Whether you are an adventurous traveler who scales mountains and hikes through jungles or you are a lover of creature comforts who lives for five star hotels, travel will teach you some of life’s great lessons. It does not matter if you were born a beach bum or are an art enthusiast travel will enrich your life.
Whether you prefer traveling in groups or going it alone, if you are a planner or spontaneous your life will benefit by traveling away from what you know. You don’t have to go far, you may or may not cross oceans, take a plane, train or car the important thing is that you explore the world outside of your community.
What will you discover?
Look at the familiar through new eyes: Travel to a place you know well with someone who has never been there before. On a trip to Pittsburgh, where I grew up, my niece and her boyfriend showed me a city full of unique and charming old neighborhoods, museums dedicated to things such as ketchup, Andy Warhol and the birth of the labor movement. I also saw that the view of the three rivers from Mount Washington is as beautiful as any large city vista.
We are small: Walk through the redwood forests in California or hike through Rocky Mountain National Park and you will discover just how small we are.
There are more similarities than differences: Stand on the shore in Nova Scotia, Canada and then the coast of Brittany in France you will notice the similarities in the landscape and the people even though these two places are separated by an ocean.
You can be someone else: I have had people think I was Dutch in Lucca, Italy and Quito Ecuador, French in Venice and German in Rome. In fact the only place people absolutely know that I am American is in Canada. It is fun to play along and see where it takes you.
Food can be part of your adventure: You will find that pretty food is not always good and ugly food is not always bad. It is not the wine that is important it is the new and old friends that you share it with that is important.
You can be happier if you strike out on your own: If you are traveling with a group you do not need to do everything your companions do. Some people have an amazing capacity for art museums, others prefer churches and still others can walk for miles without a break. After spending a week in France looking at buildings designed by the architect Corbusier, I finally rented a car and went to San Tropez. Everyone was happier after that.
Rain is beautiful too: The sun does not have to shine to make a place beautiful; standing in the rain in a rain forest is as beautiful as sitting in the sun in Portofino.
Beauty is all around you, just look and see: Treat yourself to the colors in the landscape in New Mexico and the lack of contrast between the water, ice and landscape on a cloudy day in Newfoundland.
New York City is not the US, Paris is not France: You learn not to judge a country by one city – New York City is not representative of the United States and Paris is not representative of France.
Old is a state of mind: In some countries old is measured in thousands of years in other countries it is measured in hundreds of years. In people, old is a state of mind, if you are young look around you at older travelers who are walking the same paths as you only with canes and walking sticks often with a smile on their face.
When disaster strikes: Traveling makes you feel empathy when disaster strikes. How many people cried after Hurricane Katrina remembering the people they had met in New Orleans or Biloxi? The tourist trade helped revive the economy of Southeast Asia after the tsunami hit in 2004.
Imagine: Take a break and imagine what daily life is like in the place you are visiting, and then think of what it was like a hundred years ago or a thousand years ago.
If someone asks you to sing then sing!: Step outside your comfort zone, try to speak the language, if people are singing join in.
Smiles translate: If in doubt smile, they mean the same thing in every language. Chances are you will be rewarded with a smile in return.
No amount of reading books, watching TV or listening to music can replace the experience of getting up off your couch and going to see it all for yourself. You will never look at the world in the same way again.