Traveling is about so much more than sightseeing, mouthwatering meals, and taking Instagram-worthy photos. Spending time in an unfamiliar place can teach you a lot about yourself, your world, and the people in it. Overall, it can help you gain invaluable skills that you can apply to both your personal and professional life.
In fact, a 2013 study conducted in Germany found that traveling actually improves your personality when it comes to emotions, extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness to new experiences. Taking a trip is not only fun, it can make you a better person.
To find out real ways traveling has affected people positively, we asked travel bloggers, photographers, journalists, and adventurers to share lessons they've learned while on global voyages.
You can read some of their responses below.
1. Let go of the things you can't control.
"Thoughts are energy: they are real and they have power. Perhaps one of the most useful things I have learned on the road is that if you think positive, positive shit tends to happen. I'm not talking about always looking on the bright side; more about not allowing yourself to worry about stuff which you cannot control. Hope for the best, assume the best shall happen, celebrate when it does and you shall find yourself in a good frame of mind. Never doubt yourself; argue for your limitations and, sure enough, they are yours." — Will Hatton, travel blogger
2. No matter who you are or where you're from, you can make a difference in the lives of others.
"When we meet people around the world that have very little, but are giving back so much to their communities or working to create a better life, it inspires us to be better people. Travel has made us take action to contribute to the communities we've visited, like raising awareness and funds forPlan Canada while cycling through Africa, or helping orphaned and abandoned children while driving in the Mongol Rally from England to Mongolia. Even little things can make a difference. Be it having a conversation with a man in Sudan while he told us his life story, or buying a tea for a stranger in India." — Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil, travel bloggers
3. Humility can push you forward in both your career and personal goals.
"I would have to say that travel has made me more humble — not in an egotistical sense — but just in the sense that I learned how BIG the world really is, and how similar people around the world really are. I am not unique in having a passion for travel or unique in being many of the things that I once believed defined me. By realizing just how tiny a role our lives play in the history of the world, it pushed me to make bigger plans for my life, and strive to inspire as many people around the world as possible to do the same." — Kiersten Rich, travel blogger
4. Flexibility is important, both on the road and off it.
"So much of what we worry about is controlling things that are out of our control. When you're traveling and you truly have little control over what happens next, you are forced to let go of that obsession and focus on the 'now'. This makes you a more flexible, adaptable person — and ultimately a happier one." — Jodi Ettenberg, travel blogger and photographer
5. You can always do more to reduce waste in your environment.
Courtesy of Camille Lawhead
"I always think about consumption and waste and how living in the U.S. leaves you very removed from the sources and destinations of the resources we use. I think of this a lot when I camp and backpack as well, since I'm forced to confront how much water I consume and how much trash I produce. I think the instinct when traveling somewhere with limited access to imports and sanitation struggles (i.e. most of the developing world) is to wax poetic on how thankful you are to be in the United States, and that's pretty valid, but it's a missed opportunity. Maybe it's good to be in a situation where you think, 'Gee, I wonder what I would eat if I could only afford locally grown produce,' or, 'Hmm, if the trash in my hometown doesn't end up in the streets, where does it go?' Being off the grid makes you appreciate the infrastructure that makes cities and countries function, but it should also make you want to lessen the burden we place on those channels." —Camille Lawhead, journalist
6. Appreciate what you have.
"We don't realize how good we have our lives. Anyone who is reading this right now has access to the Internet, which two thirds of the world doesn't have. I've learned to not care anymore about material goods in life and be thankful for what I have." — Drew Goldberg, travel blogger
7. Other cultures can help you better understand your own.
Courtesy of Demi Vituke
"What I like the most about traveling is learning about a country's culture and history and then comparing it with my own heritage. When I visited Iceland last May, I met a professor at the University of Iceland, who upon finding out that I was Lithuanian asked, 'Do you remember that Iceland was the first country to recognize Lithuania's independence?' Iceland did so on February 11, 1991. He explained that other countries at the time were saying that no one was going to remember this event, but Iceland only cared that Lithuania remembered. 'Small countries stand up for each other,' he said." — Demi Vitkute, international student
8. Live a life filled with purpose, doing the things that are most meaningful to you.
Courtesy of Kalae Anthony
"When I was laid off from a sales job in 2009, I went to Paris. Paris was where I discovered that I was 'making a living,' but I wasn't really living. Paris awakened me to a need for something more than security. It opened me up to a need to live consciously and authentically. On my last night there, I made friends — all expats — at Le Vrai Paris, a brasserie in Montmartre. Before we parted at the end of a night of drinking wine, we promised each other that we would do the things we knew we should be doing. For me, that meant writing and living a life worth writing about. Voilà." — Kalae Anthony, journalist
9. A new path may just be the right one.
"I decided to go back to traveling and left my nursing job because I didn't like the way life was going. I no longer dream of having a nice car, but instead of seeing a new country. In fact, I drive a beat up old taxi van my boyfriend and I bought off a friend — no A/C, no power steering, and radio. I've lived in India since I left, and there isn't much shopping to be done. I went from wearing expensive clothes, to buying fabric in the market, and getting a tailor to copy an image I like online. I actually have more money saved now than I would have if I had stayed with nursing, as I was spending a lot of money in America. And I have a much better quality of life. I've learned that taking risks can pay off and although some don't ... the more you take, the better chance you have of something amazing happening." — Rachel Jones, travel blogger
10. Don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone — or one someone else made for you.
Courtesy of Isaac Saul
"I learned that places usually are not as dangerous as they seem on the news. Similarly, it taught me that taking risks at work usually isn't as dumb as it seems, either." — Isaac Saul, journalist
11. You're never too old to learn something new.
"Living abroad helped open my eyes to so many different cultures, customs, religions and backgrounds — all drastically different from the conservative southern town in which I was raised. I credit my open-minded nature as an adult — and the diverse list of topics I cover as a writer — to those formative years abroad getting my bearings for the world around me. Studying abroad instilled a thirst for knowledge, a passion to see what's out there and an empathy for humankind I didn't have before venturing overseas for the first time. You're never too old to learn, you're never too set in your ways to adapt, and you're definitely never too settled in life to just get up and go." — Kristin Luna, journalist and travel blogger
So the next time you're booking a flight, don't just think of it as a vacation. Think of it as an opportunity to grow and a chance to learn something new.
Cover image via Kristin Luna.