So last week I wrote a post about how travel can be really difficult. But, as we all (should have) learned in kindergarten, just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing. In fact, many hard things are more rewarding and satisfying than the easy things in life.
So here are five reasons that travel, despite being hard, is something worth pursuing in life.
1. Learning about how the world works makes us more interesting
I don’t know about you, but I want to be an interesting person. It makes me more likable, more employable, and more friendly. It also makes me more likable to myself. I definitely want to like myself. Interesting people, I think, are always thinking or living. They read, they mull over new ideas, they are informed of current events, they try new foods, and they travel with wide eyes and open minds. They are interested in learning and how to apply that learning to their own lives.
Travel, when done right, is messy and frustrating and authentic. It gets us up close and personal with the world, coating our shoes in dust a million miles from home and showing us just how much we can experience. These experiences should shape us (over time, not overnight) and make us realize the world is an interesting place. Only boring people are bored, as many parents tell whiny children. And as we find ourselves interested in the great, wide world, we become interesting.
2. Learning about people teaches us how much we can love
When my first brother was born, I was a jealous two-year-old. Actually, I was dangerously jealous of my preemie newborn brother. My mom had to routinely remind me that she didn’t love me any less just because there was a new baby in the house. She would pull me on her lap and stare at me with bleary eyes, worried over my brother’s fragile health, and tell me, “I love you as much as I possibly can. And I love him as much as I possibly can. A new baby doesn’t take my love from you, it makes my heart even bigger. It gives me more love to share with everybody. Because of him, I love you even more.”
At the time, I didn’t believe her. I might have bitten his fingers. Maybe. But now I understand what she was trying to tell me, and I believe it’s true for everyone. Having more people in your family, or knowing more people in your life, doesn’t divide love. It doesn’t even add it. If my mom is correct, love doesn’t grow proportionally to the number of people. It multiplies love. Making friends in other countries makes our hearts bigger. Seeing families in a different culture fight and love, just like ours do, shows us how people aren’t that different from one another. And neither is love, no matter what world you’re from.
In fact, watching other cultures doesn’t just help us love more, I believe it can help us love better. Each culture has methods of expressing love that we can learn from. And different familial or social relationships can demonstrate how to act lovingly in a situation in our own country that is unusual or uncomfortable. For example, in the United States it is uncommon for 20- and 30-year-olds to live with their parents. Arguments over boundaries and independence occur even in close families if they do live together. But in Nicaragua and parts of Europe, it is normal to live with your parents until you’re having your own children. Because this is normal in Nicaragua and Italy, families have worked out methods for adults living under the same roofs. I’m sure there is still discord and strife at times, but it is a much more peaceful coexistence that in the United States.
3. Learning how big the world is puts us in our place
I read once that humans believe they are the center of the universe for 20 years, and it takes another 20 for them to stop acting like it. Humans tend to have pretty big egos. I don’t know if you’ve noticed. Most of the time, I kinda think I’m something special. And I bet you do, too. We are special, yes, but (and I hate to break your bubble) we’re not the be-all-end-all. Traveling jerks us from our comfort zones and bubbles of narcissism and shows us whole other societies, social strati, cities, and ways of doing things. Going to Ireland showed me how big the world really is. Nicaragua showed my how limited my life and language skills were. Spending time where no one knows your name, your accomplishments, or how wonderful you are reminds us all of every human’s equal inherent worth.
4. Learning about the world shows us how privileged we are
It’s easy to talk about how much money Americans have. And how much of the world’s resources we gobble each year. I understand. We’re privileged financially and economically. Very few Americans go to bed hungry at night compared to the billions in the rest of the world that do. We’re the last superpower of the 20th century. But many of us, no matter where we’re from, are privileged in other ways also.
In Nicaragua I learned how blessed I was to have a father that valued education in his daughters. I have never had to fight my father to learn how to read. Or graduate high school. My family would intervene (if possible) if I wound up in an abusive relationship.
In Belize and Mexico I learned how blessed I was to have a government that subsidized flooding insurance and prepared for hurricanes. As frustrated as Americans become when thinking of their government, currently it isn’t as nearly corrupt as Mexico’s and is better educated than Belize.
In Italy I learned to be grateful for my government, even judges and presidents that I disagree with.
In Ireland I learned to appreciate the 100-degree summers and the blazing sun of my home state, because none of that ever happened when I was in Ireland.
These are just some of many examples that I could bring up from my own life.
5. Learning about the world teaches us about God
The dizzying array of languages, customs, skin tones, and creativity from the people of the world are only dim reflections of God’s vibrant creativity and enthusiasm for life. When I learn more about the people He loves and the earth He created, I see His handiwork and His heart. I see all the different ways Christians around the world worship him, like the six blind men describing the elephant, and God reveals different facets of His character through the different denominations. It is a kaleidoscope of traits and ideas, and just when you think you’ve found every color in the picture, another hue appears.
Isn’t travel breath-taking?