I’ve heard the whispers of some relatives of mine. Concerned Lolos and Lolas can't comprehend why I moved to Thailand to teach English for a year immediately after I graduated from college.
“I don’t understand why Ryann is doing that. Why does her mom let her go [travel] alone?” a relative relayed to one of my aunties.
To older generations, I may be acting irresponsibly by gallivanting around Asia for a year. I really don’t have any other defense to offer, other than I’m doing something that allows me to help others, and further define myself as a person. The assumption that my time away from the US is a “gap year” is also a tad offensive to me. I’m not taking a year off from studying or working, because I am actually working in a secluded village as a full-time volunteer under unfamiliar and challenging circumstances. I am abroad right now because I wanted to take a risk, venture into the unknown (at least for me) and find a greater sense of independence. I would say that I’ve done all three of these things, and have grown stronger and more self-aware. This time away from home is merely another chapter in my book. It has been a fulfilling and enriching experience that I needed to have.
I’ve never heard a single soul complain that they wished they traveled less. The fact is, the older you get, the harder it becomes to travel. You’re confined to your routine. You have significant others, children, bills, chores, responsibilities and commitments. All of these things are hard to simply leave behind, so why not travel while you’re still young, healthy and open to the world?
Here are the things I’ve gained from traveling abroad. Granted, I have been working while overseas, but I take advantage of my time during the weekends and school breaks to journey to new places. I truly believe these are reasons for everyone to seek out opportunities to travel. Also, I’ve included some postcards from my trip to Indonesia this summer to accompany each reason.
1. Love for new food and flavors – Perhaps one of the biggest advantages to traveling for us Pilipinos is the food! When you’re abroad, you get to broaden your palette and introduce your taste buds to exotic (by our standards) dishes, delicacies and desserts. This alone is enough of a reason to travel, though I can think of a handful more…
2. Knowledge – Just because you’ve finished with school, doesn’t mean the learning stops there. The good thing about traveling while you’re young is that you can learn without critical judgment, but with an open heart. You should learn about other cultures, lifestyles and beliefs, and expand your understanding of the world. Continue to nourish your mind. Feed it the knowledge and compassion it deserves.
3. Appreciation – This is the time in our lives for us to really understand what matters most. When you travel, you learn more about gratitude and love, simply by seeing how the rest of the world lives. You’ll learn about the realities and environment that people face in various pockets of the world. You’ll play a witness (and sometimes an engaged citizen) to other’s struggles and accomplishments, and not just read about it in the news (not that the news depicts the whole story anyway).
4. Friendship – It’s time to break out of your comfort zone. If you venture to a new country, it’s also helpful to try and learn the language there as well. You’ll be a big hit with the locals, as they will appreciate that you’ve taken the time to learn how to communicate with them. Even if you already have an array of friends from school and work, you'll have the opportunity to network and socialize with new friends you make along the way. When you travel, you will connect with people from all walks of life, and you can certainly have them as contacts for future endeavors.
5. Confidence – Traveling is challenging, but it’s easier than you think! Sure, it can be exhausting when you have to catch a 12-hour bus from a remote village to a major city, or if you have an overnight layover in one of the busiest airport hubs in the region. But you will learn that the world is much smaller and more accessible than you realize. There is an amazing rush that comes with traveling; you’ll get lost, hit roadblocks along the way, and your plans will change or fall through. But facing your fears head on means you’re living life.
6. New perspective – When you travel, your ideas and perceptions of life will shift, as they should! You'll realize the importance of slowing down and finding the beauty in everything around you. I’ve known too many people who have reevaluated their time in graduate school or in their first couple of jobs after college. Some tell me that they are miserable at their jobs, or feel they are perpetually stressed out and overworked. Many recognize that they are unhappy and have lost their sense of purpose, or have become just another number in the system. I fear it’s an American mentality to work so hard for money, but is that all that matters? What about happiness? It’s important to get a change of scenery and move at a different pace. When you’re stuck in a routine, life can seem bland and repetitive. Invest in your happiness and quiet your mind from all of the clutter and chaos!
7. Personal growth – During your travels, you will grow. You’ll test your limits, but also learn to go with the natural flow of life. Old habits will disintegrate as you realize how to live more purposefully. In addition, you can use this time for self-discovery and healing. Traveling is more than just vacationing, and casting away all of your worries. It can be a way for you learn more about yourself, as well as heal any emotional and mental wounds. You will identify your values more clearly, and upon returning home, be more at peace with yourself.