Many of my friends and family have told me how much they wish they could travel more and see the world when they are young. Whether it’s a weekend getaway, only a few hours away, or a 6-month long backpacking stint in South America, people often feel that travel is an unattainable dream that you need to save for when you are retired. The general consensus is that at this point, you will have the resources (financially and timewise) to support your travel dreams. But if I’m being completely honest, I don’t really like the concept of ‘saving it for a rainy day’. Not to get all dark and depressing, but what if that day never comes? Or what if it comes and you don’t have the good health or energy to go on these adventures you planned? There truly is no time like the present.
Havana, Cuba. From the KOSAN archives.
Financial gurus often tout traveling as being a frivolous expense, and one that you should not indulge in while paying for school, saving for a house or raising a young family. While there is some truth and wisdom to budgeting and saving your pennies, it doesn’t mean that you can’t travel while on a budget. It’s important to make travelling a priority, if it’s something you truly want to do. And at the end of the day, I am a believer in the old adage,
‘Travel is the only thing that you can buy that makes you richer’
Now, don’t get too excited – unless you’re an ultra popular travel blogger with thousands (or millions) of followers, it may not literally make you rich. However by investing in travel, you’ll be investing in yourself and you will certainly reap the benefits, both emotionally and mentally.
So why do I believe travel is the number one investment you can ever make? It’s hard to put into one small sentence, so I’ve compiled all the reasons why travel is at the top of my priority list, based on my own experiences. Or in other words, an extensive list you can use to justify your travels to your family and friends who think you are crazy. Not that you should have to justify anything, but you know, just in case.
TRAVEL BUILDS CONFIDENCE
While growing up, whether as a kid, a teenager or even as a young adult, we are encouraged to have confidence in ourselves and in our abilities. Am I the only one who has thought, ‘easier said than done?’. Some people seem to be born with IT, this unshakeable optimism and confidence in themselves. But most of us have to experiment and stumble a bit before finding our own version of self-confidence and belief in oneself.
I like to think of travel as a crash course in building self-confidence, because that’s what it’s been for me at least. I’m not sure if it’s because travel forces you to confront sometimes difficult situations, or that it throws you way outside of your comfort zone, but somehow along the way, you learn to believe in yourself and to find your own independence. You don’t even have to travel alone to gain this, simply putting yourself out there to see the world will be enough to push you in the right direction.
And is that not a lifelong lesson worth learning? I think that we not only benefit personally and professionally from some added confidence, but we deserve to believe in ourselves. There is something infinitely powerful in trusting in yourself and your abilities, and if travel can help us find that, well then that makes it a priceless necessity in my book.
TRAVEL HELPS US TRUST EACH OTHER
Remember when you were a kid and your parents told you not to talk to strangers? There’s plenty of reasons for that, safety being paramount. But I can just remember thinking, ‘Why?’. People seemed nice and interesting, and evil wasn’t a concept I really understood at the time. As we get older, we tend to lose that childlike sense of wonder and start to look at the world through more cynical eyes. Granted there is a lot of pain and suffering in the world, sometimes at the hands of our fellow human beings. All you have to do is turn on the news and you’ll be sucked into a whirlwind of fear and negativity. Through all this, we lose our ability to trust each other, and we close ourselves off to people we don’t know.
Travel forces you to do the exact opposite. It slowly coaxes us out of our bubbles, and helps us to see the good in people. If you’ve ever backpacked or traveled extensively before, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ve had to rely on the kindness and compassion of strangers. Traveling gives you the opportunity to see all the good and beauty there is in our world, most of it stemming from the wonderful people you meet.
St Vincent. From the KOSAN archives.
TRAVEL MAKES YOU A BETTER PROBLEM SOLVER
For those who think traveling is easy, let me shock you – it’s not. Yes, it’s amazing, but it can certainly be a bit of a wild ride. So many things could go wrong, and chances are at one point or another you’ll wind up homesick, car sick or just plain sick (potentially from the tea leaf salad you tentatively tried at the temple down the road). Being thrust into new and sometimes uncomfortable situations can force you to confront challenges and issues you might not have had to at home. Time to get your thinking cap on…you’ll have no choice but to power through and come up with a solution, because heck, when the going gets tough, the tough get going! You’ll realize that you have some crazy creative problem solving skills, ones that might end up being quite useful when you get home. Not to mention, travel will likely help you see the silver linings when things are rough. And we all know that optimism makes it a lot easier to overcome obstacles.
TRAVEL IS YOUR EVERYDAY EDUCATION
There’s a reason our friends over at Global Degree have created a program centered around travel. It allows you to experience new countries and cultures in a way that you would never be able to through just a textbook. There’s something special about experiencing things first hand, with the opportunity to touch, feel and taste that makes it all the more real. The things you see and the lessons you learn will go a long way in helping you succeed in your everyday life back home.
TRAVEL MEMORIES ARE THE BEST MEMORIES
One day, when you’re old, wrinkly and grey, you won’t care about the kind of car you drove or if your home was big or small. What will matter most and what you’ll hold dearest are the memories you made along the way. And I don’t know about you, but some of my best and most valuable memories are those made on my travels. I may not speak to the people I met anymore, and I may never visit those places again, but they will always hold a special place in my heart. One day, I’ll be able to share my stories and my memories with my family, and hopefully inspire them to seek out the world for themselves.
Travel is a unique experience for everyone. No one can predict the effect it will have on you, or how it may or may not change your life. The one thing I can promise is that there will be ups, and downs, and a lot of in-betweens. And more than anything else, I can promise you’ll never regret it. Because travel truly is an investment in yourself.
Koh Tao, Thailand. From the KOSAN archives.