Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sites; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.
A gypsy is a nomadic individual, commonly described as free-spirited and unattached. Although you’re probably imagining Esmeralda from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, gypsies do still exist today, mostly populating parts of Europe. And although all people have basically adapted and changed to accept a new modern lifestyle, gypsies still remain true to their nomadic heritage. I have never met an individual that identifies as a gypsy, but I’ve met the other extreme: the homebody settler. These are the people who make a home and refuse to leave it or explore the rest of the world not because they’re unable financially or for other legitimate reasons, but because they simply don’t want to. Now, I’m a firm believer that traveling does a person good for many reasons. It broadens your horizons, you get to interact with people who may have different ideals, beliefs, cultures or lifestyles than what you’re used to, you can explore history firsthand and with your own eyes, you can physically separate yourself from the stress that awaits you at home — quite frankly, I can only think of seriously positive reasons to pack up and go elsewhere every once in a while. Perhaps I am entirely biased, being a self-proclaimed nomad in training, but how can you fully understand what is happening around the world if you’re only reading about it or hearing about it from others? There’s no better way to understand than to put yourself there!
There are plenty of lists out there about why you should travel, but there are a few key reasons I think are most important to highlight.
1. Traveling is a learning experience. The act of traveling outside of your comfort zone (metaphorically and literally) forces you to figure things out on your own. You can learn how to read a map, how public transportation works, how to manage your time between flights. You learn these things because you have to in that moment otherwise you might miss the next train! But you also get to learn in a broader way – learning how certain people live and how it differs, learning about the past, learning about world, regional, local issues, learning cultural differences and language. The world quickly becomes your classroom and -gasp!- you’re a willing, eager student now! When you travel away from home, you are opening your mind a little bit more each time and learning and changing all the time. Heck, you might find yourself jumping ship from ideas you once held firm simply because travel opened your mind to other opinions. Trust me, it happens!
2. Traveling is good for your health. How many times have you gone on vacation and never left the hotel room? Never? Exactly! When you go somewhere away from home, you’re much more likely to be active and constantly on the move. Sightseeing, hikes, walking around famous shopping centers for hours – all of these things keep you active, and when you’re excited about something, those good chemicals start flowing in your brain! We all know about the scary research about desk jobs and how harmful they can be to your health when you’re sitting for long periods of time, so use that as your excuse to pack your bags and get out for a while. Besides its positive effects on medical health, traveling can also do wonders for your mental health. Shred the stress, let down the barriers and accept the exciting act of adventuring. It’s liberating!
I expected my list of reasons to travel to be much longer than two reasons, but quite frankly, I think that’s plenty. We’re encouraged to travel a lot when we’re young, but I don’t think age matters. The only reason we’re told this is because when you’re young, you have less responsibilities and more free time. However, I don’t think it matters when you go so long as you do go. It’s never too late to learn and grow. There are no excuses that should permanently thwart your ability to travel. If you don’t have money, start saving. If you don’t have time, make time. If you don’t have a plan, get creative. If you’re not uncomfortable, you’re probably not growing. So don’t be afraid of having to bunk down in a hostel in Europe because those scary tales about hostels being gross, dingy and unsafe are all just that — tales! And even if you do wind up in a less than conventional situation, imagine how fun it’ll be to tell that story later on? We learn as we go, but if you’re standing still, you probably won’t learn as much. Just go. You’ll be glad you did.
I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.