I was 19 when I first decided to leave my home in Northern England for a lengthy amount of time. I was going on exchange, to Trent University, Ontario, Canada. Seven hours on a plane, across the colossal Atlantic, to a country I had only ever seen on TV and in photos, with temperatures I really didn’t know my body could handle. This was a huge deal for me, my family and friends. Little did I know that this step into the unknown would teach me ten times more than a classroom ever could.
1. Life Really Does Begin at the End of Your Comfort Zone
It’s rare that I truly feel as if I’m living in the present. My days are usually spent thinking of the past, the future or an upcoming task to tick of the to-do list, yet while I’m travelling none of that seems necessary.
In Canada I discovered beautiful landscapes, from the picturesque mountains of Banff, to the beaches of Vancouver or the sunsets behind Toronto’s skyline.
In Cuba I discovered music, music that is seemingly lost to the rest of the world, catchy and infectious sounds of guitars strumming “Comandante Che Guevara”, halting time and allowing a sense of history and culture to wash over me.
In Ecuador I discovered colour, from the vivid greens of the palm trees to the brightly painted pinks, blues and yellows of the aging buildings in Centro Histórico.
This feeling of new-ness, rare to those submerged by the demands of routine, happened on a daily basis during my time travelling, and continues to happen as I travel more. Each time I experience a new place, I’m made to step outside of my comfort zone and appreciate the world in its previously unrealized beauty.
2. How to Open Doors to More Places
I would never have imagined that just over a year after my flight to Toronto Pearson Airport for my exchange programme, I would be on another plane, this time for 15 hours, to Quito, Ecuador in South America.
I met my boyfriend, Felipe, at Trent, who invited me to his homes in Quito and Santa Cruz, The Galápagos Islands, Ecuador.
New music, food, languages and people became the foundation of my trip, from Mount Chimborazo in the Andes, to the greenest, most beautiful rainforests in Tena, exotic sounds and tastes surrounded me and left me with an immense gratitude for and appreciation for the beauty of the country I knew so little about.
For me, it really seems that going to one place means opening doors to many others.
3. How to Digitally Detox
At university and in the work place we’re constantly encouraged to open and reply to emails, research online or check out certain websites. With the average adult spending a crazy six hours online a day and checking their phone 150 times, it’s clear that we are looking less and less at the world outside of technology.
Of course online communication and social media has its advantages, but we’re failing to plug into the natural world and connect to one another on a personal level.
Getting outside and exploring new places means your devices become unnecessary. The world becomes the medium for learning. The sights, smells, sounds, landscapes, cultures, beliefs and people become way more interesting than anything behind a computer screen, trust me.
4. The Importance of International Friends
Travelling means you meet people just like you, who have also taken a huge step away from home into the unknown. They probably have fascinating stories to tell and will open the door to new ideas and ways of thinking.
I was intrigued about what the friends I made along the way thought about the lessons learned through travel, so I asked them. Here are some of their responses:
“The world becomes so much smaller when you have international interactions” – Samantha Banton, Jamaica.
“The more you travel, the more you remember home” – Rodrigo Chavez, El Salvador.
“Exposure” – Lara Birkhart, Germany.
“You learn how to find contentment with the simple things” – Trae Trott, Bermuda.
“Where you grow up shapes you as person, your outlook, your personality, your goals. Only by leaving and looking back can you truly realise what you have, what you want and what you lack” Alex Duggan, England.
“Cultures – no better way to learn about a culture than to immerse yourself in it” – Robbie Luxford, Scotland.
“A consequent urge to discover new things… there is so much out there that you haven’t seen before” – Dian Gommers, Holland.
“Travelling means moving on for me, the only way to know I’m growing up. The friends I meet along the way are my real travelling maps” – Berfin Aksoy, Turkey.
“Make friends for life” – Sonal Mandalia, England.
“It makes you open-minded and shows you how life is different in other places, but in the end it’s pretty easy to have fun with everyone.” – Johanna Malin, Finland
“To travel is to understand yourself and the notion of home” – Hannah Stark, England.
“It teaches you how privileged you are; not only to move from place to place, but also to have the time, money and energy to do it” – Mauricio Interiano, Honduras.
“It can completely change your aspirations and help you discover what you truly want” Andrew Burke, Northern Ireland.
“Unique perspectives. For me, it meant being able to solve problems by myself.” – Ryota Yamaguchi, Japan.