Traveling abroad is an exciting escape, but it’s also life-changing. Outside your own country, you’re exposed to exotic cultures, curious mannerisms, new languages, extraordinary food, and a different pace of life. How can anyone expect to return home the same person? I noticed a shift in my perspectives after my first international vacation. Peculiar topics (at least for me) began popping into my conversations and I saw my home through anything but rose-colored glasses. These changes strengthened each time I traveled, and eventually, I made the leap to move abroad. Perhaps no two journeys are the same, but here are some lessons plenty of people can agree on learning after traveling abroad for the first time.
1. Traveling Abroad Teaches You to “Tune in” More
Sometimes, it seems like we live in a world where everyone wants to be noticed and heard yet few people pay attention. While traveling abroad, language barriers slow down chatter and help us fine tune our listening skills. Having so many new and unique things to see also makes traveling exhilarating and keeps us on our toes. The only way to absorb as much as possible is by looking, listening, and being in the moment. Otherwise, you risk missing something amazing.
2. You Realize the Significance of Speaking More Than One Language
About 25% of Americans can carry a conversation in a second language, according to a Gallup study from 2001. For Europeans, however, 54%, 25%, and 10% speak a minimum of two, three, and more languages respectively. Those percentages increase in other regions. You notice this difference when traveling abroad. Being multilingual makes international travel easier. Plus, people who speak more than one language reap cognitive benefits and notice advantages in their lifestyles.
3. Traveling Teaches You the Cultural Significance of Food and Mealtimes
This experience may be stronger or weaker depending on where you go. For example, I noticed food much less in Australia than I do now in Spain (two words: paella and jamon!). Nonetheless, there is a strong link between food and culture, and how or what people choose to eat reflects social values and unique perspectives. Food brings families together, helps cultures celebrate and mourn, and links local history with the present.
4. It Teaches You to Appreciate History
While traveling abroad, history becomes three-dimensional. You can see it, touch it, and even taste and smell it. Places that you once read about are suddenly in front of you, and there are no pictures or words that can replace the awe of seeing something in person. Neither are there history books that can tell a story like a local who has lived through a significant period.
5. You’ll Learn How Brave You Can Be
Each time we’re presented with a challenge, we learn something new about ourselves. Although you may now say, “I would never do (fill in the blank),” there is something to say for the phrase, “When in Rome.” Suddenly you’re eating snails, SCUBA diving with sharks, riding on the back of a motorcycle taxi, or (fill in the blank).
Which lessons have you learned while traveling abroad?