Anyone who says travel can’t change who you really are is ignorant or lying. In 2008, I pulled the ripcord on cubicle hell and quit my desk job to travel the world. In the decade since I’ve spent more time away than at home. I’ve learned a great deal about travel, about the world, and ultimately about myself.
It’s Made Me More Patient
Travel shows you the world does not, in fact, revolve around you — not even a little. The mechanics of travel — train schedules, flight departure times, restaurant hours, the thick accent of your latest tour guide who you can’t understand — are unflinching. While you’re traveling in a new destination, a new town, with new people and a new language and new ways to use the toilet, things will not always go your way. Getting angry and shaking your fist at the sky won’t change a thing. You need to be patient and accept it. It can be frustrating — it will be frustrating — in the moment. But patience is like any other muscle. With repeated use, it strengthens over time. I grew up an easily roused New Englander. Ten years of travel has thoroughly beaten that out of me.
New cultures easily highlight how much different your culture is back home. There’s no two ways about it: travel long enough, and you will do dumb shit and make a fool of yourself. Locals will notice, but you’ll be surprised how little they care. Shrug it off. Pride is a wicked, useless emotion. The sooner you can shed the ability to feel pride, the better off you’ll be in life. Embrace humiliation. You’re not always going to do everything perfect and right and awesome. But, the flip side is: if you’re not putting yourself in new and uncomfortable situations with the potential to humiliate yourself, you’re not growing as a person.
All That “Stuff” Just Doesn’t Matter
I’ve spent months in Africa, trekked rural Japanese mountains, and kayaked Antarctica. In the last five years, I’ve packed (roughly) the same baggage in the same exact suitcase for every trip. Travel distills what’s truly important to you down to a tiny suitcase or backpack. You’ll learn very quickly what’s essential and what isn’t. Anything you think you might need, you don’t. A few years after I started traveling, my 1,200-square-foot condo seemed … pointless. I knew I could make due with a whole lot less. So I did, and I continue to, and I’ve never missed any of that “stuff.”
Talking about the ways travel can or already has changed you can feel trite. Most people have a built-in filter to tune out that sort of talk, to chalk it up to existential, woo-woo nonsense. After a decade of near-full-time travel, I promise you it isn’t. It’s very real. It’s made me who I am today, and I wouldn’t change it for anything.