If you’ve never travelled before, then it’s time to make the leap. Find something that excites you, ask around for advice, and book the trip. Conquer that pre-travel anxiety that always sits in the back of your mind, and get keen for your big trip away. But be warned; once you leave, you never come back.
Not all of you. Not completely, and definitely not the same as when you left.
Because the thing is, travelling changes you in ways that you could never imagine. It develops you as a person and changes the way you see the world, making you look at things in an entirely new light. You develop new and exciting aspects of yourself, while leaving behind the parts that you’ve grown out of. You experience things that you can never truly convey to others, but God knows you’re going to try. The endless pool of crazy stories you now have is usually an obvious giveaway that you’ve evolved, but even the subtle changes that you barely notice can end up being the most significant. The best sort of travel is the sort that sucks you in, tumbles you around, and spits out a better version of you on the other side.
If you’ve journeyed away before, you’ll know the feeling of discovering for weeks or even months after your trip, all the different things that just aren’t the same about yourself. Tastes, desires, hopes and ambitions, strongly held beliefs or just everyday habits: things as simple as what you like to eat each morning, as thrilling and personal as you’re sexual tastes, or as deep and complex as the way you define yourself. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last few years, it’s that nothing about you is immune to change. The experience of living overseas can be an incredible catalyst for transformation, especially when you’re open to the challenges and actively willing to journey beyond your comfort zone.
For me, some of my most significant personal change came as a result of living in Nigeria with my parents for 2 months back in 2014. We lived without running water or reliable electricity, washed our clothes by hand, and cooked our meals on a small gas stove. For things like bathing, cleaning and washing clothes, we pulled all the water we needed each day from a well outside and carried it into the house bucket by bucket. After living somewhere that can be considered 3rd world, I’ve never appreciated more the first world luxuries that I’m privileged to have.
Mind you, as a university lecturer, my dad is firmly middle class and doing decently well for himself. Due to the incredibly inadequate infrastructure, this is simply the situation that millions of Nigerians find themselves. Only the richest of families pay to install the sort of facilities that we take for granted in the majority of the western world. I still remember – and hope I never forget – the deep and pervasive shock I felt on that trip, and the way that all my previous everyday complaints seemed to melt away for good. Since then, I always do my best to recognise and appreciate how privileged I am to live the life that I do.
Such momentous experiences have an inevitable effect on your mindset, and the way you perceive the world around you. Things that you experience from then onwards suddenly seem slightly different to the way they always have; some things begin to draw your passion and become more important to you, while others just don’t hold your interest the way they used to. It’s a slight shift in the way you see things that can lead to totally new perspectives on concepts you’ve thought about a thousand times before.
It’s this change in perception that drives you start doing things differently. You might take shorter showers, be kinder to those around you, reevaluate entire friendships or relationships, or even begin to reexamine your beliefs on why we’re all here. It helps you see things as they really are, and in turn, decide how your life should be lived.
My experiences made me realise that there were things in my life that I was not OK with. I refused to accept them any longer, and started making changes that would lead to a life that I’d be happy to live. My change in mindset allowed me to appreciate a little more and complain a little less. It became easier to recognise and appreciate the blessings in my life, and in turn made me happier with what I had.
Of course, it’s important to acknowledge that it isn’t always all puppies and rainbows. Travel can be one of the most challenging things you’ll ever do. It’s hard, it’s exhausting, and it’s always really daunting. But even the tough bits are a crucial part of the experience. The occasional bouts of loneliness or homesickness, the exhaustion of sleeping in a different bed each night (none of which are your own), the pressure of trying to survive in a completely alien environment; it all helps you to expand your comfort zone, and in time, to grow as a person.
Admittedly, 2 weeks spent lounging by the hotel pool in a foreign country isn’t going to help you grow and develop much at all. I’m talking about immersing yourself in a culture and soaking up the experience as much as possible. For that, you have to be spontaneous and adventurous, push past your boundaries, and seek out experiences that you’d otherwise never have. It’s about making friends with the locals, and getting a true feel of what it’s like to live their lives. That’s the sort of travel that leaves you wondering how you could ever go back to living life the way you used to.
To top it all off, an epic trip like that usually leaves you with a serious case of the travel bug – but that’s a blog post all of its own.
For me, travel changed everything. It changed the way I perceive the world, helped me to let go of toxic friendships, and inspired me to refine my life goals. The transformations have been irreversible; I can never un-blow my own mind, and I would never want to. I took the red pill, and the reality has been extraordinary; revitalizing, eye opening, and extremely motivating. Travel changes you in ways that nothing else will, and it’s one of the most profound experiences you’ll personally ever go through.
Yeah, you might come back; but nothing will ever quite be the same again.