hat do you get out of travel? Odds are, the answer you give won't be identical to the one your friend gives. Or your neighbor. Or even that lucky dog you met last month who by now is making his way across Mongolia with a backpack slung across his back. Just like art, everybody interprets the way they experience travel a little bit differently. But there seem to be some common threads.
When the question "How has travel benefited you?" was posed in several online travel forums, responses fell into six main categories:
Making the world more real
Observed from the safety of our living rooms, the world often amounts to little more than another diversion to be put aside when it’s time for dinner, or when the big game on ESPN beckons. It is difficult to really get a personal perspective on something for which we have no frame of reference.
Travel provides that reference. First-hand experience makes it easier to relate to the rest of the world on a more personal basis. As one person put it, "until you see it, it is just a story on a page or a picture in a book. But if you go there, you connect; it becomes a part of you." It makes the game of Us and Them a lot more difficult.
Apprecation of differences
Differences exist throughout the world. Travel offers a perspective on the world outside the "box" of one's own culture and accepted norms. One person summed it up, saying, "Our way of doing things isn't always right, nor the best way, whether you're talking about how to run a government or how to take a bath." Travel brings one to the realization that there can be multiple "right" ways of doing things.
Insights on similarities
In spite of the enormous differences around the world, there is still a common thread that makes us all very much alike. "Apart from policy issues, which don't really affect people's daily lives that much, and climate, people are generally the same all over." There is a common humanity—a friendliness, a willingness to share—that can be found wherever one goes.
New perspectives on one's own country, culture, and self
The opportunity to see things from a different vantage point gives travelers the chance to learn a great deal that may never have occurred to them sitting at home. From watching the news about one's own country from the outside, to a conversation with the locals about what's really important in life, to seeing what life is like for the truly poverty-stricken, the insights travelers take away can increase their understanding of themselves and the world around them.
Personal challenge/increased self confidence
Traveling in unfamiliar circumstances and rising to the challenge can instill a self confidence that is carried over to daily life back in the "real world."
This sixth category really encompasses all of the areas above. As a journalist from Indiana put it, "I also love education and believe that it is a lifelong process. I love what I learn about other people and cultures by meeting fellow travelers, local people, and exploring local towns and cities." Simply put, to travel is to learn, which is a benefit in and of itself.