THE MANY BENEFITS OF TRAVEL
The words "travel" and "vacation" are often used interchangeably, but careful examination indicates subtle differences between the two. Vacation implies an escape, while travel may offer the opportunity for total immersion in a different culture. Two types of journeys occur during travel. The outer journey describes the physical experience of travel: where you went, what you saw and what you did. The inner journey defines your interpretation of the experience. It describes what you learned, and how it changed your perspective on life.
Even if you live in a vibrant city and have an exciting job and active social life, nothing can replace the unique experiences traveling offers. Visiting a foreign country opens your eyes to how the rest of the world lives; many therefore return home with a new appreciation for their own country while gaining a broader worldview in the process. Remember, you only live once, so passing up a chance to travel is tantamount to passing up a life-altering experience.
Overcoming adversity, making connections and transformation are three common themes in fictional and factual travel literature. In Homer's "Odyssey," Ulysses makes a connection with Circe, the sorceress, who helps him circumvent the dangers of the journey. Likewise, consider the dull, straight-laced Henry in Graham Greene's "Travels With My Aunt." He connects with his aunt Augusta at his mother's funeral, and she convinces him to accompany her to Paris, Istanbul and Paraguay, where they encounter a motley assortment of CIA agents, hippies and war criminals. At the end, Henry decides to live with his aunt. Writer Paul Theroux, who has journeyed to nearly all corners of the globe, would approve of Henry's transformation. Theroux's fiction and nonfiction works always provide a balance, as in addition to describing the places he sees, he also discusses the people he meets and how they have affected him.
Education through travel is not a new concept. In "The Question of the Other: Essays in Contemporary Continental Philosophy," authors Arleen B. Dallery and Charles E. Scott speak of a certain class of ancient Greeks who journeyed overseas to explore the cultural institutions and laws of other countries. When the travelers returned home, they reported their findings to a designated "supreme council," who evaluated the reports and decided which laws and institutions should be integrated into the culture at home.
Just as the Greek travelers journeyed abroad to explore, and possibly bring home the customs of other cultures, modern -day journeyers can engage in similar practices. A traveler who visits Europe or South America, for example, may be enticed by the idea of the afternoon siesta, and decide that it's the perfect form of midday stress management. A visit to Italy may introduce a traveler to "passegiata," which is a traditional after-dinner walk. This moderate post-meal exercise can be a viable solution for weight control.
You can read about history in a book, or you can actually experience it. Some places even offer reenactments of significant periods in their history. Many places offer more than meets the eye. For example, Breckenridge, Colorado, is known for its ski resort, but this former Victorian mining town has done a superb job of preserving its heritage. You can tour the mines or visit some of the well-preserved Victorian homes. Boston is another example. It's an exciting party town, but you can also evoke the American Revolution by walking the Freedom Trail. A walk through the Coliseum in Rome will transport you back to the days of the Roman Empire. It may be impressive in pictures, but it's overwhelming when you see it in real life.
7 Benefits of Travel:
1. Break Out of Your Shell
Foremost on the reasons to travel is that you discover a lot about yourself. Not many things in the world can inspire you like seeing the Colosseum in Rome or the Pyramids in Egypt. That is why traveling is known to provide people with a whole new perspective (read: "see the world different!"), whether that means no longer sweating the small stuff or promising to get out there and meet new people upon returning home. Those who have left their comfort zone and headed for a foreign land have done the right thing; whether alone, with a partner, or in a group, your development surely speeds up when you're abroad.
2. Embrace New Cultures
Not only does traveling provide a sense of adventure, but it also opens doors to cultures that do not revolve around MTV and McDonald's (or at least try hard not to). Though Americana has spread its wings on an international level, even a week abroad can prove that people do live without the symbols that North Americans encounter every day. Better yet, you will become appreciative of other cultures; instead of instinctively criticizing that which is "different," you will be motivated to accept new cuisine or alternative forms of entertainment. You never know; upon your return home, you might even forego the latest Vin Diesel blockbuster for a Bollywood flick.
3. Enjoy Life Like Never Before
Even for those of you who are not as culturally minded, traveling remains an appealing form of escape. In the dead of winter, with a foot of snow awaiting you outside your front door, what could be more tantalizing than a swim in the deep blue waters of Costa Rica? Simply the attraction of the activities that are impossible to enjoy in your hometown make a trip worthwhile.
Experiences can range from the legendary (dancing tango in Argentina) to the relaxing (enjoying a hot spring while snow swirls around you in Iceland), but they share one common link: they are all memorable. In every corner of the world, there is excitement waiting for you — it is simply a matter of sticking your head out and going for it...
4. Satisfy Your Stomach
Food can make or break a vacation. If it's bad, it will surely put a negative spin on your stay. If it's good, however, then there is no limit to the amount of gluttonous enjoyment to be had. Sure you can buy coconuts from the local supermarket or make paella at home, but they cannot replace what you can find in their respective native lands.
In fact, the perfect dinner can make your stay complete; many insist that you cannot leave a certain city without trying a renowned dish, whether you're in Malaysia or Brazil.
Though most of your epicurean experiences will be pleasurable in nature, other meals can be considered rites of passage. For example, not many people can say they really tasted what Guangzhou, China, has to offer without drinking an elixir of snake's blood. Sure, it may be unpleasant, but you'll impress the locals and will likely never forget the experience.
5. Pick Up New Languages
If education of the alternative kind is not on your "to-do" list, just think about the benefits of learning another language. Taking a semester off school or a leave of absence from work may seem irrational, but what if you returned with a strong grasp of German?
In a world where becoming bilingual or even trilingual can be beneficial at the office and in day-to-day life, traveling can serve as your gateway to success. Business is not only conducted in English, but also Spanish, Mandarin and Japanese. You want to land more business trips in the future? Plan a trip and learn a language abroad; you'll get a solid education and leave with great memories.
6. Widen Your Business Opportunities
Speaking of moving up at the office, traveling can also increase your contacts if you keep your eyes open. Who knows what can happen over sushi in Tokyo; perhaps a new import/export opportunity for your business? The point is, as far out as it may seem, things always seem to come together when you least expect it. You could be partying it up on a remote island while on your two-week vacation and suddenly strike up a conversation with a fellow traveler, which could lead to some promising business talk.
7. Admire True Beauty
Whether you're a lover of history, architecture or nature, only travel will satisfy your passion. No words can describe the rush you feel when gazing upon the Mona Lisa or admiring the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. It is this reason, as well as the shivers one gets when witnessing an ocean sunset, that leads many to hop onto a plane.
Being able to say that you've seen four of the Seven Wonders of the World (and have the pictures to prove it) or some of the most important historical landmarks, is a claim like no other, and should make you incredibly proud. At the same time, these feats enrich your life.