When I first decided to travel to another country it sounded fun, adventurous and like a once in a lifetime opportunity – plus I could post some cool pictures on Instagram and have an international experience that might impress people. It helps that I’m also single with no kids and little responsibility. This season in life seemed like a great time to travel. At the time, I thought going to another country would be good for me. Turns out it is, but I didn’t expect some of the reasons why.
Things I have learned by traveling to another country:
- I don’t live at the center of the universe – As a citizen of Western Civilization, I have a tendency to believe that world history and current events are all a reaction to what happens in my small corner of the world. But, it’s not. My country, my civilization, makes up a small fraction of the population that existed thousands of years before “the west” was a thing. It wasn’t until l stood in the middle of a crowded street in Asia, surrounded by thousands of people who utter syllables I had never heard, that I began to understand this. There are hundreds of languages, cultures, ways of life that millions understand yet I cannot navigate. Just doing something as simple as buying a piece of fruit seems unmanageable. Many fruit vendors overseas have been thoroughly entertained by how stupid I sound trying to speak their tonal language and even more excited at the price this ignorant American was willing to pay for a piece of fruit. It makes me feel really small, and that’s a good thing because I am. It makes me feel really out of control, and that’s good because I am. It helps me realize that I am not at the center of the universe and the world was not made to cater to Western Civilization. And that’s good, because it’s not.
- People live differently than me and it’s not wrong – You can disagree but, to a certain extent, I think it is a good thing to look stupid every once in awhile. Traveling to a different country showed me people are different and everyone doesn’t do things the same way I do. For example, try cooking with women from Cambodia. They laugh at the way I cut limes and vegetables with the knives they use. I have no other choice but to be a learner and humbly ask them to re-teach me how to cook when I have already taken culinary class and worked in the foodservice industry. They don’t do it wrong. In fact, their method works really well, maybe even better than mine. It’s just different, it seems weird, and it makes me look stupid. But, that’s okay. Because being a learner and being willing to see things from a different perspective is a gift.
- Even when I can’t afford Taco Bell or scrape together enough quarters to do my laundry, I am rich – For most of the world, a family having one car means they are well off. I have a car that I don’t have to share with anyone. I also have carpet in my house, not a dirt floor. At night, I sleep on my own bed, I don’t sleep in one room with my whole family. The poverty, the way of life, the standard of living, it wrecks me and and helps me understand how much I have. Not in a cliche way that makes me feel guilty. Because I shouldn’t feel guilty about how God has blessed me, I should be grateful. Being exposed to the way the rest of the world lives changes my attitude if I allow it. I learn how to be grateful when it is raining and I am stuck in traffic. I am not on the back of a moto with two other people, I am sitting dry and warm in a car – and for that I am grateful!
- The world is beautiful – Who doesn’t like adventure, seeing ancient wonders of the world, and the things read about in history books? Or being surrounded by foreign smells and noises I didn’t know existed? Eating the best Thai food I’ve ever had, for less than a dollar, while sitting in a crowded market? Just reading about it or watching it on the travel channel is nothing compared to experiencing it for yourself. It’s the difference between jumping head first into a cool clear lake versus sprinkling myself with a few drops of water. When I travel, I do more than just see the breathtaking Asian countryside, the ancient temples, the mountains of Nepal, the beaches in Taiwan – I engage and experience them with all of my senses. Travel is the best way to take part in such diverse beauty. I don’t have to pin catchy quotes on Pinterest about wanderlust, travel or adventure because I know it, I breathed it, tasted it, felt it, heard it, saw it, and lived it.
- People are all the same – When I travel to another country, there have been moments when I connect over an emotion, a common feeling and understanding with someone from a foreign way of life. It is in that moment that the world becomes smaller. It helps me to see that even though most things about their life, down to how they use the bathroom and dress themselves in the morning, are different, we are still the same. We are created in the same way by the same God and He is universal. That is I why travel. That is why it is good to travel to another country. Because people are beautiful and made in the image of God but, most of the time, they don’t know it and someone needs to tell them.
While I was right about many of the reasons I thought traveling was going to be good for me, it wasn’t until I actually traveled that I began to understand why it was truly good for me. Overall, it gave me perspective. A perspective that is bigger than a few Instagram pictures and stories that impress people. If you decide to visit another part of our world, you will never be the same. You will see people differently, you will appreciate things in a new way and, later, you will find yourself missing people and food you didn’t know existed before. Traveling to a different country will bring lots of unexpected adventures and challenges but it is so worth it and it is good for you.
Are you wanting to experience the perspective shift that only comes from traveling to a new country?
Come join us for a Discipleship Training School to learn more about God, how He created us all differently and then travel to experience it first hand.