I got my first passport at age 16 to go to France as an exchange student and it was a pivotal moment in my life. It opened my eyes to a whole new world both figuratively and literally and from that moment on I knew that overseas travel would be part of my life forever.
I also studied abroad in college and living in a foreign country during your teens and 20s is a transformative experience. For me it became immediately apparent that there were far more similarities than differences. Fathers are strict with their teenage daughters, younger siblings can be annoying in any language, moms never like how the kids are dressed, teens get into trouble with their friends, you get the idea.
On my first trip in the early 80s, so many things about being there were foreign to me though.
They had different food, coffee, shampoo, retailers, fashion, etc. There are still some differences today but it is not uncommon to see McDonald’s, Starbucks, iPhones, Snickers, the same Hollywood movie posters, Nike tennis shoes, and Gap t-shirts on the streets overseas that you find in every mall in America. Trends today travel fast, at Internet speed.
There are a lot of cultural nuances though so make sure you get good advice before going to a foreign place to make sure that the symbols and signs translate the way you think they do.
The okay sign and thumbs up for example do not mean the same things universally! Harmless or friendly gestures in one country can mean something completely different in other parts of the world so be careful!
I believe if everyone in the world were free to travel and was encouraged to explore other cultures and ways of life there would be no more war in this world.
It is hard to fight with people once you see their families love them as much as yours does you. They may eat different foods, listen to strange music, celebrate holidays you have never heard of and have customs you do not recognize but they also have parents, siblings, children, and grandparents they care about deeply just like you do.
To travel is to learn, to grow, to appreciate.
Travel enriches your life by exposing you to new people, sights, sounds, smells and flavors. Traveling gets you out of your routines and comfort zone. It is a great way to get your creative juices flowing and reenergize your life. When the synapses keep firing you ward off Alzheimer’s too!
Everything is global today by definition.
Once anything goes live online, the world has access to your products, services and voice so use the platform wisely. The world really is getting smaller every day and with social media you are only one or two clicks away from anyone you want to connect to. Going global used to cost a lot of money and take time. Today global is a given so brush up on local customs, do your homework and consult with experts who can help you navigate the unknowns. There is a lot of info at your fingertips. Even if you do not speak the language try to learn at least a few words wherever your travels take you like please, thank you, good morning, have a nice day, and that is delicious go a long way in any language
In my experience when I’ve had the most time to travel in my life I’ve had the least amount of cash and when I worked on Wall Street or had lucrative jobs it did not allow much time for travel sadly. So when you are in the fortunate position of having both time and money I highly recommend that you pack your bags and hit the road!
As an adult my trips are much shorter in length but with a global network of friends I always try to get the local experience wherever I go.
I recommend you also try to stay in neighborhood inns vs. American chain hotels and find out where the locals get morning coffee or meals when possible. Haven’t you been to enough Starbucks and McDonald’s already? Do your research online for good airline travel deals and passes for buses and subways. Find walking tours and explore off the beaten path hidden jewels that every city has if you just ask around.
That first overseas experience sparked a lifelong soft spot for France and travel and I loved taking my niece who had never been there before to ignite the same spark within her a few years ago. It was incredibly special for me to see France through her eyes for the first time and share a place that is so dear to me. She is now studying abroad for a semester which makes me so happy.
When you travel you tend to pack light and it can be very freeing to not be bogged down with all the trappings of home. You get by on a lot less, fewer clothes, more walking & moving around, you tend to read more, have time to write in a journal or just be more creative and open minded. As you take in all the new experiences you just see things differently. And figuring out how to do things in a new way builds confidence and energy.
Do you ever notice when you come back from vacation you look at your life through a fresh lens asking why you need so much stuff or why don’t you do more activities in your own city? Try being a tourist in your own city or going to a completely new neighborhood to explore.
Safe travels and enjoy!