Travelling teaches you many things. It is almost like building a puzzle or creating an artwork – without knowing what the end product will look like. Described below are a few of many lessons that travel will teach you.
1. Lessons in language
A key thing you learn during your travels (depending on where you go) is a few words of a new language. Even if you have a basic understanding of a language, like German as an example, you will still learn that locals may use words very differently. You may have an idea that “Wasser Clausette” refers to “bathroom”, but in reality, very few Germans would use the full words. In general, it is just referred to as “WC” (pronounced Weh Tzeh). Besides using words differently, cultures differ! This means certain topics may be inappropriate to discuss, while things we find taboo in conversations may be totally normal.
You may also find that a broken or almost non-existent third language could get you further than English in certain European countries. Or that learning the correct body language in any destination is important to show respect. And if you are a regular traveller, you may even learn to read rhythms and tone of voice, helping you understand some gist of conversations without recognising an actual word.
While spoken language is important, you will quickly learn that the reading body language and using gestures can often be your saving grace. So it is important to learn that the universal language of travel is working around your language barriers!
2. Navigation skills
While we are all spoilt for choice with GPSes on our phones, watches and more, you need access to data to use these. Don’t get too comfortable with Google maps, you may just be Wifi-less, data-less or powerless (no batteries). You will also learn quickly that you need to understand the bus route or train route maps to find your way when travelling overseas. Locally you need to read picture signs, follow local directions, and know how to look for beacons. And don’t throw away the old compass and map yet! Aside from finding north in the stars, this is always the most tangible and reliable back-up when travelling.
3. Emotional Growth
Speaking of body language and words, you will quickly find that wherever you go, people may behave differently to what you are used to. The way people talk, the way they greet and even the way they dress could easily offend you. Learn to respect others, and above all, not to take these differences personally. What you may experience as cold or rude, may as well just be a difference in mannerism. Beware of over-friendliness, as this may speak of ulterior motives! You are sure to encounter a difference in opinion or belief when you travel – learn how to listen and share without thinking your way of thinking is the only way of thinking.
The biggest lesson you will learn when you travel is probably self-reflection. Travel opens your mind to new perspectives. We know the things we know in life because of what we’ve read, what we’ve experienced at home or what we’ve been taught – travel shows you there are more ways of looking at things or doing things. When we travel and allow ourselves to go outside of our comfort zones, we learn about our own fears, dislikes or tolerances. Yet we are often forced to press on beyond these and get to know who we are when we do. Learning about our own character shapes who we are and helps us grow.
This is probably the most important thing you will learn when you travel. That the puzzle of who you are is never complete.