You are a reflection of your upbringing. You aren’t born with an adaptive perspective, a mindful approach, the ability to find confidence in an unfamiliar situation. These abilities are taught—these abilities are learned. I took my first plane ride when I was eighteen months old, and I haven’t stopped traveling since. Some of my fondest memories have been on trips with my family. Boston, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago. Rome, Venice, Paris, Athens, London. The map with pins in places I have been fortunate enough to visit continues to grow. My parents have recognized the importance in versatility and adaptability; they have done their best to make sure my sister and I are as prepared as we can be for the real world.
It is one thing to travel to foreign places, but it is what you do there that determines the impact. Whenever my family traveled, we learned about the culture of the area. We found appreciation for people who lived differently from us everywhere we went. I may not have shown it at the early ages of our traveling, but every trip had an impact on my mindset and the way I looked at the world around me. Slowly but surely I became a more open-minded and curious individual. By being exposed to so many different places with differing histories, it solidified the fact that there were people out there with experiences and lifestyles other than that of where I was from. It seems like common sense, but it is easy to get in the mindset that things are identical across the board when you have not gone out and experienced the diversity for yourself.
There is nothing quite like attempting to figure out public transportation in a foreign place. Wherever we would go, my dad assured that we utilized public transportation. Whether it was an effort to make us comfortable navigating an unfamiliar place, or if he was just being an accountant and trying to save money, it worked. You practically blend in with the locals when you are able to seamlessly navigate their public transit. When in London, if I hadn’t opened my mouth to reveal my horribly nasal Midwestern accent, I very well could have been mistaken for a local with how well I was able to use the tube. There is also an undeniable level of confidence required to even venture out of your comfort zone and plunge into the abyss that is the underground. I owe the growth of that confidence and tactful skill set to my parents.
Traveling to foreign places has a way of channeling foreign parts of yourself. Placing someone in uncomfortable or unknown situations brings out their true thoughts and abilities. By traveling consistently, by challenging yourself to adapt to and learn in new environments, it is helping you to solidify your vision of your true self. As humans, we are trained to crave consistency, routines. If you are able to find your inner routine and still be able to thrive in new scenarios, you will be better prepared for the uncertainty that is bound to come with adult life. If you train yourself to expect and adapt to the unknown, there is no place where you cannot thrive. My parents both did a lot of adapting to the unknown throughout their childhoods and adult lives, and they have bettered mine and my sisters chances to succeed by challenging us to do the same.
Another crucial part of traveling is adopting the ability to be curious, and to learn from your findings. Yes, partaking in tours and visits is the more education based route, and it is important to be able to fully understand and appreciate the background of the area. However, it is also important to venture off on your own, to explore your surroundings without direction. This is how you encounter and learn from locals. This is how you find the best restaurants and boutiques and tattoo shops. This is how you connect with the community. A tourist does hop on hop off bus tours and then goes to a chain restaurant for dinner. A traveler visits a historical castle, stops by a film festival and gets a pub recommendation from a local, and ends the night with more recommendations for tomorrow.
How does this all tie back to communication, you may ask? Well, traveling is the ultimate juggling act between communicating with your new environment, the people around you, and yourself. You may even say that traveling is the key to a well-rounded individual.