11 Ways That Travel Can Change Your Life

Candice Gaukel Andrews May 6, 2014 22
Antarctica ice

Surprisingly, a recent trip to Antarctica inspired me to finally do something about my desire to learn Spanish. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

I recently signed up for Spanish lessons. I’ve been meaning to study Spanish for almost thirty years now, but for some reason, it was always one of those things that fell to the bottom of my priority list.

That is, until now. My enrollment in the class was inspired by a trip to Antarctica in March. I traveled to the White Continent by way of Argentina, and it was there — surrounded by Spanish-speaking people — that I was reminded of that long-lost dream to expand my language skills.

I have no plans, at the moment, to travel to any other Spanish-speaking nation. Yet, I still signed up for the lessons. That fact makes me think that travel has a way of affecting our lives — not only while we’re on the trips or when we’re talking about them when we get back — in ways that are far more subtle and long-lasting than we often initially realize.

So, I came up with a list of eleven ways that I think travel can positively affect your life, long after you return home. See if you agree with me, and then let me know what you think I left out of the list:

Zebras in Africa

Some travel traditions are big and grand. ©Eric Rock

1) You ignite your passion for learning. In my case, a trip to Antarctica was the impetus I needed to finally sign up for learning another language. You might find that a cruise to the Galápagos motivates you to become more adept at snorkeling or that a paddling trip in Portugal fires a desire to improve your kayaking competence.

2) You become more inventive. One of the best tips I ever learned was from a guide, who showed me that outdoor gear doesn’t have to be expensive to work well. Lining your backpack with a plastic garbage bag keeps your things super dry in the event of a rainstorm. While there’s no doubt that dry sacks are awesome, in a pinch a garbage bag does the trick — and it’s lightweight and cheap, to boot.

3) You expand your palate. Once, on a tour to Greenland, I visited an Inuit community and happily agreed to taste the traditional foods offered, including raw whale blubber, dried cod, and simmered seal stew. Although you may not politically agree with my choice to partake, it certainly did give me a taste —literally and figuratively — for Greenland’s native culture.

4) You exercise your imagination. One of the best things about embarking on a travel adventure is that you can shed your familiar skin for a while and pretend to be anything you want to be — before you take a drastic and permanent step. It’s fun to engage in a game of: Who would I be if I lived there?

5) You begin to see people in a multidimensional way. Upon meeting someone new, we usually try to find out two salient facts about the person within the first thirty seconds of being introduced: his or her name and what he or she does for a living. That defines who a person is for most of us. But on a trip to New Zealand a few years ago, I learned that the Maori would ask five questions of the people they newly met. While finding out a person’s name was one of the five, asking an individual what his or her occupation was didn’t even number in the count. After your name, the Maori wanted to know what’s your mountain, what your river is, who is your grandmother, and — perhaps most important of all — what is your canoe.

6) You grow your family traditions. By taking us out of our ordinary settings and routines, travel has a way of connecting generations by placing people together on new, neutral grounds. Some travel traditions are born big and grand, such as when a couple goes on an African safari for a honeymoon and then decides to celebrate each wedding anniversary with the same kind of expedition. Other traditions wind up on the smaller side, such as visiting a national park every year.

Yellowstone bison

Only a song had the power to move Montana bison. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

7) You gain a tolerance for uncertainty. When you travel, things don’t always go as planned. Placing yourself in such situations helps you learn to cope with the uncertainties in life. And we all know there is no shortage of those.

8) You find your philanthropic side. When all you ever experience is your neighborhood or city, it’s easy to forget that there’s a big world out there. Travel opens your eyes to what’s happening in other places and how those events could eventually affect you in your hometown, too. Helping those in need across the planet and saving places never seen takes on urgency and a personal meaning.

9) You get a bigger brain. Travel typically involves walking of some kind, whether it’s through museums or out on the trail. Research has shown that hiking or walking grows brains. Typically, your hippocampus gets smaller once you hit your mid fifties, leading to memory loss. But a group of middle-aged adults that took three, forty-minute walks a week for a year grew their hippocampi, on average, by 2 percent, which could improve their retention for years.

10) You realize nonhuman animals are smarter than you thought. Wildlife travel tours provide many “teaching moments,” but the lessons that seem to stick with us the most are our own observations of the intelligent behavior displayed by beings other than ourselves.

11) You come to believe in the power of song. Sometimes, only the right words set to music can convince a bison to return to its ancestral lands.

And that just might be the most profound travel change of all.

How has a travel experience changed your life? Let me know, below.

Here’s to finding your true places and natural habitats,

Candy

22 Comments »

  1. Allison of ZenMonkees.com May 6, 2014 at 5:48 am - Reply

    It’s true, travel changes you in ways you wouldn’t ever expect. I recently spent time on a cooperative farm, and while I learned about farming (like I expected) I also learned about meditation, how to make friends and how to appreciate bugs. There were LOTS of bugs:)
    Thanks for sharing this!

  2. Marti Visser May 7, 2014 at 3:37 am - Reply

    Hmm.. travel has made me appreciate
    living in Africa. It’s always good to come home, to our culturally diverse society, awesome climate, and being able to take a two hour drive to see lions and elephants that are not caged in zoos

  3. Stephen Russell May 7, 2014 at 6:29 am - Reply

    Meet new friends, dates or future spouses
    Explore like areas
    Change thinking.
    Open ones Mind to the Possible.
    Imagine When & How.

    Yes all from Travel

  4. Janos Borbely May 7, 2014 at 10:33 am - Reply

    I have seen an article yesterday – I’ll post the link if I find it again – about the danger tourism pose to Rhinos due to the fact that many tourists post their pictures taken from Rhinos on various social media platform together with the GEO tag. Than poachers, there are many who specialized on searching such images, can quite easily track down the Rhinos based on the GEO tag delivered by the nice holiday images. So in more and more places national park management explicitly ask their visitors to remove GEO tags from their images before posting them. This is just an example how travel can influence the life of nonhuman animals we visit. The other side of the coin…

    • Candice Gaukel Andrews May 7, 2014 at 10:36 am - Reply

      Janos,

      Interesting point and good travel tip; thanks for reminding us.

      — C.G.A.

  5. Travis May 7, 2014 at 11:52 am - Reply

    I’m definitely a fan of 3 & 7.

  6. Charlene Talcott May 7, 2014 at 2:09 pm - Reply

    Travel also makes you more tolerant of immigrants to our country. My conservative sister and I were fortunate to spend a week in Rome. Even though we knew some rudimentary tourist Italian, it was much easier to converse with each other in English. I think that experience made her much more tolerant of people speaking languages other than English in the US, and of those wanting to follow their traditional attire and ways while here.

  7. Carly May 7, 2014 at 4:40 pm - Reply

    Traveling has calibrated my passions to a sense of direction. Before my travels I wanted to go to grad school and study something.. Now I know where to go and what I want to research. :)

  8. Judy Tipton May 8, 2014 at 6:05 am - Reply

    Excellent topic for conversation. I would say traveling makes me more connected with the moments of my life. My typical daily routine seems to pass by without much significance, but when traveling the new sights, sounds and smells heighten my awareness of my own life.

  9. Oratile Mothibedi May 8, 2014 at 6:06 am - Reply

    it changes how you have been perceiving things,one can now see things in the way people see them.you can look back and smile

  10. Immaculate Chioma May 8, 2014 at 6:07 am - Reply

    To me travelling has brought a lot of fun in my life, as i naturally like to travel. also i tend to know new place, meet new people and make a lot of friends….. Travelling definitely has turned me from being a shybird to become a bold one

  11. Brenda May 8, 2014 at 10:00 am - Reply

    it strengthens my commitment to wildlife conservation.

  12. Queila Gomes May 11, 2014 at 4:32 pm - Reply

    my view point “you’re more careful at what you know better”. Therefore if I had an opportunity to travel and to see the interaction of the fauna e flora in different places and how rich is the biodiversity there so I’m sure that an experience of travelling can influence my life positively and it would help to understand more environmental-issues improving my conception of conservation.

  13. Valerie Brookes May 11, 2014 at 4:36 pm - Reply

    I think travelling is something you take to or not. For me, I love travelling. It is an opportunity to see new culture and ways of life. When you see what little others have, yet how happy and contented they seem to be, it just makes me think that a simpler life may be better. Children seem to be a lot happier with a lot less! It broadens peoples knowledge and understanding, and not to mention the friends one makes whilst travelling. It generally makes you a better person, I recommend everyone at least give it a try, if nothing else it makes you appreciate what you have at home (in particular if you are from a western country)

  14. Lloyd Wedes May 11, 2014 at 4:40 pm - Reply

    Candice:

    “Today, the United States is facing what some have described as an epidemic: the loss of the adventurous childhood. According to a recent annual report from the Outdoor Foundation, youth participation in outside activities has declined for three straight years. Many of the respondents surveyed for the report cited a lack of time or a lack of interest for choosing to go outdoors to recreate.”

    Yes, the adventurous childhood, to recreate and re-create. To be out in nature and have that situational awareness of the environment and topography as opposed to, as Bukowski wrote, people traveling half way around the world and never going beyond their vest pocket.

    Thanks for including the article you wrote.

  15. Nellyattar May 14, 2014 at 5:52 am - Reply

    It has made me embrace life, and definitely has helped boost my resiliency :).

  16. Kate Blackwell May 14, 2014 at 3:10 pm - Reply

    Studying abroad in New Zealand my junior year set my path in marine biology, along with opening my eyes to the many differences between the USA and other countries in the world, especially when tackling issues like conservation.

  17. Juan Claudio Morel May 15, 2014 at 3:36 pm - Reply

    You’ll find our way of speaking Spanish, something different than usual in Mexico and Central America. Many words are spelled the same but have different meaning, or are pronounced differently. Our Spanish accent has traces of Italian immigration and thus has a slightly higher pitch and much faster in ordinary conversation. Surely you know the end of the continental Patagonia at the southernmost city in the world that is Ushuahia The word Ushuaia comes from the Yagan language: ush (‘the fund’) and waia (‘bay’ or ‘creek’) and means’ deep bay or bay to the bottom ‘in Spanish pronunciation sounds the “H” in Spanish is always a silent letter. You ‘ll be in love with the place and you can be sure you always want to return (people from Ushuahia says). I hope you enjoy this part of the world, much as We the peopleo who we ´re living here. Bon voyage and enjoy it

  18. Jaime Ladd June 4, 2014 at 10:06 am - Reply

    Appreciation. As one travels extensively, you begin to realize how fortunate you are and how often we take the little things for granted. I remember traveling through Poland, I was both saddened and impressed that a community could come together and make a “home” out of a sewage tunnel. I never walk past a street drain and forget about what I witnessed. For me, travel puts things into perspective quickly. My “bad days” are laugable when I think of all those I came across in my traveling abroad. A bad day for some of us is our car breaking down, a loss of a job, a missed flight, the photographer not showing up for our wedding day. On the other hand, a bad day for a lot of people is not being able to find fresh drinking water that day, being attacked by a neighboring tribe, having your governement force you into unlivable conditions or dodging bombs. I have learned to appreciate what I have moreso because I have traveled.

  19. Sara Judge July 17, 2014 at 7:23 pm - Reply

    For me, it really puts things into perspective…the world is much bigger than your own backyard.

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