There's obviously a lot to be said for education, but how much can you really learn about the world reading a book or sitting in a classroom? While formal education is important, it's not the be all end all of knowledge. You can learn a lot in other places too, like traveling. As someone who spent my entire 20s traveling extensively, I can tell you there was a lot of learning done that school and university most certainly didn't cover. Like, for instance, the best place to have sex in a hostel. Or how to bargain with restaurant owners for free wine.
The life lessons you gain from traveling aren't always frivolous, and some are as valuable as any math or english lesson you could possibly have. Because you can read and study for years, but until you see some things with your own eyes, or do them with your own body, you can't really understand them. Travel shifts your perspective and how you see the world around you in an invaluable way that will stay with you irrevocably. Here are some things you can learn from traveling that you can learn in books or a classroom.
1. What Other People's Lives Actually Look Like
You can look up other countries on the Internet and see, in pictures, what life looks like for other people. But you don't really see it until you're in it. I'm not saying you suddenly understand what it's like to walk in another person's shoes, but your empathy for other people, and your understanding that everyone has their own little world revolving around them and each is as important as yours, will become almost visceral when you're traveling.
2. How Big The World Really Is
In theory, we know the world is big. But we know it as a concept. Once you start physically moving into it you realize how big it actually is. When I was 15 I went overseas for the first time when my aunt and uncle took me on a business trip to the US from Australia. I remember flying in over LA at night, and being completely overwhelmed by the sprawling lights of the buildings below, and how they seemed to stretch into infinity. Every time you travel you witness the immensity of it all, and the smallness of your own life.
3. How To Be Self Sufficient
You might think you're pretty self sufficient, but until you're actually living day to day on quickly dwindling savings, having to find nightly accommodation, communicate with people who don't speak the same language as you, make friends, book and make flights and other travel arrangements, read maps and dodge trouble, you don't actually know exactly how to be self sufficient. Being out of your comfort zone really teaches you how to get things done for yourself.
4. How To Rely On Yourself
Going hand-in-hand with becoming self sufficient, travel teaches you how to rely on yourself. Sometimes all our planning doesn't work out when you're traveling. Flights are cancelled. Your things get stolen. Things just go wrong. And you learn that despite it all, you can rely on yourself. You really become your own best friend when you're traveling, and for comfort, or for laughs, you're the one that you turn to.
5. How To Communicate Effectively With Strangers
Being at home, in your bubble, you mostly communicate with people you know. Especially at school, at home, and in your social circles. Sometimes you speak to clerks at the store, or service industry people, but you're rarely forced into situations where you're, for instance, sleeping in a room with 15 strangers at a hostel. That's a whole different type of communication, because you need to create familiarity, as well as remaining pretty jovial most of the time. You'll learn patience, something you can't study in books.
6. How To Appreciate Your Life
We're told all the time to appreciate what we have. But in our own little world, it can be really easy to get caught up in banal, every day worries, and forget how great our little lives really are. Because travel is wonderful and fun and eye opening, but when you're doing it, you'll realize how actually lovely your home is, and how much you love everyone in it. There's no class that can make you have that feeling.