannot.

Looking someone in the eye and hearing their story has that same effect — it doesn’t allow us the option to remain the same person. In my experience, this is one of life’s great beauties and opportunities.

As any personal development guru will tell you, we are always either becoming a better or worse version of ourselves. Therefore, intentionally seeking the lessons we can find in others’ personal stories is a treasure hunt we should all embark on regularly. The more different the person, the more they likely have to offer us.

And ultimately, travel helps us see the greater picture of our existence, and our place in the world. Who are we? Why are we here? What is worth dedicating my life to, and what isn’t? If you hear enough stories from people from various corners of the world, you’ll hear the same questions, desires, hopes, and fears permeating hearts and minds.

It can have the same effect on you as it has on me — reminding me of my humanity, my nature as a child of God to seek real meaning in life, and the reality that I am not alone.

To summarize the personal growth benefits of travel, I’ll paraphrase the words of a woman who I was recently blessed to talk with, and who has travelled to over 100 countries and lived on 4 continents. She told me that travel expands the mind, allowing you to see yourself and the world around you in truer perspective. It opens our eyes, enabling us to appreciate the gifts we have that many do not. And it leads to learning valuable lessons, such as the need for deep listening to truly understand others’ belief systems and how these guide personal and collective decisions.

You never know who you will meet

The second life-altering reason to travel? New friends and relationships are waiting to be discovered. Pauline Frommer says,

“One of the great benefits of travel is meeting new people and coming into contact with different points of view.”

This is certainly true in my experience.

As discussed above, exposing ourselves to people from other cultures can enhance our perspective. In the midst of making these connections, relationships can be formed that give us emotional support, lead to fun conversations or experiences, or completely change the course of our lives.

Studying for a year in Madrid and three months in Paris, I met new friends from 25+ different countries, which led to incredibly interesting conversations. Living for a year in Granada (also in Spain), I formed even deeper friendships with a small group of people aspiring to live meaningful lives. During these years, I was especially blessed to meet a woman from Colombia with whom I am now engaged to be married — and truly, my life will never be the same!

While your experience will surely be different than mine, many gifts await you in the form of friendships with people who are wonderfully different from you.

Opportunity awaits!

We never know what opportunities are hidden and waiting for us along the journey ahead. And sometimes a wider path — geographically, culturally, or otherwise— allows us to discover more of those diamonds.

Other than meeting my wife, without travel I also never would have had the opportunities to attend a young diplomats conference in Malaysia, consult on the creation of sustainability strategy for a global clothing company in Barcelona, or make the connections to serve as Rapporteur for a conference designed to advise presidents and institutions on the future of the relationship between Europe and the United States.

Are you still searching to identify what impact you want to have on the world? Do you know what this is but have no idea how to pursue it? Sometimes the answer is deep study and intentional connections. Other times, the answer is going broad to discover potential answers and ways of thinking that would have always remained hidden to you had you not put yourself in a position to see and hear anew.

If you’re not sure where to “go deep,” start by going broad. And travel is one of the best — and most exciting — ways to do that.

Enjoy the ride

Finally, there is of course the experience itself. Who doesn’t want to see Machu Picchu or explore cities such as Paris and Budapest, to swim in the clear blue water of the Caribbean or experience a safari in Kenya or Tanzania? Who would not want to experience the diversity of authentic Thai, Italian, Spanish, French, and Argentinian cuisines?

While many of us are blessed to live in locations that offer food variety, often these are adaptations to fit the local palate. There’s nothing like the real thing when it comes to food, and certainly the same is true of panoramic views and experiences such as those mentioned above.

Even the very anticipation of travel is a gift, building up our excitement for what we have planned. And of course there are the serendipitous moments God has planned for us in the smallest or grandest of surprises — such as a colorful sunset reflecting off the mountains, or meeting my fiancée on a flight.

As Eric Weiner writes,

“Travel is an essential industry, an essential activity. It’s not essential the way hospitals and grocery stores are essential. Travel is essential the way books and hugs are essential. Food for the soul.”

So when you feel it’s safe to do so, and especially if prices are cheap…

Plan some time to get away. Dream of the new, beautiful experiences awaiting you, then go enjoy them. Just keep in mind, the experience always looks different than the daydream.

Connect with others travelers, and with the locals. Let inspiration open your mind to new opportunities when you get home. Most of all, let the experience change you by choosing to interpret your experiences through the lenses of beauty, grace, and love, as well as the search for truth, wisdom, and understanding.

When you return home, you will not be the same person. And that, my friend, is the ultimate gift of travel.

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Mike Weppler
Adventures in Life and Leadership

To live a life worth imitating: Son, Husband, Father. Passion for developing leaders + elevating families, organizations, & the discourse of US/Global affairs