Spending time abroad encourages you to get outside of your comfort zone and do things you probably wouldn’t have thought to do at home. And if you’re yearning for some inspiration or simply wondering how to find your passion, travel might be your answer.
The art of making new connections
Many people get stuck in an established social circle and easily go years without meeting anyone new or making a great, new lifelong friend. Those tight-knit friendships are great in many ways but very often, when people are settled into a comfortable social circle, they’re not as open to meeting new people.
I’ve heard this from many expats, building a new life in the Netherlands, for example. While the Dutch seem very social and open for a chat, opening up their social circle and welcoming you in, is another thing.
What traveling will do is teach you the art of making new connections and friends. Having traveled and lived in different places around the world has changed me so much. My friends and business relations are all from different countries and range in age, their interests, and their experiences. I’ve learned so much because of that.
Understand the plight of newcomers in your home country
It also taught me to sympathize with newcomers at home who maybe don’t have the option of returning to their homes (like now with the ongoing war in Ukraine) or trailing spouses who follow their partner and who, along with language barriers, also have to adjust to a new climate, culture shock and costs of living.
I have such a better understanding of what the immigrant/expat experience is really like. Like, who didn’t struggle to talk in a new language while ordering meals, reply to basic questions, ask directions, deal with customer service, etc. when on a holiday?
Self-awareness leads to change
In other parts of the world, people speak, eat, work, and socialize differently. The way they interact with each other is also different. And in noticing where you’re different, you learn something about yourself, your own culture, and your own standards. That self-awareness also leads to change.
People who travel to different countries will find that their perspectives change and their minds become more open.
My first experience was the way of living in Asia compared to the Netherlands. While shared dining has become a trend in the last couple of years in the Netherlands, it was always, already, the way of eating in Indonesia. Food is a way of spending time together with people who are important to you. Whether it’s family, friends, or business relations. There’s always food on the table, and it’s there to share.
Very different from the Dutch perspective, where for example dinner is at the table at 6 PM and visitors should leave before that or you’d know upfront you are officially invited to stay.
Another example is when it comes to newborns and parents. In Asia, they won’t necessarily put a newborn in a separate room by itself, but keep the baby close, if not in the same bed. This really showed me, to be more open-minded and live less strictly. Because it’s better to keep your baby close, rather than having a stressed and unhappy one, who makes your night a nightmare.
So, when shown an alternative way of thinking, people who travel at least question what they’ve always known and in doing so. You’ll become open to other ways of doing things. Become more creative. In this way, travel is a pure form of education.
Finding hidden gems when going out of your comfort zone
Going out of your comfort zone is really hard. But it’s a great way to learn that things don’t always go the way you planned. Like, flights getting delayed and you might have to spend an extra night somewhere, or that museum you wanted to visit is closed for renovation.
In our daily lives, it’s difficult to let go of the frustration when things don’t go our way. So when things go not as planned, despite the frustration, we simply have to find other paths to our destination or other things to do. Yet, that’s when you will stumble across hidden gems you otherwise had never known about!
You’ll learn to communicate, even without speaking
Smiles and gestures are both ways of communicating that are just as important as speaking, but we often neglect it in favor of choosing the right words. You’ll discover that sometimes, words aren’t necessary to communicate and to show kindness and sincerity to others.
At the moment, I smile and gesture A-LOT. As here on one of the Caribbean Islands, they speak and understand Spanish better than English or Dutch. (And since I’m still a beginner on Duolingo, I’m definitely going out of my comfort zone here 🙂 )
You will also forget all the ideas you have around your precious personal space because traveling makes your personal bubble burst. In places like Latin or South America, people won’t stand for a stiff handshake as a greeting. They will hug you, touch you and kiss your face. Your idea of personal space is probably redefined forever.
When language fails us, it makes room for the language of our hearts!
Traveling is one of the most valuable investments in life
Taking home lessons like this is part of what makes traveling one of the most valuable investments in life. Taking yourself out of your usual setting can show you a lot about what you need, what you value, and how you act in new situations. You’ll learn what you miss most about home and what you’ve often been taking for granted.
So if you want to improve yourself, if you want to improve the way you think and what you know about the world and how close you feel to the people around you, do yourself a favor: book a trip.
Written by: Yustine Alvares
Dutch by passport. Indonesian by heart. World citizen by traveling and living abroad.