Humans are awesome.
They also do a lot of dumb things, such as plundering the environment, thinking they’re the center of the universe, and misjudging anyone who thinks, looks or behaves differently than they do. What’s a society to do? Travel. Not just to escape the daily grind or see new landscapes, mind you—although those are both noble reasons—but to better itself.
Whether you realize it or not, here are five ways travel—especially world travel—can make you a better person.
Sorry, formal educators and the Internet. You’re good at teaching us math, language, science, history, art and the mechanical workings of the world. But you both fall short when it comes to teaching us humanities. Demonstrating different cultures only gets you so far.
For the real deal, you must experience different parts of the world yourself, whether in nearby places with different mannerisms or far away lands that open your eyes. Simply put, there is no better or faster way of accomplishing this than through travel.
Nothing boosts self-confidence as much as overcoming unexpected situations. While this can certainly happen at home or work, it happens a whole lot more abroad. From basic things like trying to order food in a foreign language to having your worldview challenged … when you succeed away from your little corner of the planet, you officially become a citizen of the world. This is because it’s easier to leave your mental comfort zone when you’ve already left your physical one.
First, distance makes the heart grow fonder, whether it’s distance from our immediate or extended families. Second, 42 percent of travel lovers say they feel more romantic away from home, according to research from the U.S. Travel Association ... and nearly one-third of them admit to making love more often. Upon returning home, half of traveling Americans report feeling more connected with their family.
Not only that, but travel encourages selflessness, which can enhance our relationships with everyone we encounter, not just loved ones. And of course, travel lets us meet new people. Call it better social life through travel.
Physical and mental health. Or so says the above U.S. Travel report, among many other studies. To wit, travel reduces the risk of heart attacks by 50 percent, it reduces stress as good as any other activity and it renews your determination and improve job satisfaction by 75 percent upon returning home.
What’s more, travel furnishes our lives with great stories we can share. Not just travel-bragging or geographical one-upmanship. But inspired, funny or touching stories that connect us and are as fun to tell as they are to listen to.
The more you experience the world, the less scary it becomes. This is because travel broadens our perspective. It’s rooted in reality not fear. It reminds us to stop judging books by their covers. It forces us to see the good in the world and think less about the bad.
As full-time globetrotter Clayton Cornell recently recognized, “Most of the world’s people are friendly and decent,” and “Most places are as safe (or safer) than home.” You’ll never learn that lesson until you “travel,” geographically as much as socially, economically, spiritually and mentally.
Off the Grid columnist Blake Snow writes epic stories for fancy publications and Fortune 500 companies. Visit his website or follow @blakesnow.