Travel Doesn’t Change You But it Should

Black travel experiences

One of the most misguided opinions about travel is that travel will change you. It’s a lie. Some travel is like a diet pill. Travel won’t change you simply because you travel; you have to put in some work. You can collect a thousand pretty little stamps and come back the same ignorant, prejudiced, and narrow-minded a$$hole you left as. I’ve heard people preach about how this place changed them or how that event made them appreciate life and all its possibilities. But the truth is, all travel doesn’t change you— but it should.

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Travel Doesn’t Change You 

But it Should

I used to think one of the most interesting things about me was that I traveled– a lot. I was wrong. Travel can completely change how you look at the world. However, anyone can travel. And anyone can travel and learn absolutely nothing from it. You can have a passbook full of stamps and still be ignorant of the world. Travel doesn’t change you but it should.

When you travel, try to think about more than just a good time. I want to contribute to the sustainability that made me want to visit in the first place. What can I do to make sure the majesty of the jungles, oceans, and indigenous peoples aren’t affected by my presence. In many parts of the world, travel dollars are the only dollars some people see. So all the above is great, but I can do better– we all can.

Naturally, I don’t litter or touch things like coral or artwork. I don’t sit on antique furniture or take flash photos of sensitive works of art. I don’t eat, drink, or scream where I’m not supposed to. Or trespass on anyone’s prayer, property, or privacy.

Don’t Feed the Animals

And don’t buy souvenirs from children who should be in school or judge other cultures based on your values, politics, or customs. Don’t eat whale meat or buy counterfeit purses, ivory or ostrich leather– Paul!! And don’t disregard the people who make your food, your bed, or your day.

Travel doesn’t change you, but it should.

Reflecting on My First Time as a Podcast Guest 

You Have to be Open

It takes a willingness to be open. To allow what you see, hear, feel, smell and touch affect you. And then effect changes in your environment. Contrary to popular opinion, travel doesn’t change you or make you a better person. You can go to a million cities, countries, continents, or cosmic universes and come back to the same old tired self. Travel won’t do a damn thing. Unless what you see, hear, taste, feel, and smell changes how you understand the world.

You Will Go Home Again

They say that when you travel, the place you come back to is a different one. There is a presumption that you become enlightened– woke to the world. But that isn’t true either if you come back and don’t incorporate what you’ve learned into your new life. Make sure your home life is filled with the same influences that we love about travel– diversity, imagination, and exploration.

Growth is Internal

You don’t have to go far. All travel can be rewarding if you find meaning in it. You don’t have to go across the world to find yourself. Most of the growth actually takes place once you return home. You just have to be honest with yourself to find what makes you happy.

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You Have to Leave the Resort

Many people travel all around the world on fabulous vacations. When you ask them what they did, they tell you about the pool, the shopping, and the nightlife. Pressing them further, you find out they never had a conversation with a local who didn’t clean their room. They don’t know anything about the place they couldn’t read in a travel guide. And that’s perfectly fine. Sometimes all I want to do is relax and chill by the pool.

But there’s a saying in travel. If you really want to understand the place, you have to leave the resort. I don’t mean you have to hire a sherpa to climb Mt. Everest. However, you have to step out of your comfort zone. Peel back the layers of the onion to get to the good stuff that makes you laugh so hard you cry. Otherwise, enjoy your lounge chair, but don’t come back trying to convince people you are a changed person.

You Need the Whole Picture

All Travel Isn’t Transformative

Most people travel to a tourist destination and don’t bother to understand the place where people live, work, and raise their children. Every city, state, and country is affected by its politics, landscape, and history. Trying to understand these elements will give you more insight into the people. It will help you understand why they do things differently. And it will be a starting point for you to reflect on commonalities instead of differences.

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Finally, be real. Don’t oversell your travel experiences. We’ve all seen the pictures of a beautiful girl looking out over the horizon. The description talks about life-changing, reality-altering experiences. Give me a break. Sometimes it’s just getting a little much-needed rest and a little sun. Sometimes you may have a real out of body experience with the locals. And sometimes you may take some sick Instagram pictures.

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  1. Preet

    I agree with this. whenever I had a travel I always make sure to see the local culture. you can never feel how to be a traveler without this.

  2. Shannan P

    This is all so true. There is so much more to travel than just the resort you visit. In order to become more cultured, you must go out and experience the true local culture.

  3. Katie

    I love seeing the local culture and even getting a chance to stay with someone from the local community. It’s definitely a different experience than staying at the resort.

  4. Kim

    I love traveling for the way my mind switches to welcome trying new things and really taking in my surroundings. Even days after I come home from a trip, I still hold on to that mindset for a few days and realize that I can “travel” in my own city.

  5. Liz Cleland

    I think for a long time I wanted those “perfect holiday shots” and never really enjoyed my vacation. I spent all my time trying to capture all the moments I never actually lived in the moment. Now I barely reach for my phone or any device when we go on a trip!

  6. Monidipa Dutta

    Travel relieves stress and boosts mental health. The most obvious and potentially most important health benefit of traveling is stress reduction. Traveling has the ability to take you out of our daily routine and into new surroundings and experiences and this can reset your body and mind.

  7. Surekha Busa

    I agree that travel that not change you the way who we are. Maybe it helps us change our life point of view or perspective, it helps you to become broader in your thinking.

  8. Kate Findley

    I appreciate your authenticity. And I agree that to get the full experience of a country, you need to see everything, not just the tourist destinations. When I went to Costa Rica, the best part was going through all the towns, going to the grocery stores, and getting a sense of what life was actually like for the citizens.

  9. Ingrid

    Travel can help to broad our way of thinking. As you said the traveler may find that he/she comes to a different world; but it is not so much that the world has changed but that the traveler has changed

  10. Alexandra

    What a great post! I enjoyed reading it, and I truly agree with you. Travel cannot change you unless you’re open to change and also allow yourself to really experience your trip. Love this post!

    1. duffelbagspouse

      Thank you, so true. I love to travel more than anything else, but I see people travel as a way to impress people and not to understand them.

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