I don’t exactly remember when travelling became a way of life but I am glad it did. Growing up, most of the trips I took were to visit my aunts and uncles around the country and those too became less frequent as I grew older. The magic I daresay was rekindled when I joined AIESEC in college — An organization whose sole goal is to expose more people to different cultures to make them more tolerant of each other and in the process, reduce the hatred in the world.
I was not the one to get inspired by reading articles or browsing through pictures of a place. What really drew me in were the stories. Stories of my peers and friends in college: compelling and enchanting. I just wanted to be that storyteller. I wanted to be able to relate. I wanted to fit in. I wanted an audience. A very myopic and narcissistic reason to start.
Today, after finding my way through 35+ cities, 9 countries, 3 different continents and countless of experiences and friendships later, I have evolved as a person… well almost fully evolved I’d dare say! If I were to go back 8 years and meet my younger self, I would go as far as to say that I would not be able to relate to some of the thoughts that I carried as a 21 year old.
Here is how travel has shaped me as a person
It has made me malleable
I find it easier to adapt to situations because of the constant adjustments that I have had to make when travelling. I am now more mindful and accepting of the fact that something always goes wrong. It takes one little bad experience to throw your carefully planned trip into chaos. This happens a lot in real life as well. Life never goes according to plan. In fact forget life, your day tomorrow wont go according to your plans. Travelling has helped me build and strengthen this muscle over time. This also comes in real handy in my work life too — helps collaborate better with people from different backgrounds and be more sensitive to their views.
It has eradicated my fear of unknown
I have learned to trust more. When I travel, I have no choice but to surrender myself to the kindness of strangers in that country. Humans that way are very similar. Our cultures and values might differ but there are some core behavioral tendencies that transcend boundaries. Kindness is one of them.
I used to be scared not knowing what will happen but I have learnt to embrace the serendipity of it. I am more likely to walk into an unknown territory and come out winner rather than run away from it!
It has given me the ability to look at life from different vantage points
I have become more compassionate and less judgmental. It has forced me to think about my own culture. It has expanded my definition of what is right versus what is wrong. It has made me more tolerable towards different cultures, viewpoints, political beliefs, ideas and behaviors. It is easier for me to slip into the other person’s shoe and look at something from their view.
I have realized how privileged I am
College Degree — Check. Roof on top of my head — Check. Job I love — Check. Family and Friends to fall back on — Check. Access to clean drinking water — Check. I should be the last person to complain about anything. Thousands of people get up everyday wanting the life I have and the problems that it comes with.
If anything, travelling has shown me that I need to be grateful for everything I have. That my problems are very small compared to millions of other people in this world at any given time. These people are there everywhere you go, hustling hard and despite that, going to sleep hungry at night, on the streets. What then do I have to complain about? The hardness of my pillow? OR that the fan is not fast enough!
It has taught me about myself
I have experienced emotions that I didn’t know I had the ability to experience! I cannot even name some of emotions! That is how powerful travelling can be. It will take you through a wave of highs and lows, all in a matter of hours. I have often been surprised by how much I can push myself, continuously discovering new superpowers and limitations. For example, I accidentally found out that I was allergic to cats. This would not have happened if I had not made a road trip to my friend’s dorm and spent a couple of nights there with him and his cat. While many people travel to find themselves, I think travelling gives me a better perception of who I am back home, whether I like it or not.
I was a confused 21 year old and travelling showed me the way. It showed me the possibilities. It exposed me to the wonders of this world. It awed me with the good, bad and the ugly. Most of all, travelling gave me moments that took my breath away and in return, made me a story teller.