Want an effortless education? Travel often
Whether you are an adventurous traveler who climbs mountains and walks through the jungle or if you are a lover of comforts living in five-star hotels, traveling will teach you some of life’s great lessons. It doesn’t matter if you were born a beach bum or an art enthusiast, travel will enrich your life.
Whether you prefer to travel in a group or go it alone, if you are a planner or spontaneous, your life will benefit from traveling far from what you know. You don’t have to go very 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 are you going to discover?
See the familiar with 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 like 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 the view of any big city.
We are small: Hike through the redwood forests in California or hike through the Rocky Mountain National Park and you will discover how small we are.
There are more similarities than differences: Stand on the coast in Nova Scotia, Canada and then on 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 who thought they were Dutch in Lucca, Italy and Quito Ecuador, French in Venice and German in Rome. In fact, the only place where people absolutely know that I am an American is Canada. It’s fun to play along and see where it takes you.
Food can be part of your adventure: You will discover that beautiful 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 with whom you share it that is important.
You may be happier if you go on your own: If you are traveling with a group you do not need to do everything that your companions do. Some people have an amazing capacity for art museums, others prefer churches, and others can walk for miles without rest. After spending a week in France looking at the buildings designed by the architect Corbusier, I finally rented a car and drove to San Tropez. Everyone was happier after that.
The rain is also beautiful: The sun doesn’t have to shine to beautify a place; 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: Enjoy the colors of the New Mexico landscape and the lack of contrast between water, ice and landscape on a cloudy day in Newfoundland.
New York City is not the United States, Paris is not France: You learn not to judge a country by a 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, age is measured in thousands of years, in other countries it is measured in hundreds of years. In people, old age is a state of mind, if you are young, look around you at older travelers who walk the same roads as you, only with sticks and poles 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 Southeast Asian economy after the 2004 tsunami.
Conceived: Take a break and imagine what daily life is like in the place you are visiting, and then think about what it was like a hundred or a thousand years ago.
If someone asks you to sing, sing !: Get out of your comfort zone, try to speak the language, if people sing, join in.
Smiles translate: If in doubt, smile, they mean the same thing in all languages. You will most likely be rewarded with a smile in return.
No amount of books you read, watch TV, or listen to music can replace the experience of getting up from the couch and seeing it all for yourself. You will never look at the world the same way again.