What Does Travel Teach You?

What does travel teach you? Those of us who love to travel know that it is one of life’s greatest teachers. In this article, we’ll explore some of the most important things we learn from traveling.

For millennia humans have striven to recognize and cultivate important and valuable skills for a fulfilling and meaningful life. Philosophers, religious leaders, and modern global organizations such as WHO and UNICEF often identify the same overlapping skills and character traits. These are almost universally recognized things we can learn to live meaningful and healthy lives.

Unsurprisingly, travel helps us grow in almost all of them. In fact, what we learn while traveling is often more engaging, transformative, and enduring than those we learn in many other settings. 

My love of travel combined with my background in philosophy and education inspired me to found Trip Scholars. Throughout this site you will find many resources to support you in learning more about the world and yourself through travel. Let’s get started answering the question, “what does travel teach you?”

Collection of fascinating African masks exhibit. Mostly made of wood and other natural elements, displayed on stands.

1. Self-Awareness

Travel, by its nature, places you in situations that are outside your norm. It strips away the familiar, acting as a mirror that often reflects your authentic self. Who am I and what is important to me outside of my daily responsibilities and my familiar safety net? Travel teaches us self-awareness.

This introspective journey is often taken while on actual physical journeys. It can significantly bolster our self-esteem and foster a mindset grounded in positive thinking, gratitude, and emotional regulation. Self-awareness involves recognizing your feelings, understanding how they influence your thoughts and actions, and acknowledging your strengths and weaknesses.

There is a fascinating study that found that living abroad increases self-concept clarity including the clarity of one’s beliefs, values, and life goals. Travel forces us to confront our values, beliefs, and behaviors, often leading to a profound reassessment and clearer understanding of ourselves.

2. Empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It is a skill that travel cultivates in profound ways. When we travel, we immerse ourselves in environments different from our own, meeting people with diverse life stories and backgrounds. This exposure broadens our perspective and deepens our capacity for empathy, as we begin to see the world through others’ eyes.

woman standing in front of a large painting that is on multiple canvases. She is a silhouette and the painting is abstract in mostly oranges and grays.

3. Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is essential for decision-making and problem-solving. It involves analyzing facts to form your own judgment. The unpredictability of travel serves as an excellent backdrop for honing this skill.

As travelers, we constantly evaluate information, from discerning the actual history behind an exhibit to choosing the best route on public transportation. These decisions require us to assess situations swiftly and critically, distinguishing between bias and truth, and applying logic amidst uncertainty. The more we travel, the more we build these travel skills.

A recent study highlights the importance of experiential learning environments, like travel, in developing critical thinking skills. Real-world experiences provide complex problems that cannot be solved through rote learning but instead require analytical thinking and adaptability.

Woman drawing in a sketchbook in a beautiful natural setting with a forest and mountainside behind her. She has red hair and is wearing a white had and sweater with a contented smile on her face. The image highlights her creativity in nature.

4. Creativity

Creativity is not just about finding innovative solutions to problems. It is also a form of self-expression, allowing us to convey our inner thoughts and feelings through various mediums. Travel offers endless inspiration for creative expression, whether through cooking, photography, writing, nature journaling, music, art or many other outlets. The beauty of a sunset, the sounds of a bustling market, or the taste of a local delicacy can all spark a desire to create. To capture our experiences in ways that resonate with others and ourselves on a deeply personal level.

Research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology highlights that engagement with diverse cultures enhances our creative output. The researchers found that exposure to different cultural experiences has a direct impact on creativity, encouraging individuals to express themselves in more diverse and innovative ways.

5. Communication

Effective communication goes beyond the mere exchange of words. It is about connecting with others, understanding their perspectives, and expressing oneself clearly and empathetically. 

Travel, by plunging us into diverse linguistic landscapes and social settings, inherently enhances our communication skills. It teaches us to listen actively, to be mindful of non-verbal cues, and to express ourselves in ways that transcend language barriers. This process fosters a deeper understanding and connection with people from various backgrounds. It makes us better communicators both at home and abroad.

Travel Vision Boards like this one can help us reach long term travel goals

6. Goal Setting

Goal setting is the process of identifying something you want to accomplish and then reaching it. Travel inherently involves goal setting, from the planning while home to getting to your lodgings once you are on the road. Deciding on a destination, creating an itinerary, and many other aspects of travel are all exercises in setting and pursuing goals. 

The quote below from The Little Prince, highlights the importance of not only dreaming big but also taking actionable steps towards making those dreams a reality. Learning from travel teaches us that setting goals is not enough; we must also be willing to put in the effort to make them come to life, offering a valuable lesson in both aspiration and the hard work it takes to achieve those aspirations.

7. Resilience

Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. It is a crucial life skill that travel nurtures in unique and often unexpected ways. The unpredictable nature of travel—missed flights, cultural misunderstandings, or getting lost— tests our ability to adapt, overcome challenges, and emerge stronger. 

This quote, though initially applied to the theory of evolution, also speaks volumes about the human capacity for resilience. Travel, by its very nature, is all about change and adaptation, pushing us out of our comfort zones and requiring us to respond with flexibility and strength.

What Does Travel Teach You?

Travel is a powerful teacher for personal, philosophical, and professional development, equipping us with life skills that enrich our lives, careers, and relationships. By stepping out into the world, we start on a journey of lifelong learning that extends far beyond academic or conventional training. 

Whether it’s through navigating cultural differences, managing a budget, or simply learning to enjoy the moment, travel offers a unique and enriching path to developing life skills that lead to greater satisfaction and meaning. 

What has traveling taught you? Tell us about it in the comments, we’d love to hear!

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4 thoughts on “What Does Travel Teach You?”

  1. I will choose travel over possessions any time. There is nothing that can compare to learning about different cultures when you travel. Start traveling early as a child (if your family subscribes to this view). Travel until you literally can’t do it anymore due to your health. It is money well spent.

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  2. Resilience and self-reliance stand out to me as things learned while traveling, even more-so when traveling solo.

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