Foreign countries have so much to offer. In my own experience, traveling has been the most enriching, most exciting, and most enthralling adventure of my life, and I have been able to learn so much about the world. These lessons are some of the most important that can be gained from traveling, and it is definitely worth it.
1. Expand your comfort zone.
As young people, not many of us have had many opportunities to expand our comfort zones. We've grown up with the same people, in the same area while living with mom and dad, and we've grown used to it. Traveling, especially in foreign countries, pushes you outside that safe bubble and forces you to do things you normally wouldn't. When was the last time you talked to a complete stranger who didn't even speak the same language as you?
2. Gain cultural sensitivity.
Cultural sensitivity is a set of skills that enables you to learn about and get to know people who are different than you. This allows you to be able to serve people better within their communities. You'll be able to understand foreign lifestyles and respect them.
3. Gain perspective.
Along the same note as cultural sensitivity, traveling helps you gain a larger, cultural perspective. Living in the United States, we are very isolated from the rest of the world. You don't know just how small your perspective is until you witness firsthand the lifestyles of people across the world.
4. Independence and empowerment.
Being able to survive a trip to a city/country you've never been to can sometimes be difficult, especially if you can't communicate. So being able to do things on your own and succeed at them makes you feel so good. "Yes! I was able to navigate public transportation with little to no help!" Honestly, that really is an accomplishment.
5. Pushes educational boundaries.
I was never a fan of history in school. Who wants to read a book about some things some dead guys did some years ago? Then I visited other countries and realized how much history they have and was able to actually interact with historical places. It opened a whole world of culture and history to me, and now that's what I'm studying. Go figure.
6. Overcome language barriers.
I really didn't know anything about the languages of the countries I visited. Do not follow my terrible example and learn some basic conversational phrases before going abroad. Even learn an entire language! Did you know Europeans can speak three, four, even five languages? Broaden your verbal skills and you'll enrich your life.
7. Learn to live with less.
As you travel, you quickly learn about the meaning of the term "overpacking." You end up not needing certain clothes or shoes or even material things you carry in your bag. And that makes you learn to live with less when you aren't traveling. "Do I REALLY need that many pairs of jeans?"
8. And finally, the experiences (good and bad).
I'm not going to lie to you, you run into bad experiences when traveling. Take my trip to Paris. It was 95 degrees, public transportation had no air conditioning, half the subway was under construction and I nearly passed out in front of the Mona Lisa. That being said, you'll also have amazing moments, like having breakfast in a small French cafe while the waitresses jam to Michael Jackson or riding in a taxi in Dublin while your driver tells you how he proposed to his wife after five weeks and they've been married for 34 years. You learn from the bad experiences, but they make you cherish the little, amazing ones even more.
Originally published January 26, 2016.