I'm fortunate to have grown up with a family that loved to travel. By age 25, I'd been to 30 countries, so it's safe to say my lust for wandering has been cemented for life. My travels, of course, brought with them a lot of fun and memories, but they also taught me an incredibly important lesson I wouldn't have gotten anywhere else: travel is the best education you can get.
Now, full disclosure, I'm currently in graduate school, so I definitely advocate formal education at all levels, but I also firmly believe there are just some things you cannot learn in the classroom. I'm not going to lie, I've stayed in some nice places and enjoyed the more luxurious side that can often accompany travel, but in addition to lunching at Parisian cafes or relaxing on white sand beaches, I've also worked at an elephant conservation camp in Thailand, witnessed a riot in a third world country, and spent a day cooking with a Berber family in their two-room home in the Atlas Mountains. Travel has introduced me to other cultures, humbled me, and taught me things that would never be as profound out of a book (and I'm a writer, so obviously, I love words). Ready to book a trip, yet? Here are 12 reasons why traveling is the best education you can get.
1. You'll Learn About Other Cultures
Immersing yourself in another culture, whether foreign or even just in the U.S. (anyone will tell you — the East Coast is way different than the West Coast), is the best way to get to know what it's all about. What people wear, how they talk, the pace of life, the cultural norms, the local cuisine... it's something you have to experience firsthand to get a sense for what another culture is like. Speaking of eating...
NYC may boast world-class restaurants, but you'll never find fried chicken like you can in the south. You can pretty much get anything anywhere in this day and age, but regional cuisines are always more authentic when you're actually in the locale. And taste aside, you can learn a lot about a culture and how it differs from your own by what people eat on a daily basis. Expanding your palate definitely expands your mind.
3. You'll See Historical Monuments
Reading about The Colosseum and Notre Dame is cool and all, but seeing them in person? A whole different ball game.
4. You'll Visit World-Famous Museums
The same applies here. The Mona Lisa and those Renoir paintings are far more spectacular in person. But big name museums of the world aside, most cities have their own museums where you can learn about the town's history and culture.
5. You'll Pick Up A Foreign Language
After studying a language in school, the best way to bypass conversational and move towards fluent is by putting it into practice with native speakers. But even if you haven't studied a language before, traveling will force you to pick up certain words and phrases from other languages.
6. It Will Challenge You
An education isn't just about knowledge and facts. There's an emotional education travel can give you as well. As exhilarating as it is, being in a new place with different surroundings and out of your routine can be unsettling — throw in not speaking the same language, and it's even more stressful. From getting lost, to having difficulty communicating, to not knowing people around you, or even just not knowing where to go for a meal, traveling will most definitely take you out of your comfort zone, on a big or small scale.
7. You'll Have Adventures
Whether you're petting tigers in Thailand, riding camels in the desert, or spending a night out on New Orleans' Bourbon Street, travel calls for adventure and spontaneity, and forces you to try things you never have before.
8. You'll Meet New People
Meeting people and learning about them is an education in and of itself — and who better to give you inside scoop about a foreign city than a local? Not to mention, having connections, no matter where they are in the world, is more important than ever right now. You never know where they could lead, and if nothing else, you could gain a friend or two.
9. You'll Learn About Your Traveling Companions
The best way to get to know someone? Travel with them. Even if you think you already know them inside out, spending 24/7 with another person in a foreign setting is definitely eye-opening.
10. You'll Learn About Yourself
I always say I'm never the same person after a trip than I was when I left. Stepping away from your day-to-day routine can give you perspective, and can release you from that bubble we sometimes cage ourselves in. I've made huge decisions while traveling, from deciding where to go to graduate school to realizing it was time to move to a new city. Nothing forces you to be introspective like putting yourself in an unfamiliar location.
11. It'll Humble You
There's a great big world out there, and your problems and grievances probably won't seem as big after seeing more of it. Traveling can also help motivate you, and to help you remember that as much as we love where we're from, there's always more out there to see.
12. Speaking Of Where You're From...
Oh, it's totally cheesy, but coming home can be just as rewarding as taking the trip itself. Going away can remind you of just what's important to you, and of everything you left behind and missed.