What Travelling Taught Me
I recently read an article written by an expat who unexpectedly gained more than he thought he would by living in a different country. Initially his desire to move was to have a lower cost of living. What he unexpectedly gained was personal growth by assimilating into a different culture.
It got me thinking about my own travels and how it shaped me as a person. As youngsters my parents would always take us kids travelling, as their circumstances would allow. Usually they would load us five kids in the back of the station wagon for a road trip across Canada or down through the United States. Sometimes, for special occasions we would fly to the Philippines. When we got older and were able to fend for ourselves my parents continued to travel without us.
Growing up in the suburbs of Toronto was good but pretty static. As a wide-eyed 25 year old I was itching for excitement. My parents had shown me there was a big world out there. I came up with a plan and a shoe-string budget and managed to convince one of my friends to come travelling with me. I tried saving as much as I could and ended up selling half of my investment plan I had just started over the telephone at the airport. With the little money we had, we embarked on a six month adventure to India and South East Asia. I don’t think my parents were really eager for me to go but it was their fault. Unwittingly, they infected me with the travel bug.
We did everything you could imagine. We went white water rafting in Nepal. We saw the sun set and rise over the Himalayas. We got invited to a wedding in Jaipur. We rode camels in the desert, elephants in the jungle, and dodged cows in rickshaws on potholed streets. We became beach bums, trekkers, and tourists. We often lingered for days at a place to feel its natural flow. We met the most interesting locals and travellers. Everyone had a story.
But with all the wonderful sights came a dark side. Besides all the frustrations of travelling in another country, we experienced extreme poverty in India. I vividly remember a man in tattered, dirty clothing barely clinging to his body lying on the street looking as if he only had hours to live. I remember passing by him so matter-of-factly as if he was just part of the urban landscape. I remember a little girl coming to me to beg. I didn’t have much so I gave her a small face towel I gotten on one of our plane rides. Her face lit up with the utmost happiness and appreciation. I watched as she ran to her family and proudly showed her ‘treasure.’ Her family was close by. They were living on the street and had claimed a small part of the sidewalk. This was life.
When you’re young you are completely open to new experiences that can make you grow as a person. There were situations that forced me to face my fears. In these moments I discovered genuine kindness and generosity in people who didn’t know me but helped me regardless. These experiences also taught me patience and tolerance and to enjoy life as it happens. Travelling gave me a great understanding of different cultures. Consequently, I felt so comfortable with Indian culture I began to bobble my head as I talked.
It’s easy to get caught by the trappings of our everyday life. Sometimes we’re so busy thinking about our mortgage, job, etc., that we forget to live. We don’t leave enough time for fun or enjoy the little things in life.
If you’d like to read the article “The Unexpected Ways You Can Grow as a Person” you can find it here.