Whenever I hear students talking about their summer holidays, I usually cringe at the subjective and generalized claims about how traveling “changes your life.”
I’m not saying it doesn’t. I’m just saying that we’ve come to misunderstand how travel may actually affect us. So in preparation for this year’s travel jabber, here are 10 of the biggest misconceptions you’ll come across and the simple truths that go along with them.
1. Travel makes you more social.
Comfortable, confident, flexible — yes. But social? Not necessarily. You become as social as you want to be. After traveling for two years, I’m more of a recluse now than ever. Traveling uncovers time, but it doesn’t tell you what to do with it. Some people use it to be more social, others use it to themselves.
2. Travel teaches you to live in the moment.
When you’re traveling you might live in the moment, but it takes work to keep that up and most people return only to forget what it’s like. If you want to learn to live in the moment, then traveling can be a great way to do it, but don’t just expect it to happen without effort.
3. You’ll figure out what you want to do with your life.
This statement is a reason for travel, not a realization of travel. Again, the people who say this are the ones who want to travel, not the ones who have actually travelled. Deciding on a lifelong goal is difficult and traveling does little to change that. It’ll give you clarity and insight into your likes and dislikes, but it’s still up to you to find direction.
4. Travel changes the way you see the world.
In short, only if you want it to. Traveling the world may be a great way to broaden your horizons, but the conscious decision must still be there. You can show a narrow-minded person anything, but they’ll still see what they want to. It’s only those who want to change who actually will. If changing your perspective appeals to you, then go for it, but not everyone finds this clarity through travel.
Seeing the Grand Canyon, walking the Great Wall of China and visiting the Egyptian Pyramids are not experiences — they’re things. Experiences are meant to change you and teach you, not just become stories. Traveling offers both experiences and things, but it doesn’t necessarily teach you to appreciate either.
6. Travel makes you more employable.
I’ve heard this one a couple times and it really bothers me. Back to the previous point, experiences definitely make you more employable — but that depends on how you travel, not whether or not you travel. If you are into resume building, then long-term volunteering and teaching English as a second-language are great places to start.
7. Travel makes you realize that social media is a waste of time.
It’s probably true that casual back-and-forth chatter decreases while travelling, but how else do you communicate with family and friends back home or abroad? Thanks to social media, I can send them pictures and tell them where I am — it keeps all of us connected. Facebook messenger is the best!
8. Travel teaches you to read people.
Ever been “tipped off” because of an offbeat word or action? Well that’s called judging, not reading. Judgment is about connecting a dot — but reading a person is about connecting a web. It’s tricky to do and few people ever learn.
9. Travel teaches you to think outside the box.
Out-of-the-box thinking may be correlated to travel but it isn’t caused by it. Thinking outside the box is about destroying the box, dissolving it or finding your way around it. That means self-discovery, self-insight and self-awareness. Like most forms of education, traveling itself doesn’t care about the box, it just fills it.
10. Traveling will change your life.
Travel is an opportunity to change, but it’s not an agent of change. You get out what you put in. If you leave to have a great time, then that’s what you’ll do, and same goes for if you leave to completely reinvent yourself. The change is always up to you and that’s the most important part. Don’t forget it when you leave and don’t forget it when you come back.