I recently discussed this with a friend who just returned from 6 months of travelling through India, and who I met while we were both living in Argentina. Throughout our own travels we have each realized what an amazing growing experience traveling is, whether you are looking for it to be that or not. No matter where you travel to and for how long, you will find yourself in unfamiliar territory and be forced to adjust. Add a foreign language and culture to the mix and you’re in for a real treat. When taken out of your comfort zone, you have no option but to just figure it out! On top of that, you return home with a new perspective on your surroundings, your belongings, your day to day experiences, and life in general.
Lost? In your own city, you’ll probably pull up Google Maps on your phone. In another country odds of having a smartphone on you are slim so you have to learn to be comfortable asking for directions, even if it means talking to strangers, speaking in a different language, in streets you aren’t familiar with. Another learning experience that can come out of being lost is NOT asking for directions, and instead see where you end up by wandering. You may stumble upon a cafe or market you wouldn’t have otherwise. If anything you get to see more of the area.
Don’t speak the language? You can get pretty creative when communicating without a mutual language. Hand gestures, drawings.. it’s amazing to see this creativity prove to be successful in getting your message across. And you’re bound to pick up a few words of the language along the way.
Flight delayed, train cancelled, no rooms left in the hostel, passport stolen? Gotta figure it out somehow. It may not be pleasant at the time but you will certainly look back on it as a learning experience, maybe even with a laugh, and will feel a little more confident next time it happens (because it will).
Returning home you will have more appreciation and respect for other cultures, you won’t be nervous to ask for directions, dealing with customer service will seem like a cinch because it’s in your own language, you’ll learn, and prefer, to live with less, you’ll walk more, you’ll be more patient with tourists because you’ve been there, you’ll have learned more about yourself in many ways, you’ll be more appreciative of the comforts of home, and you’ll be more comfortable meeting new people and talking to strangers.
There are a million and one reasons why I love traveling, but the growing and learning experience is a big one, and well worth it.
Do you have any growing experiences from your travels?
PS – These experiences can also occur while exploring cities throughout your own country, like P did with the frog legs restaurant in DC. It’s a matter of stepping out of your comfort zone.