We’ve all heard the inspirational quotes about travel that keep us yearning for overseas experiences. “Travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer”, right? For those of us who have had travel experiences, from a week or two to living abroad, I’m sure we can all agree that it opens your mind to new experiences and to the world around us. Along with experiencing new places, for an extended period of travelling, we may start to notice that this exposure to new experiences can change how we conduct ourselves, our mentality, and much more. In this post I share how travel has started to change me as a woman since leaving Canada in February, 2015.
My interest in language and culture
Back home in Canada, we are required to learn French in school as it’s our national language along with English, and I have always loved the language, however I felt it was almost useless in a city such as Vancouver where minimal people actually speak the language daily, being so far from our french friends in Quebec. I began to feel as though languages were more of a high school requirement as they diminished from my “passions” list. I could get by every day using english without needing to communicate in any other language. So why did I need other languages?
But once I began travelling, my perception completely changed. I was visiting countries where I wanted to connect with locals, share stories and ideas. Or even just tell them to have a great day or to see how they are. Once again, my love (and seemingly need!) for foreign languages returned. Now, currently living in Chile and planning to travel around Latin America, I am driven to learn new languages to meet new people and become more immersed in wherever I am at the moment. And returning to Canada, I almost felt as if the english language was boring, I now crave the challenges that come with learning a new language!
My thinking about the environment and sustainability
I studied environmental conservation in university, but even without that, environmental issues and sustainability is currently on the forefront of many people’s minds. When travelling, however, especially to areas that are more impacted, or don’t cover it up, you start thinking about how you’re impacting the world and become more conscious of your purchases and actions.
One experience which left a mark was off Redang Island, Malaysia during a scuba trip, where I constantly found coral covered in plastic, fishing line, and cans and plastic covering the ocean floor. It takes plastic hundreds of years to fully decompose. This and many other exposures of environmental impact and humans mistreating our home makes me want to think twice about a use-once coffee cup, thinking about how long my waste will be left on earth for generations to come.
My relationship with my body
Being in my home country and especially in my teens, I was constantly worried about my body and my weight, and would never be seen without some makeup or fixing my hair. This continued even after university, where I didn’t have as many pressures but was still exposed to a culture and mind-frame where I easily caved to what “society” wanted me to be, or look like.
Now, living abroad for the past couple of years, I realize how focused I used to be on my appearance. While travelling, I unconsciously began to shift my focus more to new cultures, new cities, new friends who couldn’t care less if i straightened my hair or not, and a new way of living. I didn’t care as much about my appearance or what nail polish colour I was wearing because what and who were around me was much more interesting. Now, I am more concerned about my inner well being, a wholesome health. I rarely wear makeup except for a recent job interview or lipstick when I go out dancing, and my latest style goal is how to be comfortable wandering cities to mountains day in and day out, and cutting down my wardrobe so it all fits into my one 65 litre backpack. I’m pale, my hair is usually a jungle, I haven’t had a pedicure in a while, and I’ve never felt more confident.
My anxious nature to ease
I am the anxious type at my core, but I hide it well. At home, I constantly worried about the little things. After being abroad and realising how large the world is and how small my worries really are in the long term and worldwide scheme of things, travelling really helped me put my anxieties and worries into perspective. I have become more easygoing. I meet new friends knowing I will have to say goodbye in a few months, I know I may lose my luggage or miss my bus but it will all eventually work out. I’m learning to slow down and appreciate everything I experience around me. I’ve realised that at this moment in life, the most important things in life for me are my health, my passport, good people, and savouring the moments.
My tendency to judge others and myself
Living in my hometown of Vancouver, Canada, I am grateful to have grown up in a very culturally diverse city, which helped me to become more interested in the world around me. However, my city is also one for style, and “outer-appearance approval” (see earlier in this post). Meeting new people when I was younger, I would judge others on who their friends were, where they lived, or if they had the latest clothes from Aritzia (I KNOW, RIGHT?!) . Since I have travelled, I have become much more interested in cultures around the world, and really when it comes down to it, how similar we all are, regardless of what patch of soil we happened to be born on or how much money is in our pockets. I learned no matter where you live or where you come from, we are all so similar and just subject to different circumstances, and this really helps me to see the world as one land, separated by a couple of human-made “borders”.
I would love to hear from you if you have anything to add from what you have experienced, how travel may have changed your mentality or emotions toward life, or if you’ve had similar experiences as well!
x Jenn, The Redhead Abroad