I remember my first solo trip abroad like it was yesterday. I sat down in my window seat and couldn’t shake the thought that “there’s no turning back now”. I didn’t know whether to be more excited or nervous about that. All I could do was stare out the window and dream about how different the other side of the world was going to be when in reality I had no idea how different it was going to make me. I had spent hours upon hours researching all the places I wanted to explore in Australia but research did not prepare me for what is actually out there. The world is not on the internet or school textbooks or in the stories your grandmother shares of her travels back in the day or in the photos your friends post on Instagram. The world is out there, all its oceans, rigid mountain tops, villages, and cities.
I believe one of the biggest reasons we travel is to be tested in unfamiliar circumstances, to cure ourselves of curiosity, and to be completely ripped open to reveal our truest selves. Throughout my journey, I have learned that the world is the greatest teacher of them all. When you are ripped from your ordinary surroundings such as your closet full of your clothes, your kitchen full of your food, your family and friends—that is when you are forced to change. Removal of your comfort zone forces you to grow.
Experiences that involve interacting with people from different cultures and getting out of your social comfort zone has proven to strengthen a persons sense of self. Culture shock is not uncommon for travelers to experience. Culture shock allows you to learn how to survive periods of unfamiliarity, uncomfortable moments, loneliness, vulnerability and it allows us to grow and realize what we’re truly capable of. Once we become a bit more comfortable with the new surroundings, we open our eyes to all the good in the world and the similarity between two different cultures. The world seems to become a bit more kind, open, and welcoming. It becomes a little easier to breathe and you completely transform into a better you.
Being in a new country forces us to experience five completely different senses. Each of our senses transmits information about the world to our minds which make these senses important to the growth of our creativity and understanding of the world we live in. This makes traveling important for us to understand who we are, where we came from and where we want to go.
So, whether you’re trying to navigate your way through a confusing city or trying to order lunch off a menu you can’t read, the new and unusual situations you will come across while traveling are going to open and change your mind in ways you didn’t know possible. Sometimes you won’t realize how much you’ve changed until your back home in your childhood bedroom, looking down at a backpack full of journals, books and a big backpack of dirty clothes begging to be washed. There may be times you’ll wake up in the middle of the night with tears in your eyes, missing the sound of a crackling warm fire just outside your tent. There may be times when you take a sip of wine and it will almost taste like that night spent sitting around a tiny table with new friends in Italy. Maybe you’ll wake up one morning, for work or for school, and you’ll get up to watch the sunrise. The colors in the sky won’t be the same as you remember but they will still be beautiful. You may look down to the mosquito bites that have scarred upon your leg, the foreign coins you forget to take out of your wallet, or the ripped pages from your journal scattered around your room and realize that these stories have become a part of you. They will always be there to remind you of how far you’ve come and just how far you’re going to go.