Until you experience the differences in the world first hand, it is difficult to fully comprehend and appreciate them. Watching the National Geographic channel is informative, but there is nothing like being there. Sometimes you return home from travel with a sense of appreciation that however bad things seem in your own country, you know that you are privileged to live in the west.
Alternatively, you may question western values and attitudes and feel that you can learn from more spiritually enlightened cultures. The wealth of cultures that travellers experience can surprise, shock, amuse, fascinate and educate. The degree to which travellers immerse themselves in local culture varies. People have different comfort levels, both physically and emotionally. The important thing is to keep an open mind, be culturally sensitive and enjoy the differences.
One of the most wonderful aspects of travel is the opportunity to experience nature, whether it’s hiking in the mountains, jungles and deserts or camping in breath-taking landscapes. Even if you aren’t into the hiking and the camping scene, when you travel you learn to appreciate nature. Often in everyday life, we don’t have the chance to enjoy nature and its calming effects as much as we would like to. We are often trapped inside at work and become disconnected from the natural world. Travel allows you to get out there, see natural phenomenon, explore remote places and reconnect with nature in all its forms.
Whether the idea of whitewater rafting, scuba diving or zip-lining appeals to you, this could be your opportunity to try give it a try. Most activities of this type take place in incredibly beautiful places. For instance, you could do a scuba diving course on the coast of Thailand at the fraction of the cost it would be in a western country. And then there are the great hikes of the world: Inca Trail Milford Track Kilimanjaro
New Zealand of course, is known as the adventure capital of the world. However, nowadays there are adventures and challenges to be had all over the planet.
Not one of the most obvious thoughts that come to mind, but when you are travelling long-term, you get an abundance of free time. There are planes, trains and buses to wait for and you won’t be out and about exploring constantly. It’s a great opportunity to learn a language, write a blog, catch up on reading the books you’ve always wanted to, or simply listen to music. When you are caught up in the rat-race, you barely have time to get the chores done, so make full use of your time on the road to do the things you have always wanted to.
Okay, not everyone you meet when you are travelling is going to become your best friend, but you are more likely to meet like-minded souls than when you are at home. Other travellers are a great source of travel information and it’s always interesting to exchange ideas, or just hang out and have a beer. When you are on the road you will not only meet other travellers, but people of different cultures with wildly different perspectives to you. In fact, you will often discover that you have more in common than you originally thought.
For some, volunteering is a great way to experience a different culture and assist with a local project simultaneously. Among projects you can volunteer for are working with street kids in Mumbai or helping out on a turtle project in Costa Rica. The choices are wide and volunteers often have a more authentic experience than backpackers simply passing through.
There are those who are on a spiritual path. And there is no better place to achieve enlightenment than the ashrams and retreats of India (think Eat Pray Love). It is often free (or very affordable) to stay. It’s a great opportunity to meditate, practise yoga or study Buddhism or Hinduism in a peaceful environment.
Travel can just be an excuse to get out of the system, cancel the direct debits, quit the job and have a farewell party! There is nothing wrong with that. Everyday life can grind you down and sometimes a change and a fresh perspective is all you need. You will come back refreshed with some wonderful experiences under your belt. Or you might not come back at all!
The sense of freedom that you get from being on the road is something that most people don’t ever get to experience in their whole lifetime. To be able to stay somewhere that you really like or to move on when you have had enough, is the ultimate freedom. Nobody owns you. You have time, choices and you can walk away from people or situations you don’t like. It’s a good feeling. You don’t know what the next day will bring and consequently life is brimming with opportunities, anticipation and adventures!
This one is an obvious one, and for many, the most important of reasons to travel – to see the world! From the Great Barrier Reef to the Taj Mahal to the favelas of Brazil. There is a whole world out there that it would be negligent NOT to see. As St. Augustine famously said ‘The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page’.