The Power of Travel
How it can impact your life and perspective
I love flying.
There, I said it. Call me weird, but while most people hate the in-between part of travel (flying, driving, etc.) and would rather get right to their destination, I adore it.
I have friends who aim to spend the least amount of time at the airport as possible. They avoid layovers of any length, and aim to get through security right before boarding. Yeah, spending hours upon hours isn’t the most fun (hello Chicago O’Hare, remember me?) but I see it as part of my adventure.
To me, airports are a gateway to the world. You can travel to nearly any place in this world when you step into an airport. It’s where cultures connect and collide and experiences are born. And isn’t that what life is about? Experiencing new places and cultures, meeting new people, and just living life?
Growing up in an international household, I always considered myself worldly and cultured. Born in Canada, I moved to the United States at the age of eight. As children, my siblings and I often traveled to Canada and throughout North America. We paid attention to international news, understood the political differences between countries, and knew not just the location of all 50 US states, 10 Canadian provinces, and three Canadian territories, but the geography of Europe, Asia, Africa… you get the picture.
It wasn’t until I flew halfway across the world to Europe this summer that I was knocked down a few rungs. In those first few abroad, I quickly realized that despite my education, family life, and travel experiences, I was still leagues behind others around the world.
Those two weeks overseas profoundly changed my perspective of the world, and I yearn for more time away to learn languages, experience cultures, and explore new sights. It was a powerful experience and profoundly impacted how I not only live my life, but how I see the people and the world around me.
Here are just a few ways that travel impacts my life, and how it can impact yours too.
Travel will expand your horizons
Do you ever feel weighed down by routine? It happens to the best of us. We focus in on our day-to-day tasks and activities, and we lose sight of the world around us.
Get up. Go to work. Workout. Come home. Eat dinner. Watch tv. Check social media. Go to bed.
At least that’s how my routine is set. Add in a few hours of side-hustle work and you’ve got a sneak peek into my oh so (not) glamorous LA life.
Travel takes us out of our routine and gives us something of a new normal for a few weeks. We begin to watch the world around us instead of living vicariously through our Instagram feed. We interact with people who speak different languages and may not speak English. We navigate planes, trains, buses, and taxis (yes, many international cities don’t have Uber). We spend days in cities that were built not just a few hundred years ago, but multiple centuries ago, and we can see it in the buildings, the streets, and the landscape.
Travel will challenge (and change) your perspectives
I think one of the pitfalls of technology and living in cities like Los Angeles or New York is that we often lose perspective on life and the world. We live in tunnel vision and start worrying about what we’re doing, what the person next to us is doing, and what’s happening tomorrow, next week, or next month.
Travel gives us a broader international perspective and we begin to see life through the eyes of other communities and cultures. We experience new cuisines, new lifestyles, and adapt our own temperaments to those around us. Here in America, we’re always on the go. Los Angeles is notorious for the hustle culture, and in New York we try to get where we’re going as fast as we can without stopping to smell the roses. Other cultures also spend more time traveling and experiencing the world. It’s common to take extended holidays in Europe, whereas in America we tend to hoard our paid time off and work ourselves to the bone. In Canada, students sometimes take a gap year between high school and college to travel the world or gain real world experience, while in America we jump right into college.
Personally, I’ve seen the close-mindedness of people who have never left their state or city. Those who don’t take the time to travel and experience other cultures, even within their own country, only see what’s around them and what directly impacts their lives. We can see the effect of this tunnel vision in our politics, in the news, and in the way these people react to people of different cultures, religions, and ethnicities.
Imagine what the world would be like if we could remove the blinders, the tunnel vision. Imagine the acceptance, kindness, and understanding that would spread across the country and the world. Changing your perspective will impact your life, your thoughts, your emotions. It will change how you interact with people, how you think about new things that come into your life, how you react to the unknown, and you'll gain a greater appreciation for what you have in your life. And who knows, maybe it will even give you the push to seek something new.
Travel will change your perspective, 100%.
Travel will humble you
Rome wasn’t built in a day. And neither were the canals of Copenhagen and Amsterdam, the city wall of Brussels, or the Tower of London.
I stood downtown Chicago a short time ago, admiring the architecture of buildings that included the Tribune Tower, the John Hancock Tower, and all the stunning buildings around them. I thought those were feats of architecture, and while they are masterpieces in their own right, wandering through centuries old cities and taking in their architecture and layouts was even more awe inspiring and powerful.
I mean look at those castles, the canals in Copenhagen and Amsterdam, and the churches across all these European countries. Could you imagine how much hard, laborious work and time went into building these feats of architecture? There were no powered machines back then—it was literal manual labor. And the planning that was involved? Amsterdam wasn’t even built on solid land and it dates back to the 17th century.
It wasn’t just the centuries old structures that knocked me down a step.
I’m interested in history, and for some odd reason the 1920s through World War II absolutely fascinates me. I’ll watch movies, read books, and immerse myself in those times. But reading and watching can only prepare you so much for actually standing in the middle of a bombed out church in the middle of Hamburg, Germany, for seeing buildings left damaged from the Blitz in the City of London. There’s actual history there.
Now, I’m not knocking on American or Canadian history because there are some incredible sights to see and places, like the 9/11 Memorial, to reflect on life. But to stand in the burned out steeple of St. Nicholas reading about the destruction of the church and Hamburg during the Allied bombing of World War II itself is a feeling I don’t know if I’ll ever have in the US or Canada. I don’t know if I’ll shake the goosebumps from reading about the damage left by the bombing and in the next sentence reading how German citizens completely understood the reasons why and laid zero blame on the Allied forces.
When you have the opportunity to take in centuries old architecture, to see the places affected by horrendous wars, it can literally knock the breath out of you. You'll start to realize how insignificant your problems are in the greater scheme of things, how lucky you are to live the life you lead, and how you're just one piece of a worldwide puzzle.
Get out there
I’m not going to lie, traveling abroad is expensive. It took savings, bonus pay, and finding the best deals to take a two-week trip to Europe. But you don’t have to travel halfway around the world to experience new cultures and gain a new perspective, you just have to make an effort. Visit a new city or state, head into the mountains for a hike or a few days camping in the wilderness, spend a few hours at your local museum or art gallery, or take a chance on a new cuisine. Put down social media and take in the people around you. It’s all about just getting out there.