With the world at our fingertips, it has become increasingly easy to connect and disclose our lives with others. All of a sudden, we find ourselves sharing everything online. As a result, this need to participate on the internet has made the concept of traveling even more fascinating.
How often are we told to travel because it will change our lives?
Nowadays, travel content is so easily accessible. YouTube and Instagram have become the biggest platforms for travelers to share their experiences. Social media has successfully propagated the idea that traveling leads to significant life-changes.
However, some travelers show the result rather than the journey. This means that some of them choose to present the glamour and prestige of traveling, instead of the realities of it. They portray leisure and luxuries, meanwhile withholding the inconveniences. But the narrative is the same: You will be able to discover your life’s purpose and attain a sense of fulfillment when you travel.
Now that I have traveled long-term myself, I have realized that there is often a lot more that people choose not to talk about. And while their claims may be true, I believe there is not enough conversation on the struggle involved to get there.
I have started my traveling journey back in January of this year. Six months later, I do not feel as though I have a new and profound outlook on life. I would even argue that I am still the same person I was when I began this journey. Even though I have learned the value of investing in experiences, I feel like this realization is hollow at best for something so supposedly life-changing such as traveling.
To better understand my reflections, let me break it down into two thought processes.
The Intention: Escaping the mundane
“You can’t escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”
— Abraham Lincoln
Initially, I wanted to travel for the sake of escaping the mundanities of everyday life. I knew I wanted to do great things but I did not exactly know how to do it. All I knew was I hated where I was, and what I was doing. I did not have anything to look forward to. Ultimately, I decided that that was not the way to live. I packed my bags and took the next flight out of the States.
My intentions have led me on a meaningless journey. I chose to aimlessly travel because I wanted to break out of my humdrum existence. I was busy escaping the mundane that I have lost sight of who I was, and what I was supposed to do. I thought that as long as I was anywhere else but home, I would be happy.
The Execution: Failing to seek discomfort
“Whatever makes you uncomfortable is your biggest opportunity for growth.”
— Bryant McGill
They always say that good things happen outside of your comfort zone. Traveling, most especially, requires you to step out of it. So far, I have traveled to five different countries, and every time, I chose to stay in high-rise condominiums and penthouses. The most uncomfortable I have ever been in was sleeping in a capsule hotel because I had to deal with other people snoring. Although considering that it was one of the most lavish yet affordable hotels in Tokyo, I now know that my perceptions were shallow. Furthermore, I remember a few months back that my girlfriend would always remind me that I have not truly experienced the Philippines as I lived in the capital’s most affluent neighborhood.
Life was so different from where I used to be that I willingly and knowingly chased the utmost comforts to run away from my unpleasant reality. However, we usually learn the greatest lessons in life by taking risks and seeking discomfort.
The Takeaway: Make travel more fulfilling
“We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment.”
— Hilaire Belloc
Essentially, traveling does not magically solve all our problems, but it could be a stepping stone to elevate our lives. Knowing what I know now, here are the few things I will do differently.
- Connect with the locals
Who knows about a country better than someone who has grown up in it? Traveling with a local can be a unique and spontaneous experience. With locals, you will be able to gain a deeper insight into their culture. Understanding their way of life and learning from their experiences will get you closer to attaining self-fulfillment.
Additionally, locals will be able to help you get around and take you to places that you will not find on travel sites and guidebooks. Befriending a local will also keep you safe by bridging language barriers and diffusing cultural misunderstandings that might arise.
The truest way to live in a foreign country is to live as the locals do, hence I want to be able to relate with the locals more. Doing so will make for lifelong friends and sincere connections.
- Truly immerse in the culture
Truly immersing in the culture will open doors to a deeper understanding of an unfamiliar place. Allowing yourself to get deeply involved in a foreign country will make way for genuine emotions and shared experiences. The more we share our cultures, the more we understand their importance in our own lives. Travelers benefit from learning something new, and the locals can preserve their customs and traditions.
By choosing to immerse in the culture, I will be able to fully embrace our complexities and nuances while also taking part in the best of what humanity has to offer.
- Volunteer when I can
My travels have also exposed me to the realities that I was initially blind to. What I can usually afford to have may not come so easily for others. So whenever possible, I will want to volunteer and give back to the communities that have given me so much.
Volunteering is a humbling experience that takes commitment. You will be able to gain new skills, grow as a person, and appreciate your life more. Volunteering abroad is one of the best ways to achieve self-fulfillment.
Traveling can only be fulfilling if you do it with purpose. Therefore, set a goal, and have a plan to execute that goal. Moreover, be willing to adapt to your environment since it is easy to fall into the same routines. If there is any growth to be found, it will be from adapting to adversity.
With everything the world has to offer, we should not be doing it for likes on an Instagram photo. Instead, we should make it worth our while.
Written by Jaleel.