Ten ways travel changed my life
As we embark on a brand new year full of possibilities, new adventures and places waiting to be explored I thought it was the perfect time to write a reflective post on the ways that travel has changed me as a person. Looking back on the year that was I never imagined that I would travel to as many places as I did or have as many amazing experiences. I still pinch myself when I think back to finding one of the most beautiful beaches of my life in Tulum, or the wide-eyed wonder that came over me when I saw the magnificent Eiffel Tower in all its glory after thirteen long years. Every time I am given an opportunity to travel I am always grateful for the chance to explore, discover and experience somewhere new. Travel has changed my life for the better, shaped me into the individual that I am today and turned me into a storyteller. I can feel my eyes light up when I am telling someone about my latest adventures and a passion that lies deep within brimming to the surface.
It was my mum who fostered my love of travel as a young child and I will always be thankful to her for opening my eyes to the big wide world out there at such a young age. I have fond memories of trips to America where I marveled at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, fulfilled all my childhood dreams at Disneyland and discovered that not everyone was as fortunate as I was in a trip across the border to Tijuana, Mexico. There was a cruise through the South Pacific and then when all my friends went off to Alice Springs for the annual school trip, I headed off to Japan to immerse myself in a language and culture far removed from my own. And then at 21 years of age, I headed off on my first big European adventure and rite of passage with Contiki. Of course, at the time I didn’t quite realize just how much this trip would set me up for a life of travel.
This quote by St Augustine has guided me through my life thus far and encouraged me to get out there and explore…“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page”
So just how has travel changed me?
- Greater Self-Confidence
I landed in London at the tender age of 21 about to embark on my first big overseas adventure, wide eyed and naïve. Back then, I was a nervous traveller and remember how an unexpected blackout in London sent my travel plans spiralling into disarray. What did they mean the trains weren’t running? How was I supposed to get into town now? That was the only way I knew to get to the hotel! Thankfully my best friend was more calm and collected than I was back then and managed to put up with me long enough to get us into a black cab and off to the hotel.
Nowadays, I breeze through security at airports with ease, always have a plan B and embrace everything about travel, even the things that are impossible to plan for and control. Sure there are times when stress gets the better of me; most recently at Mexico City airport as I was forced to repack my unmentionables into another case as I was a measly 3kg overweight; or the absurdity of being forced to leave security screening to purchase a clear plastic bag for my liquids as I tried to get out of Mexico City. But overall I am a more self-assured and confident person as a result of my travel experiences. I am much more likely to approach someone new and introduce myself when I am in a foreign land and often tackle new challenges that I may not have had I been in my comfort zone.
- World awareness
I have been extremely fortunate to travel to countries less fortunate than my own. It has opened my eyes up to just how lucky I am to live in Australia and also how fortunate I am to be able to travel so easily. I remember conversations with Turkish shopkeepers in Istanbul over sweet apple tea, where they told me of their frustration and difficulty in obtaining visas to travel the world and envied just how easy it was for me to cast the nets wide and set off to explore.
I have met young children in Africa and been shown the true meaning of happy. These children have embraced me with open arms, bestowed on me 'rockstar' status and despite seeming to have nothing they have given me more love and affection than I could have imagined. I will never forget their smiles and always feel grateful to them for opening my eyes to the things that are really important; love, happiness, family and friendship.
I am forever grateful for all the opportunities I have been given to travel. I have been able to stay at some amazing hotels such as the Plaza Athenee in Paris. Truly a hotel fit for a princess. Then there were the trips to Africa, which altered the very core of my being and my extreme fortune to travel to Bhutan and experience an amazing kingdom nestled in the Himalayas and built on the pursuit of happiness. And through all my adventures, there has been a constant thread of being grateful for the country I live in and the amazing friends and family I am blessed to have in my life. Although I would not trade any of my travels, I am always grateful to return home to the bright lights of Melbourne. Australia truly is the lucky country.
- Material possessions no longer as important
I could live without most of my material possessions. My travels have taught me to place less importance in things and more value in experiences and the people I surround myself with. In any emergency, the only things I would rush to save are my passport, hard drive and computer chock full with photos of my adventures around the world. Everything else material is replaceable. I place more value in the adventures I have had overseas than in investing in traditional bricks and mortar, and even now the desire to travel has a stronger pull than saving for that elusive house deposit.
- More adventurous
My travels have seen me climb ruins in Mexico; conquer some of the tallest rides from the top of The Stratosphere in Las Vegas; fly in a helicopter through pelting rain in Cannes; ride a camel across both the Egyptian and Arabian desert; hurtle through the streets of Paris in a sidecar; walk with lions in Zimbabwe; survive and thrive on countless safaris in Kruger National Park; pushed through pain barriers to reach the elusive Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Bhutan…and the list goes on. In the near future I look forward to visiting Dubai again, facing my fear of skydiving and finally understanding my brother’s passion for this crazy sport.
- Living in the moment
Sure I have goals for the future, but travel has also taught me to live in the moment and appreciate each and every day for the blessing that it is. I am aware of the great fortune I have to be able to travel both for leisure and for work and I try not to take this for granted. As recent tragic events in aviation have taught us, you never know what lies around the corner. There is no room for regrets and I firmly believe that you should live each and every day as if it is your last. Don’t wait to tell the people around you just how much you love and appreciate them.
My travel adventures have instilled in me a strong sense of self-reliance. I know that when all the chips are down I have the resolve, courage and fortitude to tackle life’s challenges head on.
I am a much more independent person than that naïve 21 year old who first stepped off that plane in London. I can confidently navigate the many pitfalls of travel, get through airport security and navigate my way through foreign lands.
- Develop new friendships and strengthen existing ones
Some of my greatest travel memories have been shared with both new and existing friends. There have been the holiday romances that however fleeting burned bright. It had always been a dream of mine to travel with my girlfriends and something I am pleased to have achieved last year in Mexico. The chance to travel to a country so rich in culture and forge such strong memories with some of my closest girlfriends is an experience I will treasure for many years to come. Opportunities to travel for work to both Las Vegas and Cannes for trade shows have enabled me to connect with and forge strong relationships and friendships with people in my industry. People that are just as passionate as I am about the transformative power of travel.
- A broader palate
I have eaten warthog in Africa, yak burgers in Bhutan and ant larvae in Mexico City. My travels around the world have encouraged me to be adventurous in my food choices. I reserve any preconceived notion of what something may taste like and simply try it. As a result I have a more worldly and well-rounded palate.
Travel is truly the life-blood that courses through me and I cannot wait to see what adventures 2015 will bring. My passport and camera are ready…
I would love to hear from you. How has travel changed you?