One convicting quote states, “Great things never came from comfort zones.” Travelling is one avenue where comfort may not necessarily be present, but it is times when people learn about themselves in unfamiliar settings, challenge their deep-rooted worldviews, submerge themselves into the unknown and cognitively, spiritually and emotionally stretch their understanding of the world.
Millions of people cross international borders every year, whether with a purpose to engage in business matters or with a mere intention to explore the world and participate in tourist activities. At the end of each trip, there is always something that they acquire, they learn, they reflect on—and I am not referring to tangible things like souvenirs or services like spa and shopping—but that takeaway is always something more profound and incorporeal.
One of the main benefits of traveling abroad is learning about oneself and one’s ability to function in unfamiliar environments and dealing with various unpredictable situations. From packing to managing airports to navigating unknown streets and places, all of it requires carefulness, responsibility, flexibility, vigilance and resilience.
For example, fairly recently a group of six Honors College students traveled to Cambodia and Thailand on a vision trip where they learned how to be culturally astute while utilizing transportation and crossing the streets since motorbike thieves are quite prevalent in Cambodia. With all challenges a person encounters along the way, issues he/she needs to quickly think through and decisions he/she needs to make, one learns how to be a smart traveler.
Sometimes they are learning from their mistakes, but even on a larger scale, such as activities that develop and strengthen their character and ability to deal with future, similar situations. Skills that one acquires from navigation, time management, being responsible and flexible are transient and applicable to other aspects of life, including college and professional career.
In addition to the aforementioned benefit, another advantage of international travel is stretching and challenging one’s worldview. Sometimes individuals do not realize how many different ways of life exist, conditions people live in around the world, traditions and customs people preserve from one generation to another. The door to all of this opens when a person steps outside of his/her own worldview and travels abroad to experience and submerge into another culture firsthand.
Even the way one thinks about some of the global issues such as poverty, world hunger, modern-day slavery, poor infrastructure and lack of education slowly shifts due to actual physical experiences, even if for a brief period of time. Challenging one’s worldview also opens the gates to various ways of thinking, decision-making, strategizing and processing, which subsequently adds to one’s wealth of knowledge. As an example, an honors pre-med student traveling to a third-world country on a mission trip may find a sharp contrast between first-world and third-world countries’ health-care systems, which in turn will equip him/her with the knowledge and cultural experience before becoming a global doctor.
College years are the most suitable time to travel and experience it while having the opportunity. Before climbing one’s career ladder and mapping out significant life plans, travelling while young provides students with an incomparable gateway to explore, learn and experience the world.
Whether it is traveling through a formal study abroad program, signing up for a mission or vision trip, or traveling with family and friends for leisure, such experiences open one’s eyes and minds and sometimes incentivize and prepare individuals for something grander and cause-worthy. It also equips travelers with a competitive advantage when making movement in one’s career as a plethora of employers currently looking for candidates who are well-rounded, culturally sensitive and globally experienced. Even though traveling may be challenging and at times uncomfortable, it often leads to something greater and fulfilling.
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