2012,The last time I spent more than a year in one city. 2014, my first cross-country move. 2015, my first international move.
Since then, I have learned so much about my personality, my strengths, my weaknesses, and my ability to cope. I have spent the better part of 3 years in a constant state of motion, motivated by my desire to travel. My desire to explore fueled my self-discovery, and I’ve become someone I doubt I would have if I stayed put. Here is what travel can do for you:
You will learn to be present
The first time I moved cross-country in the USA, I cried a lot for the people I left behind. I felt alone, and jealous whenever my college friends posted their new experiences on Facebook. The FOMO was real, my friend. But after the initial shock, I realized that I wouldn’t want to be anywhere except where I was at that exact moment. I stopped stressing about the things I was missing and focused on what I could enjoy. After I moved to Japan, I lost all jealousy for other peoples lives. I began doing what I wanted to do everyday, with no one to pull me in a direction that I wasn’t interested in. I packed my schedule full of new things to try, do, and see, and haven’t looked back since. I fell in love with life, and look at the world around myself with fresh eyes. When you travel, or do something for yourself, you will discover a passion for your own journey, and will appreciate the present rather than stressing about the future or past.
You will develop a passion for learning
Whether it be a new language, or simply adjusting to the lifestyle, you will learn something new everyday, and you will want to prepare yourself for your upcoming travel. I studied Japanese for months before I boarded my plane. Perhaps an upcoming international hiking trip will inspire you to research about the animals you might encounter. Vacationing abroad might make you discover more about that cultural etiquette. Either way, you will discover that you want to learn more about the world around you. Inadvertently, you will also learn about yourself.
You will discover your inner strength and motivation
I lived on auto-pilot before changing my lifestyle. Waking up for the same job I felt like quitting everyday, and living for a few hours each week where I could do something enjoyable. For what? So I could afford a new handbag or a few rounds of beer after work? How about no. You will discover what gets you out of bed in the morning, what you enjoy doing on a day to day basis, and what you enjoy learning about.
Your confidence will soar
I joined a few meet-ups in Tokyo. I researched pick-up sports teams online to join. I said hello to people at the gym with the few bits of broken Japanese that I knew. I sat next to a friendly-looking woman on the train and offered to hold one of the 4 bags she was juggling, and ended up invited to lunch with her. Before my trip out here, I wouldn’t have been confident enough to strike up these conversations in English, much less in a foreign language. Travel has a way of really forcing you to reach outside your comfort zones and stretch that social bubble you once had.
You’ll expand your palate
Have you ever tried taiyaki? (fish-shaped sweet/savory pastries, fried) How about bibimbap? (Korean rice dish with meat, egg and veggies) Sannakji? (live baby octopus) After I moved from the states, I stopped craving hamburgers and started snacking on tuna onigiri (rice balls). I never thought I would enjoy raw fish, or love fatty tuna, but I do. You will not only discover new foods, but learn how to prepare them. You can even get really creative and mix up familiar dishes with things that you discover abroad.
You understand and communicate with people better
I never understood why crocs were so popular in Japan until AFTER I got caught in a typhoon. Then I totally understood the whole socks-and-plastic-shoes fashion……..on a more serious note, travelling teaches you about subtle cultural nuances, and gives you an international perspective on how situations effect people everywhere.
Before heading to Japan, I reached out my friends for travel advice and support. I asked others how much money I needed, what things I needed to bring, what things I didn’t, etc etc. Travelling as given me reason to connect with old friends, through advice, or by gaining experiences that I can share with them.
I have met so many people abroad that have challenged my image of the way life is supposed to be. I now have friends all over the world (and a place to crash in many different countries!). My Australian friends taught me about how their governmental support system, and I learned the reasons why they left. The folks I met from Ireland shared about their reasonings for choosing Japan over a country in Europe. You will have the opportunity to find other ways to travel once you leave home. These people have opened my eyes to new ways to continue travel and learn.
You will become more employable
After struggling with a culture-shock, language-barrier, and lifestyle and work-expectation differences, I have a lot to explain to an employer about diversity, adaptability, and my ability to problem solve. I’ve become more organized. Having international experience will showcase your motivation and confidence, and worldliness. Why wouldn’t you want to look more attractive to an employer?
You will learn true gratitude and appreciation
I have learned to appreciate small things, like electrical plugs that match my computer cords, low humidity during the night, waterproof shoes during a typhoon. (I’ve also learned to check the weather before leaving the house in canvas shoes…..) I am so grateful for the gift of speaking English, which has allowed me to travel and teach it abroad. You will learn to appreciate things that most people look past, like amenities, or even a beautiful skyline. Most locals don’t remember seeing their home for the first time, and what that felt like. You will have the unique opportunity to appreciate your surroundings again and again.
You will be forced to be open minded
Especially without anyone to lean on, you will be forced to learn how to do everything for yourself, and learn deeply about the culture of the country you find yourself in. Without anyone familiar around you, you must adjust to the food and the transportation systems. I was lucky enough to have my boss walk me through a mental break down the first time I got terribly lost on the JR (train) in Japan. I had to figure out how to dress myself appropriately, especially in a hot and sticky climate, and you will too. You will learn about cultural etiquette, and the things you do that others do differently, or might consider rude. You will learn about a countries history, it’s rules, and it’s problems. And you will discover and recognize your own personal biases.
Living internationally has made an incredible impact on my life. How has it changed yours? Let me know by commenting below! And don’t forget to subscribe (pretty please and thank you!)