The absence of a significant man in my life while traveling these last few years, has taught me some important things about myself and my needs. Traveling has brought me so much happiness, that I wonder why I have wasted so much time on men in the first place. I won’t claim that dating can’t teach you important lessons, and that being in a healthy relationship won’t mature you; but I will argue that traveling will do more for your mind and body than any relationship ever could.
So here is a list of things traveling accomplishes, where men fail:
- Forces you to try new things
When you travel, you will find yourself trying new things that you would normally turn down in your comfort zone at home. Whether it be a bite of that insect someone offered you, letting yourself be twirled to salsa music by a stranger, or jumping off a cliff and trusting a parachute to keep you afloat; traveling brings you opportunities and the courage to do things you never even considered. There’s something about being surrounded by the unfamiliar that gives you strength. Maybe it’s because you are free to be the purest version of yourself, or maybe it is just because you encounter more opportunities the farther you get from your doorstep. The beauty of it though, is that the world won’t judge you for your mistakes; and if the people in it do, it won’t matter because you’ll be onto the next place soon enough.
- Pulls you out of your shell
You may be really shy naturally, or you may just be an introvert, but there’s no time for that when you are traveling. Traveling will force you to talk to strangers, because either you ask for directions, or you spend your afternoon failing to navigate a new city. Staying in hostel dorms will also ensure that you have someone to talk to and do excursions with, because it is kind of hard to bunk with someone and not exchange names. The small talk will inevitably lead to real talk and probably even an invite to the pub. Because when you are traveling, similarities tend to surface, while your differences fade away.
- Allows you to discover yourself, instead of someone else
Sometimes when you are in a relationship you find yourself becoming a “we,” and it may feel like you are losing your identity. In the beginning your thoughts revolve around learning this new guy in your life. Then as the relationship progresses, you spend your energy trying to make him happy. It can be wonderful to fall in love and see yourself through someone else’s eyes, but it can also stunt your own growth if you aren’t cognizant. Where as traveling in itself is a never-ending road to self-discovery. The world is your canvas, and you can create yourself with interests you find along the way and develop opinions based on your first hand experiences. You may think you’ve set off to discover the secrets of the Egyptian Pyramids and Easter Island, but the secret is that it’s always been a journey to know yourself. What better way to discover what you’re made of then to live out of a backpack with only the bare essentials?
- Teaches You About the World
A man may be able to turn you onto a new band, or get you into rock-climbing, but until you are listening to that song while climbing cliffs in the Blue Mountains of Australia, what have you really learned about the world? Traveling will expose you to different food, customs, politics, social norms, and even different men. Literally the world is your limit when it comes to experiences to be had, and knowledge to be obtained. You will learn communication skills when you have to find a way to explain to a taxi driver where you’d like to go in the middle of the night with nothing but hand signals and the few words you memorized from your phrasebook. You will learn how to negotiate while you barter at the local market for a sweater you desperately need, but you know is overpriced. You will learn that the news paints a disproportionally negative picture of the world, and that on the ground it really isn’t so bad. Despite the common misconception, Ebola will not be the end of the human race, and Al-Shabaab is not everywhere. Most importantly, you will learn that we are all the same. In some way shape or form, we are each driven by passion. Love exists in rural villages in East Africa, inside Mosques, temples, huts, igloos, teepees, caves, and slums just as much as it does for you or me.
- Reminds you what you have
Being with a man may make you feel secure during long days at work, and grateful that you have a big spoon for those cold nights; but travel will go beyond that. You will see children begging for food instead of sitting in a classroom, you will see women carrying babies on their backs and buckets on their heads, and you will have no choice but to appreciate your circumstances. When the stark reality of the world is staring you in the face, you realize how much you have and simultaneously how much you can do without.
- Helps you appreciate the small things
You may appreciate when a guy opens the door for you, but as time goes by, you will require more from a man. But there is nothing like sleeping on hard bunk beds, in old tents, taking cold showers, not having TP or access to a toilet to make you truly appreciate an American lifestyle. Even something as simple as being able to converse fluently with the person next to you at a bus stop becomes a blessing when you travel. You will never take that guy on the bus who keeps trying to talk to you for granted again, because at least you can communicate with ease in your native language.
- Makes you more human
Not only does traveling expose you to poverty and promote empathy, it also reminds you to get back to the basics. In the absence of an internet connection, you can make stronger human connections. When you don’t have technology to tie up your hands, you are free to enjoy a card game with new friends. And when you are busy sharing a drink with a stranger, you may forget to check your Facebook newsfeed. Then without noticing, every new handshake and smile exchanged, will make you more human again.
- Helps you find a purpose
Beyond discovering your likes and dislikes, establishing your morals, and the subjects that you didn’t text through at university, the recipe for happiness always seems to come back to the big “p” (purpose). Traveling will help you iron out the details of that, while you encounter the best and worst of the world and yourself. You may realize that volunteering at an NGO helps you sleep at night, or that studying another language makes you feel interesting, or that teaching English makes you feel important, or maybe you will realize that traveling itself makes you feel fulfilled. Either way, you will have no choice but to face the facts when you are on planes, trains, and busses for hours on end with nothing but time to ask yourself the hard questions. What makes me smile on the inside? Where do I feel alive? Who do I want to call to vent about the series of travel mishaps that just occurred? At the end of all of that, your answers should be pretty clear, and so should your direction in life.
So, unless you can find a man who loves traveling as much as you (in which case disregard this list and travel with him forever), than put down your tub of ice cream and your high heels, and book a ticket to somewhere new. Because chances are, the cure to your break up is not Netflix, or a bottle of wine and a random hook up (unless it involves a trip to an exotic destination). The cure will come from all the experiences and confidence you will gain through your travels!