Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of traversing the globe.
From European adventures and student exchanges in high school, to working overseas in college, to countless family vacations and a recent trip to Southeast Asia. The one thing I can’t help but notice on every trip I go on, is how much I learn. I was a person that could care less in world history class, I couldn’t sit still in math, and I never understood why school didn’t teach me things I could actually use.
Traveling taught me the practical side of the things I learned in school. It taught me what it’s actually like to experience the cultures and history you read about in books. And how much you can actually learn about life, people, culture and the world when you leave the comfort of your own home.
I don’t have time for this! (OK, maybe I do)
If there’s one thing traveling has taught me over the years, it’s patience. Not everything goes as planned when you’re traveling in another area of the world. The way of life can be very different from your own. Growing up in a country like Canada, you’re immune to complaining when something isn’t to the high standards you grew up around. Traveling has taught me the “stop and smell the roses” attitude that I thought I possessed back home, but didn’t.
I was recently in a restaurant in Chiang Mai, Thailand and the service was a bit slow. I then realized this entire restaurant was run by one woman. She was the cook, waitress, hostess and bartender. Instead of complaining like you would in a restaurant in Canada, you learn to just embrace it. To embrace the experience. Learning to have an open mind and being patient when things don’t go entirely as planned is something that I learned while traveling. Almost more than patience, traveling has given me greater perspective.
You mean you don’t speak English?
Growing up in Canada, you don’t really get forced to learn other languages; most of us can’t even speak both English and French. And then you visit countries in Europe where they have six different languages on the roster. We are lucky enough that English is a universal language, but not everyone in this world is proficient in English, just like we’re not proficient in their native tongue. So when put in a situation where you need to communicate with someone who can’t speak English, what are you going to do?
Learning how to get over the language barrier and communicating with others was a huge stepping stone for me. After working overseas with kids in Spain who only spoke Spanish and a little bit of English, you have to figure out another way to communicate. I once even had a full conversation with a lady in Italy who didn’t speak a morsel of English. Why is this skill so important? It pushes you outside your comfort zone and forces you to problem solve and think on your feet. You’ll soon learn that language isn’t really a barrier after all, and communicating and connecting through other ways is surprisingly way easier than you’d imagine.
What is this monopoly money?
I’m just terrible at math. Yet every time I visit a new country I’m forced to figure out some sort of foreign currency conversion.
The funny thing is, the school system seems to teach you how important it is to calculate the angle of a triangle, but not how to get by with other currencies. Yet being a traveler, this is probably one of the most important things. How do you make sure you don’t accidentally give someone $100 instead of $10? How do you tip in different countries? What are the taxes in different countries, if there are any? Quick learning and adapting in each new place I have traveled has been crucial and a way different sense of difficulty than any math class I’ve ever been in.
#YOLO (Yes, I did just say that)
Visiting a foreign country, you are more than likely going to find yourself in culture shock and out of your comfort zone. Every place I’ve ever visited has left me with this feeling. It is basically impossible to find something that is most comfortable to you (unless you plan on sitting in your hotel room or on the resort the whole time you’re away). But learning to actually accept this is when you will learn to not only truly enjoy the country you’re visiting, but also enjoy your own life, long after your travels.
Traveling taught me to burst out of my comfort zone, place me in unfamiliar and uncomfortable situations, and at the end of the day, learn to accept it and just go-with-the-flow. Recently traveling in Asia, about 95% of the time we had no idea what was going on. We’d get directed on buses arriving at the pier and we would just hope that we would end up at our hostel. Not having control of the situation would normally give me anxiety at home, but learning to let go was the best thing I’ve ever done overseas. Stop trying to control the situation and just go with it. No textbook can teach you this like travel.
So my words of wisdom for everyone—travel! Even if you don’t have the money, find it. Stop making up excuses, and start opening your eyes to the world beyond the textbook.
Photos courtesy of Unsplash
*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.