“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you- it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you… Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” ~ Anthony Bourdain
Traveling has an uncanny way of teaching or reminding you of things worth learning. Some may be entirely new to you while others may be those occupying the shadowy corners of the backseat of your life, rarely seen or felt. Perhaps putting yourself right into the midst of the unknown, the sometimes uncomfortable, and at times scary aspects of traveling creates an inner disturbance allowing you to view things differently.
Looking back, here are some of the things I’ve learned and re-discovered during the few times I’ve had the chance to travel:
- Awareness – Traveling sparks a deeper sense of self-awareness and keen perception of things unfolding around you. I feel it more when I’m traveling solo or taking the time to seek moments of solitude from the usual chatter of a group. I’ve always had this notion that I’m missing a lot by staying within the comfortable circle of family, friends, and familiar companions during trips. Finding a moment to be alone with your thoughts or emptying your mind a little can sharpen your senses. This is one of the reasons why I love to run in places I visit. I get to experience an inexplicable connection with everything around me as I run in bustling city streets, quiet roads, and quaint pathways of old towns.
- Sense of wonder – I’ve always believed that everyone has an inner child and an innate curiosity that awakens while traveling. The multitude of things new, rarely seen, and forgotten seem to put all senses in overdrive. The sense of wonder inspires the kind of happiness that, when measured with childlike scales, tend to overflow.
- Courage – News of crimes and tourists being mugged, raped, or murdered can make you rethink traveling to destinations often deemed unsafe. But there’s more to places than what’s reported on the news. The beauty of traveling is that it can put you in situations where you have no other choice but to overcome your fear. I’ve experienced this on several occasions. The most recent of which is riding on a habal-habal (one of the two choices of public transportation available) in the town my friend and I visited. I marvel at how someone like me who’s so distrustful of motorcycles can get on board one to travel down deserted, lonely, mountain roads with a friend who’s a total stranger to that particular mode of transport.
- Tolerance – Three years after I returned to my hometown, I’ve grown to value tolerance and the role it plays when traveling. Coming from the typical crazy busyness of a highly urbanized city, I used to despair and lament on the general slowness of laid back cities or towns. But setting expectations is one of the surest ways of diminishing the fun you can get from your travels. It’s more helpful to keep in mind that there will always be places that are much different, for better or worse, than what you’re used to.
- Perspectives – Exploring different perspectives is something I strongly connect with tolerance. It’s basically about putting yourself in locals’ and other people’s shoes. Knee-jerk complaints can be hurtful or insulting to people who may be unfamiliar with how things are done from where you came from. I now understand the challenges travelers sometimes have in dealing with prevailing misconceptions and biases in some places they visit. Being a tourist is not just about you. You’re essentially leaving a mark that locals may remember and associate with other travelers they’ll meet someday. Expecting that things will be different is probably one of the expectations worth having while traveling.
- Gratitude – There’s no dearth of things to be grateful about when you’re out traveling. Gratitude happens when you pay enough attention to what’s going on around you and spend time looking more at the things and places you get to see. For me, it’s more about the abundance of beauty and the kindness of strangers met along the way.