Where are you planning to vacation this year? Maybe you’re thinking about driving down to the shore or heading to the next state over to visit your second cousins twice removed. What about somewhere a little farther away, like the glitzy family-friendly playground of Disney World or the glitzy but not quite family-friendly playground of Las Vegas?
May I make a suggestion? Just a little one?
Dust off your passport. Spin a globe. Poke your finger at the first country you see that isn’t America. And spend your vacation exploring someplace you can’t even pronounce.
Okay, maybe it’s not that “little” of a suggestion.
Seriously, though, give it a try. You’ll thank me later. Admittedly, maybe the whole “pick a country at random” shtick isn’t the best way to go about it. But that’s not the point. The point is, traveling abroad is one of the greatest, most eye-opening and enriching experiences that we as modern Americans have access to. Yet, for some reason, very few people take advantage of it (less than 10% of us, according to some estimates).
I get it, not everyone can afford to travel internationally. But for those who can, it’s a privilege worth making the most of. Just about everyone can manage the occasional trip to the beach, but if you have the opportunity to visit the beaches of Europe and you turn it down in favor of going to the Jersey Shore, you’re missing out big time.
America is as geographically diverse as it is culturally diverse, but there are still limitations to what experiences it can offer. That doesn’t mean if you’re thinking about moving to Virginia you should stop looking at Alexandria houses for sale and start looking for ones in the other Alexandria (y’know, the one in Egypt). It just means that maybe, before you settle, you should at least visit that other Alexandria sometime.
America is great. It’s home, and home is where the heart is. But everyone needs to leave their home and do some exploring every now and then. There’s no one who wouldn’t benefit from stepping outside their comfort zone a little more and seeing what the rest of the world has to offer.
Thanks to the internet and social media, divisions between people from all over the globe are fading. Cultural exchange has never been easier, but for those ill-equipped to participate, it can also be challenging and confusing at times. The best way to prepare for the emerging global community is to make a conscious decision to put yourself out there and be a part of it.
Traveling to another country is about more than just tourism and souvenirs and taking selfies in front of the Eiffel Tower. It’s about exposing oneself to another language, another culture, another way of looking at the world. It’s about pushing oneself to be versatile and adaptive, to develop new skills for navigating life, to diminish fear of the “other” and replace it with a newfound sense of empathy.
Even just one visit to another country can drastically change the way you understand your place in the world. It can impact your perceptions when watching the news and change the way you think about politics. It can bolster your creativity by showing you new ways of thinking. It can even improve your body’s immune system by exposing you to new environments!
In short, there are no limits to the benefits international travel can provide. So why limit yourself by not taking advantage of them?
Photo by Oxana V