Booking that international flight can cost a fortune. And getting time off of work and school to traipse around Europe can feel equally daunting. But travel is essential, especially for 20-somethings. Here’s why:
It turns you into a problem solver
There is nothing like being stuck in a country where you don’t know the language or how the local cell phone system works; While abroad, we’re forced to adapt to these lifestyle differences by problem solving like a pro. Traveling helps us learn how to follow people’s hand gestures, estimate the time of day based on sunlight, become more precise about meeting times and spots and sharpen other skills that improve our daily lives once home.
It gives you opportunities to connect with other people, both home and abroad
After you book your trip, tell people about your plans–it will bring you closer together. Everyone who had ever been to your destination will want to tell you about their experiences and give advice on what to pack, where to go and how to navigate the metros. After your return, these people will also want to hear about your experiences and compare them to their own. And while you’re gone, of course, you’ll meet people from all over the world–some of whom you’ll build connections with that will last a lifetime.
It helps you to appreciate what you’ve got
Nothing like a month-long break from your friends back home or from the little luxuries of everyday life to reveal what’s most valued, appreciated and important.
For example, on a 12-hour layover in New York City, my travel companion and I decided to ride the subway into Manhattan. We sat down next to a local and asked her how much she thought the cab ride might cost. She said, “Oh, pretty expensive. Probably about $35.″ In my world, a “pretty expensive” cab ride would be $100, not $35, and it made me realize just how fortunate my own life is.
After time away from your daily life, simple things like ice, vegetables or yoga class–or not so simple things, like a casual boyfriend–are that much more appreciated.
It helps you learn stuff about yourself
Travel teaches you a lot about things you like (citron macarons), and things you don’t like (Duck confit? Never again). It teaches you how you react in stressful situations, such as when your bag is the last one on the carousel, or you miss your flight. It teaches you what kind of people you get along best with, what kind of aspirations you have for yourself, how rigid or flexible your personality is, that you way over pack, how much sleep you can actually function on. And, the best thing about traveling as a 20-something? You can always change any of those things that you learn about yourself and don’t like.
It causes you to break bad habits
It’s easy to fall into a sugar consumption slump, skip the gym or not follow through with engagements. But when on the road, it’s easy to break those not-so-good-for-you habits because your surroundings and schedule is different every day. Even better, those healthier habits can stick once back home. What better way to re-vitalize, re-align, and re-set our lifestyles?
It shows you the world is much, much greater than yourself
The longer we stay in one place, the more ethnocentric, and egocentric, we can become. But there’s nothing like a big and unfamiliar city to help us realize that we are a tiny piece of the population puzzle. Paris alone has a population of about 2.3 million people, which means that 2.3 million other people also need to feed themselves, to get themselves to work, to use the bathroom, to dress themselves, to take care of their families. The world isn’t all about us–and that’s a good thing!
It teaches you about the shared human experience
Of course, cultures have their own little nuances. In France, people eat a gillette cake for New Years–whoever gets the bean is supposed to have luck for the rest of the year. In New Orleans, people stick a baby in a cake for Mardi Gras and whoever finds the baby is supposed to have a good year. During Thanksgiving, the guest who gets the wishbone is supposed to get her or his wish. The more we travel and immerse ourselves in other cultures, the more we realize how similar we all are (cue: It’s a Small World).
It enhances your perspective on the world
Traveling will inevitably change how you relate to books, movies, and products. For example, seeing the monuments in Paris and understanding how the city’s cafes helped me better relate to ‘The Sun Also Rises’ by Ernest Hemingway. Suddenly, I was able to better visualize the characters, understand the conflict, and interpret the messages. We can always look at pictures, and we can always watch videos, but actually being in places IRL better deepens our understanding of the world.
It gives you a lifetime of enjoyment
One of the best parts of going away on a trip? Remembering the experiences you had after you get back home. When looking back on a trip, we magically forget the stomach pains felt from hunger or how badly your insides hurt because you had to go to the bathroom, but didn’t want to pay to do so. Instead, you think about how funny it was that you threw away your boarding passes and had to hurdle a wheelchair to retrieve them. You remember the awe of the Moulin Rouge, or the magic you felt when Ana and Elsa drove down Main Street at Disneyland Paris. In other words, the trip certainly doesn’t end when you arrive home–it exists lovingly and longterm in your memories.
It changes you
Experiences change us. Whether it’s learning to think globally, appreciate what we’ve got, or help to make us think differently about something, travel helps deepen our connection to ourselves, others and the world. So travel: see the world. Learn about people, cultures and yourself. Be changed.