I often find myself defending my decision to travel so much these days. My parents, co-workers, friends, friends of friends constantly ask me (whether admiringly, enviously, or questioningly) about why, and how I travel so much in my early twenties. They look at my social media accounts and think that I don’t have a full-time job or manage a blog: My Instagram feed is filled with more images of iconic bridges, landmarks and buildings than my actual face. I only ever update Facebook when I’m uploading my travel pictures, and I probably spend more time looking up flights than I do blogging.
The truth is, traveling solo takes courage, and my answer to anyone who challenges me is that because I want to. Yes I love beauty, Economics, investing, and high-end designer pieces as much as your next girl, but travelling is what shapes me to be who I am. I can spend a lot of money on beauty products, and have a beauty stash that rivals YouTube guru’s or celebs like Paris Hilton, but I will often become more stressed out and overwhelmed because of it.
So why do I travel? Traveling solo taught me…
1. How to be self-reliant, and self-sufficient
Learning the art of reading a paper map, follow street signs and trails, and understanding which subway station entrance to enter in NYC is something of an achievement. In the age of GPS and Google Maps, reading a map has become something of a lost art. I realized that I’m the only person I can rely on when things gets really rough, and having experiences under my belt, helps me get through the tough times in other parts of my life, like work and relationships.
2. How to re-connect to people, appreciate diversity and repudiate stereotypes
Living the “North American lifestyle” meant a fast-paced lifestyle, and oftentimes, very little face-to-face interaction. I find myself often scheduling brunch, girl’s nights, and coffee dates months in advance. I’m not a celebrity, my schedule shouldn’t be this ridiculously packed. I’m an introvert and reaching out to people scares the living daylights out of me, but I realize travelling has made me come out of my shell and be a better communicator.
The media always tends to blow things out of proportion – statistics like “South Africa has one of the highest (if not the highest) rates of sexual assaults and violent crimes” will likely keep tourists away from the country and makes it sound as if every South African is a criminal. But I went there, by myself, and I’m here today, safe and sound. It just goes to show that what we read in the media should be taken with a grain of salt.
3. And gave me confidence…
…to believe in myself when things get tough. It sounds so cliché even when things don’t go right, I know it will work itself out. Travel teaches me how to be resourceful and how to think creatively to solve a problem. It’s all about how you look at and frame the issue that helps you get to the answer you need. This way of thinking has helped me so much at work!
4. There’s something beyond a 9-9 job and the comforts of my home.
When I was in university, I was so fixated on finding a job, any kind of job. I was committed to working for 5 years, get promoted a couple of times, and then take some time off to travel. Now that I’ve been working full time for over a year, I realized how flawed this plan was – I thought if I put in 15 hours work days, I’ll get promoted faster, make more money and check out of life quickly. As always, life gets in the way, projects get stalled at work, relationships start to go sideways, and they need your immediate attention. As someone who stresses out easily, this gets to me every single time. But I always remember that there’s so much more to life than my 9-9 or home.
5. To value the little things.
You’ll never appreciate how much it means to have clean running (hot) water at your disposal, a clean washroom or running electricity until you’ve put yourself through situations where you’ve had to get by without those. You don’t take things for granted, and you become more grateful for every single thing you have. Living in Canada means universal healthcare is available to everyone, and this isn’t a luxury that a lot of people have. Canadians have access to clean water for drinking and showering and again, this is another thing that you can’t take for granted in some parts of the world like that time I learned how to ration water in case the shops weren’t open on the weekends when I lived in Ghana.
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Over to you! Do you travel? What lessons have you learned from travelling?