“Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you traveled.” – Mohammed
I have that piece of paper that proves I have a degree. But I couldn’t tell you that I remember half the things I learned in college. I read about history, I studied different cultures, I wrote endless papers about world politics. But traveling to 20 different countries, and emerging myself in several different cultures was the ultimate learning experience.
You will learn more about yourself
When you leave your comfort zone, you are forced to explore and navigate through the unknown. Your strength, survival skills, patience, and character are all tested in more ways than one. You learn how you react to different situations. You learn how you cope with leaving your country behind. You learn how to succeed through tasks that seemed easy in your own country, but harder in others. You learn how accepting (or unaccepting) you are of differences.
In my personal experience, I learned that learning about myself takes time. In my travels, I have been put in situations that I handled differently from back home. I grew up in a fast-pace NYC lifestyle, and I learned that sometimes I need to learn how to relax. I learned that I use to work too much and didn’t dedicate enough time to my personal development or things that I enjoyed doing. I learned that generalizations of a culture are often wrong. I learned how to be more open-minded.
You will learn to speak different languages
Whenever I travel to a new country, I always try to learn the basics of the local language. Why? Because it is a sign of respect. English is the international language, but that doesn’t mean that everyone knows English or uses English in their country. I currently live in Spain, and English is only used sometimes in business or international event settings, therefore for me to live in Spain I had to learn. Luckily- I am a lover of languages, so this was a growing experience for me. Learning a new language takes time and dedication, but locals always react in positive way if you know simple phrases and smile.
You will meet people with different points of view
Each country has their own way of doing things. People within those countries have a different way of doing things from each other. Thoughts, opinions, and questions are vast and complex. The French view relationships different from Americans. The Spanish view the dinner timetable different from the world. The older generation and younger generation in several countries view politics differently.
I met many people who had different points of view about my own country, but more on that later.
You will be challenged, but in a good way
If you think that travel is simply what you see in the photos, I am here to tell you that it is much more than what you see. I’ve had several challenges along the way such as getting food poisoning on an overnight bus. Not my best moment. Sometimes you will get asked about Donald Trump 5 times in one day. Sometimes things don’t always go as planned, sometimes you will get lost without access to google maps, and you will be frustrated, upset, or angry. It’s part of the journey.
5. You will learn things about your own country, that you never knew
I can honestly say that I never knew so much about the United States than I do now. And I continue learning. The views and opinions of the United States vary tremendously among different individuals but I have learned some common positive and negatives. I will give an example of each. A positive common factor is our ability to make mistakes and move on from them. Making a mistake in American culture is not frowned upon, but an opportunity to learn from it. This is an admirable quality that we have, as some cultures do not have the same mindset. A negative factor is our healthcare system. In countries where a good healthcare system is put in place to protect and take care of the citizens of that country, it is hard for these individuals to understand why we do not share the same mindset.
Overall, I can’t tell you what I learned in college- but I can tell you what I learned from traveling, and that makes all the difference.