Tom asked me what lasting impact travel has had on my life.
I thought it was an interesting question. After I came home from Norway (country 193/193), I did a number of radio interviews where the host asked me similar things.
I didn’t always know how to answer these questions. I usually ended up saying something trite (“It’s been amazing!”) before realizing that the better solution was to tell a few stories. I may not be able to sum everything up in a pithy response, I reasoned, but I can talk about the people I met in Pakistan or that midnight train to Tbilisi.
Nevertheless, it’s clear that travel has had a tremendous impact on my life. It’s hard to know where to begin, but I’d point to a few overall categories.
General knowledge. I’m certainly not an expert on every country or region, but I do have a decent surface knowledge of most parts of the planet. I could quickly name the capital city for just about every country (after all, I’ve probably been there). I’m no specialist but I do know a little about almost everywhere.
More importantly, I’m pretty sure I could land anywhere and be able to quickly figure things out.
A mix of restlessness and contentment. I’ve learned through travel that you can be at peace wherever you are or you can be restless wherever you are. I’m often a bit of both. I like being on the go. Before I come home from a trip I start planning the next one.
I like having a lot of projects, even when the overload causes stress elsewhere in my life.
Some amount of cross-cultural awareness. I make a lot of mistakes, but I like to think I’m generally aware of how to behave in different settings. I’ve introduced a number of “foreign” practices into my life at home and around the world. I hand people business cards with two hands (Japan), I don’t wear shoes in my house (much of Asia), and my favorite meals are Indian or Pakistani.
At the same time I haven’t fundamentally changed much about who I am. I think that’s okay, too.
Courage. Probably the most important way that travel has impacted my life is that it’s brought me courage. I’m a worrier by nature, even when things are going well. Through travel, though, I learned that things will usually be okay—and even when they won’t, I can regroup and keep making progress another way.
I’ve learned as much from the mistakes and misadventures as I have from the times that everything went as planned. I can’t imagine what I’d be doing if I hadn’t pursued life outside my doors and beyond my comfort zone.
How about you—how has travel affected your life?