Just a few years ago, I never thought I would be where I am now. I’ve lived in Europe for almost a year, traveled to many different countries and learned so much about the world and myself.
As I sit in my Madrid apartment with the fan blasting on me (thanks to the Spanish summer heat), I can’t help but feel indescribably thankful for everything I’ve experienced and accomplished.
Just a year ago, we were in Erie, PA, getting ready to quit our jobs and move abroad. Since then, we’ve began new lives and jobs in Spain, been to ten different European cities, learned a new language, lived through a global pandemic abroad and expanded our perspectives on life.
These experiences have completely changed me and made me a better person. I had no idea what I was capable of before, but now I have no doubts about myself. I firmly believe that travel changes everyone, even if only a small amount at a time. Although the ways in which I’ve changed from travel are basically endless, I’d like to share the top six for anyone who is thinking of beginning a life of travel to know just how much they’ll benefit from it.
1. I have a greater sense of independence
Being independent is such a great feeling, especially as a woman. Although all my travels have been with my boyfriend, Jacob, I am typically the planner for all of our adventures, so I tend to take the lead. I love doing the research to learn about a new place I’m going to see, configuring an itinerary for us and then executing it.
Doing this several times in several countries has made me realize that I can go anywhere I want, anytime I want. So can you! I know it may seem unattainable, but it’s really not. The world is out there for anyone to explore. The things you’ll see are worth taking the step outside your comfort zone. Trust me! Even if you just want to begin traveling by taking a road trip around your country, make the choice to start.
Growing up in a small town in the United States always made me feel like the rest of the world was so far away and out of reach. I no longer feel that way. I feel free and I know that I have the ability to continue traveling the world for the rest of my life.
2. I’m not afraid to try new things
Another aspect of growing up in a small and secluded town is that people don’t often try new things. In fact, sometimes new things seem scary because we don’t understand them. I’ve learned through all of my time traveling that trying new things is an enjoyable part of being alive. There are always things we don’t know and have yet to learn and learning them is a beautiful part of life! We don’t live just to keep having the same experiences over and over again.
When you travel, you are completely submerging yourself in a situation that consists entirely of new things and experiences. From trying new food and seeing new places, to meeting new people and learning from them, you’ll never regret all that you’ll gain from experiencing new things.
3. I’m a better problem solver
If there’s one lesson that’s smacked me hard in the face while traveling, it’s that there will always be something that doesn’t go as you planned. Without a doubt, this will always be true. Whether it’s some small detail or a giant one (like flying to the wrong airport), be prepared for the inevitable challenges you’ll face.
I’ve had my fair share of mishaps while traveling, but I’ve always managed to get through them and learn from them. I think I’ve grown so much in this way. If someone asked me a year ago what I would do if I was going to Paris and landed in an airport over two hours away with no idea how to get there, I probably would have said that I’d just cry. I’d like to state for the record that I did not cry once when that happened!
While facing a challenge like this, it might seem like you’ll never get through it, but I promise you will and you’ll be so much stronger and smarter because of it.
4. I have a better understanding of the world
Before moving abroad and doing all the traveling I’ve done here, the most I had ever traveled was a week here or there to Canada and once to Italy. The more I travel, the more I understand things that I never knew about. I have an appreciation for different cultures and ways of life. I’ve even learned that some aspects of life in other places are better than they are in my home country, and that’s okay!
It’s good to learn ways that things are done elsewhere in the world and it’s perfectly fine to even prefer them over the way your country does it. No place in the entire world is perfect and it’s okay to appreciate the good in every place and also acknowledge how it can be better.
For example, you always hear healthcare being brought up when talking about the United States. I realized while living in Spain how much I prefer their healthcare system to what the US has. I was sick once and while I normally wouldn’t have even gone to the doctor in America, I saw a doctor in Madrid and I was shocked at how quick, easy and cheap the entire experience was. I made an appointment that day and I was in and out in less than 30 minutes total with a prescription and a doctor’s note for work. Back home, that same situation would have cost me hundreds and taken much longer. I was very thankful that day.
5. I have much more patience
Traveling has taught me that not everything will work out the way I want or give me the experience I was hoping for. Years ago, I would have handled that much differently than I do now. I’ve learned through those times to be more patient and go into every situation with an open mind.
You never know what you’re going to run into in life and it’s important to just relax and enjoy the journey that you are on. I used to always be in hyperdrive, on to the next thing before something was even finished. Now, I try to find the best in all situations and enjoy them for what they actually are. Even if they are less than ideal, it’s all part of the experience.
6. I realize I’m capable of so much more than I thought
I’m not usually one to give myself enough credit for my accomplishments. I’ve realized through everything that I’ve done that I’m capable of achieving a lot. I moved abroad, got a new job, handled all of my visa paperwork (all in a country where I barely spoke the language), found an apartment, set up a bank account and phone plan, traveled all over Europe and made some new friends. That’s a lot to accomplish in just one year.
I realized that it’s okay to be proud of myself when I manage to get through something that is challenging and push myself to succeed. Travel is the same because there will always be challenges to overcome and it only makes the whole experience that much more enjoyable. If I can do all of these things, anyone can.
There’s a reason why you see so many people begin to travel and soon become addicted. It is rewarding like nothing else can be and it will change your life. If you decide to give it a try or do it more often, I promise you won’t regret it. Get out there and find new and uncommon places to explore. Your whole world will open up and you’ll become a different and better person for it.