Stories of tourists getting mugged, swindled, and even killed have deterred many from traveling. Some people never venture out of their country in fear they’d encounter the worst. This year, people have been forced to stay put in their homes, seeing nothing but the same walls in their rooms and the same square feet of their backyards. Because of this, more of us now appreciate the freedom of movement.
The ability to go anywhere is something many of us have taken for granted. Only when there’s a threat to our unrestricted movement is it appreciated. People facing charges are then willing to post high bail bonds to continue to enjoy their freedom to move. Sick people confined to their beds promise to venture out of their homes once cured. And nationalities restricted to travel because of border controls to control the COVID-19 pandemic wait impatiently to book the next flight once restrictions are lifted.
Americans have been privileged to hold a passport that could enter most countries globally without getting a visa. It’s a waste not to use this opportunity that many citizens of other countries don’t have. Looking beyond the dangers of traveling, the experiences will transform you and make your life more meaningful.
Widen your perspectives and learn to empathize
When you get to other places, you see how the people there live, their values, and cultures that could differ from yours. Even the concepts of beauty, shame, and achievement could be different across different cultures. Although you don’t have to change your ideas, at least these experiences will allow you to understand why people coming from these countries act or decide the way they do. You get to appreciate the different contexts each individual you meet comes from.
Hopefully, this could translate to your relationships and dealings with the people in your hometown. It teaches you how to empathize with a waiter who is trying hard to keep up with orders in a full restaurant, so when your drinks have been mixed up, you don’t blow your fuse. You would also stop yelling at cleaners who forget to put fresh towels in your bathroom rack.
Appreciate your time on earth
When you visit places whose history is older than your grandparents, you realize that those lives that had walked those halls and streets have passed. And in the future, you will be among them, and other people will be going through those passages. It makes you appreciate the present more.
Understand your privileges
Seeing how people live in other countries could make you reflect on the things you take for granted. There are places where fresh running water is just a dream. There are places where fresh vegetables are rare, if not impossible, to have. There are also countries where citizens could not freely talk about their opinions, always careful of topics they could speak about in public.
These experiences could also help you get rid of needless concerns. When you realize that the world is not just about you and other graver concerns, trivial things bother you less.
It’s unfortunate that people who only get to observe these circumstances from the comfort of their homes, watching the TV or seeing these online, mock them. People who never had to struggle for water could not understand why some locals would not bathe every day, why their surroundings could get grimy. Uninformed individuals who never had to suffer political repression accuse a country’s populace of being stupid for electing an incapable leader.
You get to know your real self
When you travel, you go out of your comfort zone. Even if you book the most luxurious hotels and go around the streets in a chauffeured limo, at the end of the day, your environment is not the one you’re used to and have control over. You could encounter problems like losing your wallet or getting lost. How you deal with these problems and react during crucial moments will tell you a great deal about yourself.
Some people intentionally travel alone, so they are forced to interact beyond their usual circle of friends. Even if it’s to ask for directions, buy a meal, or ask for tour recommendations when you travel, you need to talk to people. This is a good experience for those who are socially awkward. They wouldn’t have to worry that they’d make a mistake because they wouldn’t likely see the same people again.
The fear of exploring beyond the familiar is something that we should overcome. This fear is very limiting, stopping us from becoming the full persons we potentially could be. Look at traveling as a form of education that is not confined to the walls of an academic institution. It’s a lot more fun and a lot more gratifying.