Today, I was packing for a trip to Cebu with my husband that we’re leaving for in a couple of days, and it had me thinking about how lucky I am to have the ability to travel. A lot of people don’t have the luxury of the time or money to leave their hometown very often, and I feel very fortunate when I have the opportunity to explore a new place.
In the 20+ years that I’ve had so far on this beautiful planet, I’ve been to three countries, various cities, states, and provinces within those cities, and every new place has me realizing how blessed I am.
One of the great things about travel is that it gives you unique ways and opportunities to really get to know yourself in a new way. Here are five ways traveling changed me for the better:
1. Traveling has given me a deeper appreciation for the things that I have.
I grew up in a family that was considered as below the poverty level where I lived in the USA, but traveling has shown me the vast difference that poor means in countries that aren’t first world. While traveling, I’ve seen barefoot children begging on the street for money, spoken with people who have lost their homes in natural disasters, and seen the pride in the eyes of people who were able to send their children to school despite hardships–things I would never have seen had I not left my hometown. As heartbreaking as it is to see people who are so badly in need, it has given me a deep sense of appreciation for the things I have. I’m by no means wealthy, but I have a roof over my head, the ability to cook whenever I am hungry, and daily internet access, which are luxurious for many. Traveling has given me insight into the lives of those less fortunate than I am, and I try not to take what I have for granted because of it.
2. Traveling has shown me what I really value in life.
Being able to travel is a privilege, one I am so thankful for. My husband and I don’t make a lot of money to spare, but what we choose to do with our money is what allows us to travel. I don’t buy new shoes until my old ones have worn out beyond repair because I would rather put the money toward a flight to another city. We don’t dine out every payday because we would rather share an experience that we’ll remember for a lifetime than a meal that will last an evening. The excitement of being able to travel has enabled me to prioritize things in my life. I’m still wearing some of the same old t-shirts that I had five years ago because experiences are worth infinitely more to me than a brand new wardrobe. I’m still using the same cellphone that has had a huge crack in the screen ever since I dropped it in 2012, but who cares about things like broken cellphones when you get to explore the beauty of nature? Certainly not me!
3. Traveling has brought me and my husband and closer together.
They say there are two things that help you really get to know a person well: living with them and traveling with them. This is so true, and when you get to travel with your loved one, you learn things about them that will surprise you. You learn the depths of their interests and their fears, and you’ll test your ability to tolerate each other for extended periods of time. Being able to travel with my husband, whether to somewhere that one of us has been before or a totally new place for both of us, is truly priceless. I love being able to share the memories and experiences with him at my side, and we will treasure our travels together until we’re old and gray.
4. Traveling has taught me how to get by with less.
When you travel, you can’t exactly pack up your entire house and bring everything with you. You have to decide what’s worth stuffing in a backpack and bringing along. Usually, I make a point of a camera being the only technology I bring–no laptops or iPods–and cellphones are only brought for emergency purposes. It’s a great opportunity to take a break from technological addiction and appreciate the simpler things. I’ve slept under the stars with nothing but a sleeping bag in the city of Joseph, Oregon and I’ve been cramped in a truck between two kids in car seats as I went on a road trip with my family across British Columbia and Alberta, Canada. I’ve bathed in rivers when camping with no hot water nearby and cooked dinner over a fire many times. These are the times and memories that I truly cherish.
5. Traveling has helped me become more flexible and independent.
Whether traveling alone or with my husband, there’s one thing for sure–nothing ever goes exactly as planned. When traveling, you have to be willing to adapt to whatever comes your way. When you miss the last bus back to where your motel is or lose your map at some point while sight-seeing, plans change last minute, and traveling has taught me not to panic or stress out about these moments. My travels have helped me become more level-headed and less anxious, and I’m able to rely on myself instead of needing other people or the internet to tell me what my next move is.
When I think about what I want out of life, the answer isn’t a big house, nice cars, or expensive jewelry. What I want is to see the world and experience different sights, foods, and cultures. When I think about the best moments of my life, it’s not shopping at the mall or dining at expensive restaurants. I’m much more fond of remembering the winter that I jumped into a lake in Canada that was still iced over in the middle, snorkeling at the Hundred Islands in Pangasinan, and the bears, moose, monkeys, deer,and other wild animals I’ve seen right in front of me in wooded areas. These are the experiences that have helped me grow as a person, and these are for me, memories that are most worth remembering.
All photos by the author unless otherwise stated