From traveling thousands of kilometers across India in a dusty, beat up car with with a group of locals I met in a small town close to the border of Pakistan…
To traveling across the salt flats of Bolivia and chewing massive amounts of cocoa leaves to ward off altitude sickness…
To cooking empanadas with a family in Argentina and sipping sorbet and champagne under the stars…
To being surrounded by a group of Mexican “Policia” who were proudly showing off their machine guns…
…Each travel experience I’ve had has taught me valuable life lessons (some easier to learn than others) and ultimately, have made me a better version of me.
When you travel thoughtfully (AKA you’re open and receptive to learning about the people and places you’re visiting), you’re exposed to a whole new world and way of being.
Here are 4 reasons why traveling makes you a happier person:
1) You Discover New Cultures. One of my favorite things about traveling is the opportunity to learn about new cultures and traditions. Cultural roots and traditions run deep and even if they’re not present on a daily basis, they have an impact on how modern day cultures operate.
When I lived in Malaysia, I had the opportunity to learn about new cultures through the National holidays. I gained a deeper understanding of how Chinese New Years is legit. The food is AMAZING. The temples are these colorful, badass sanctuaries. And if you’re Chinese, those simple red envelopes can add some extra cushion to your bank account. (Photo taken in Penang on Chinese New Year).
Diwali (or Deepavali, the “festival of lights”) is an ancient Hindu Festival that’s celebrated once a year. It signifies “the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil and hope over despair”.
In honor of the celebration, millions of lights are showcased in houses (both outside and inside), temples, businesses, and neighborhoods. And of course, I loved indulging in the tasty homemade treats that arrived to the office in old peanut butter jars by the dozen.
2) You Meet New People. When you travel, you meet new people from all around the world. You meet locals, you meet fellow travelers (some of whom you’ll immediately love and develop a bond in a split-second, while others you’ll just pretend you never met).
With each person you meet, you learn something new. It can be learning about the place you’re visiting, their heritage, cultural beliefs and values, aspirations or way of life. (Photo taken on Yoga/Surf Retreat in Nicaragua).
And sometimes, if you’re really lucky, you’ll learn something new about yourself. Each travel experience, deepens your understanding of who you are. What are your personal preferences, beliefs, values and desires
This is one of my favorite things about traveling. When I’m exploring a new place, I’m naturally in tune with who I am and what’s important to me.
3) You Step Outside Of Your Comfort Zone. Traveling pushes you to the limit in ways you can’t even begin to imagine. Whether it’s dealing with street signs that are scribbled with indecipherable characters and letters, to navigating intricate underground systems, to trying to order a meal that’s a taste of local culture (but hopefully legal to eat), the daily challenges you’re faced with strengthen your inner grit and confidence. (Photo taken after Sky Diving Monterey Bay).
And then there’s the adventures… Whether it’s the change in altitude, or my adventurous spirit that decides to run the show when I’m traveling, when I’m on a trip, I’m more likely to try something new that pushes my limit and gets me to step outside of my comfort zone. The rush and surge of “If I can do this, I can do whatever the hell I want!” that inevitably ensues these adventures, stays with me and acts as a reminder that I can do anything I put my mind to.
4) You Learn Healthy New Habits. I love learning about traditional and alternative medicines, healing practices and general ways of being when I’m exploring a new culture.
I remember the first breakfast I had in Japan. It was shocking! I had a tiny plate of standard North American carbs, sugar and a side of protein. When I looked around, I saw the locals with heaping plates of what seemed to be every food under the sun. I got curious about their local eating habits (yes, there’s more than sushi) and it turns out that breakfast is their largest meal of the day because this is when they need the most energy. As the day goes by, the meals get smaller. This actually makes a ton of sense. Why do we stuff ourselves late at night right before we cozy in for bed? (Photo taken in Old Dubai Market).
When I was in India and Sri Lanka, the spices and herbs were beyond fragrant and the rich breadth of colors were incredible. These spices and herbs aren’t just used to make the food taste a certain way. They have practical uses and health benefits that the locals take advantage of every day.
When I was in the desert in India (it was over 50 degrees celsius every day!), I learned that onions are used in almost every single dish because they have a cooling effect. Who would have known?! This fact was definitely not in the curriculum of my Grade 8 Home Economics class.
While traveling is not all roses and pixie dust, it is guaranteed to be character building. Next time you go to a new destination, set a goal to learn at least 3 new facts or local traditions about the place you’re visiting.
Have some snazzy tips and tricks you learned on your travels? Share them in the comment box below!