So many people lose their sense of adventure after they hit 40. They let worries, big and small, real and imagined, dominate their lives.
But there’s no reason for this to always be the case. I’ve discovered that independent travelling is at the very least life altering, and often life changing.
Still need convincing? Here are my 10 reasons to get your travelling shoes on:
1 Move outside your comfort zone
Our comfort zone is where we feel happy, at ease, secure and unchallenged. It is also where we feel a sense of connection with the place we are in and/or the people we are among, making life pleasant and easy. However, staying within its core and not pushing its boundaries may mean that we risk stagnation and impeded growth.
To step outside it means that we are growing, learning and developing, even though we may experience discomfort, nervousness or even fear. I’m not advocating bungee jumping or white-water rafting here, but perhaps things like walking into a mosque or synagogue for the first time, ordering some coffee and cake in Portuguese, or dancing a tango in a Buenos Aires bar.
2 Gain a greater sense of perspective
When you have seen firsthand the lives of others, especially some of the world’s poor, it can help you not to sweat the small stuff at home. Compared to a child beggar in Managua or a rickshaw-puller in Calcutta, most of us live very charmed lives. And you don’t need to be religious to develop this view.
3 Learn a bit about the world
There’s nothing like seeing a place with your very own eyes – far better than simply watching it on TV. Every day is a school day and it’s never too late to stop learning. This will help you to develop an open-minded and open-hearted attitude to the world and its people. In other words, you will become more cosmopolitan. Talk to people, ask questions, ride on buses and trains.
4 Discover more about yourself
When you face some challenges, it shows you what you can and can’t do, and you don’t know until you try. Really. It can test you in ways you never will be tested at home. Travel allows you to try out different versions of yourself. You can learn about the length of your tether, or how porous you are, or the edges of yourself. It’s all about learning to handle, or even enjoying the feeling of being a bit lost or at sea.
5 Feel younger, stronger and more assertive
Truly. When you have dealt with each situation and survived, it gives you the strength and energy and skills to deal better with the next one. Assertiveness was one quality that was important for me to learn.
I will never forget Amanda, a Welsh traveller I met over 20 years ago on the roof of a youth hostel in Jerusalem. While chatting, a boring guy interrupted us and tried to butt in. She looked him calmly in the eye and said “Excuse me, but this is a private conversation”. It worked and he left. This was an epiphany for me back then. Nobody got upset due to her calm assertiveness.
6 Become (even) more interesting
Travel will give you things to talk about with new people. It might encourage you to learn a new skill or a new language. This positive approach serves to combat isolation and negativity in the second half of life. And also, who knows, you might find someone to love, if you’re looking!
7 Learn to think for yourself
If you like to travel in an organised group the first time or two, that’s fine. It has its advantages. However, think about returning on your own or with one friend and deciding your very own itinerary.
8 Gain some valuable thinking time
You think about stuff that you never normally think about when you’re away from home. There’s nothing like a bit of distance. A 10-hour bus ride over the Andes might be just what you need to work out some tough conundrum in your life.
I love reading about countries after I’ve travelled in them. It is such a holistic experience then. Travel writing is my own favourite genre, with my favourite by far being Dervla Murphy, an Irish woman who has written almost 30 books on her travels over 50 years. Bicycle has been her usual mode of transport when possible. Her last two books, published over the last few years have been on the Israel/Palestine conflict. I strongly recommend them. Paul Theroux and Sara Wheeler are two other favourites.
10 Get writing yourself!
Keeping a travel diary is invaluable, recording details of your days on the road. At the very least, they make brilliant personal souvenirs, but they might also serve as the basis for articles or books later on. It’s never too late!
I can’t say enough good things about how travel can improve your life. This is especially important when other troubles can cloud our vision and the naive enthusiasm of our younger years is long past.
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