I have always traveled for work and I am grateful for it. I have been able to see much of the country and in the first 10 years of my career I was able to travel to France, Germany, England, Guatemala and Honduras for various work projects or industry events. During the pandemic travel halted and I missed it greatly. The position I am in now has resumed my travel and brought me back to traveling internationally to Mexico and Asia which has stretched my experiences even further. The one thing I think about each time I take a trip to another country is the dichotomy of how different cultures are (food, beliefs, language and architecture) while also how humans are very much alike. This drives my belief that travel changes you. Once you see, feel and hear other cultures, you are forever impacted and you gain a wider perspective on life.
I have made two trips to Asia this year, the first time I’ve ever been to that part of the world. These trips reminded me how young the US is when it comes to how long people have occupied the country and our architectural age. Seeing beautiful old buildings and knowing they are hundreds of years old is almost unfathomable to me. Recently I traveled to Beijing which is over 3000 years old in people recording history there and the oldest standing building was built in 1272! I am enamored with the history of the places I visit and seek to try to see and understand what I can while I am there. On my last trip I got a chance to visit the Forbidden City in Beijing and it was built between 1406 and 1420. There are 999 and 1/2 rooms in it! It was monstrous and I can’t even imagine how such an impressive complex was built without the tools and technology we have today.
The next enlightening thing about traveling abroad is you get to see firsthand what is going on in that particular locale. We hear lots of different things through mainstream media which may or may not be completely true. I have found it really interesting to actually be in a place and see and hear from the locals their take on a particular situation. Most often the negative things we hear are not all true. I also have found that no matter where I go, there are good and caring people everywhere. With this said, you never know when you might hit a hot button for a local in a foreign country. One of my first memories of this was when I was catching a cab from an airport in England to my hotel. The driver asked me what was going on in the states. He first asked about politics which I carefully tried to avoid and then he asked what was going on in Wisconsin (where I was living at the time). I made the mistake of mentioning sturgeon spearing season and I heard all about how horrible it is to kill the fish for the caviar! At the time I didn’t even know caviar came from Sturgeon….lesson learned.
While cultures can vary greatly from one country to another, for some reason I generally feel safe traveling. This is rooted in the fact that people are people. No matter where someone lives, there are good people. There are mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers who care for each other. If you can keep this in mind it is easier to trust in others, no matter their background. Of course, you don’t want to be careless while traveling abroad but I’m not so sure it’s so different than when you travel to a large city in the US. In fact, I probably feel safer in Asia than I do in some US cities. Be smart with your belongings and whereabouts but also don’t be so nervous that you just stay in your hotel room or avoid exploring on your own. There is so much to learn from getting out and immersing yourself with the people.
In addition to travel changing you, it also has brought me much gratitude for coming home. I miss my friends and family and routines. I have a stronger appreciation for living where we do and find that I make sure to thoroughly enjoy the little things in life, right outside my front door or on my back lanai. There is much to be thankful for in this life and travel only adds to my worldview.
Thanks for reading and I’d love to hear how travel has impacted you in the comments. ~ Natalie