It’s 2:30pm in Berlin, Germany and I am currently waiting to board my flight to Barcelona, Spain. Today marks the halfway point of my 2-week adventure around rather arbitrarily selected cities in Europe. As I sit here I can’t help but be humbled by the impact that this trip and others will have on my life. I’ll go as far as saying that traveling has, and will continue to fundamentally change who I am. This summer I have had the good fortune of being able to travel and see 7 countries in 3 different continents. What I have learned from my travels can’t possibly be summated in text but I’ll give it the old college try.
When you travel (in particular, by yourself) you are forced to be resourceful, understanding, brave and charismatic.
The sheer logistics of travel can thwart even the most organized of us. Whether its navigating foreign airports, being effectively a deaf mute in countries where you don’t speak the language or searching for economical means of transit and the accompanying directions to your destinations, travel requires you to think on your feet to figure stuff out. I find it particularly fun and exciting to travel without the use of cellular data coverage. As much as I rely on my cell phone back home it’s nice to see what I can accomplish with physical maps and broken English.
Through traveling you gain a vast understanding for the world around us. The more I travel the more I learn about culture and history and consequently i am provoked to be curious about the rest of the world.
The proverbial saying “take the leap” is exemplified through travel in several ways. First, when you travel by yourself you should make every effort you can to take candy from strangers. Well… at least introduce yourself to strangers and then maybe take their candy. I find it heart warming that people all over the world, who are complete strangers, can start conversations that might eventually flourish as life long friendships. Second, when you travel you should take it upon yourself to step out of your comfort zone (with adequate calculation of risk to human health of course). I have found that there are ways to be a tourist without being a “tourist.” While I do concede that there are many important historic landmarks that are worth seeing, it is a very rewarding experience to get “off the beaten path” and go to late night street markets or mingle with the locals and live a day in their shoes.
Human beings are social creatures through and through. In life, the ability to be charismatic simply opens doors. Whether its bartering for lower purchasing prices, approaching girls with clever (and very often unsuccessful) ice breakers, or even simply asking someone for directions, these same skills apply to job interviews, client/patient/etc conversations in the workplace and the like.
I think above all else, travel reveals your true character on a number of fronts. I have travelled recently with classmates and friends who I consider honest, kind hearted and genuinely good people and yet these qualities seem to be left at home when travelling abroad. I find it particularly amusing when my friends become frustrated to the point of sheer arrogance and rudeness when foreigners cannot understand their (often awful) use of their own mother tongue, the English language. Rather than being patient and thinking of alternative ways to dictate, they would sooner resort to yelling, as if the increased volume of their voice will yield greater translation. Also, I have on numerous occasions caught myself or my friends doing the exact same things that we criticize foreigners for doing back in Canada, such as walking in large groups and blocking walkways, acting in ways that are socially and culturally acceptable in our own country but not in the one we are visiting, the list goes on.
My humble advice is to constantly exercise patience and really take time to think about situations that are frustrating you when travelling. You will learn a lot by doing this. Take calculated risks and try to become a local in every capacity possible. Take “reps” in approaching strangers and starting harmless conversations. It’s a beautiful world out there, go out and see it.