By Sydney Seymour

I consider myself lucky that my wanderlust has been given opportunities to thrive at such a young age. My first trip abroad took place when I was just 14, and it opened up a desire for travel that I had only experienced in my daydreams. I had always known that traveling and exploring the world would be an important part of my life, but I never really imagined the lessons traveling abroad would teach me.

I understand that for most young people traveling abroad seems impossible, or at least improbable. However, I believe the experience of traveling to a different country is worth saving up the money and finding the time. 

Below are some of the things I have learned from traveling abroad, and hopefully in the process of sharing, I can illustrate why everyone should travel abroad before they’re 25.

1) Experience an 8+ Hour Flight

This is certainly not one of the most enjoyable aspects of traveling; being in a cramped seat, stale air and less- than-appetizing food. Being on an international flight is not an exciting experience, but it is an experience nonetheless. Whether you’re traveling with someone or flying solo, these long plane rides are an opportunity to step outside your comfort zone. 

Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with the people sitting next to you; sometimes strangers have the most interesting stories. Read about your destination, this not only gives you something to do, but it’ll make you more excited about your travels! And don’t forget to look out the window, because there is nothing like seeing our beautiful world from 35,000 feet.

2) The Chance to Be a Foreigner

If you’re a native English speaker, you never really have the experience
of feeling like an outsider until you travel to a foreign country. It’s strangely humbling, and certainly fosters an appreciation for just how vast and different the world is. This is an opportunity to show humility and graciousness to the citizens of that country, and the chance to learn to be comfortable with a little uncertainty.

3) Appreciate Different Cultures

Traveling to a foreign country is like a crash course in culture. Some differences you’ll notice right away and others you might not learn about until the end of your trip, but every difference is an opportunity to learn. Of course you won’t agree with every cultural habit that a country possesses, but that’s just another opportunity to strengthen your humility.

4) Learn How to Use a Different Currency

This might not seem like a big deal to most because we use money every day, and the way it looks certainly doesn’t change its function. However, being cognizant of exchange rates is an important ability to have. Exchange rates paint a picture of how a multitude of countries interact with one another, and it might just make you more conscious of world events. On a much smaller scale, dealing with exchange rates increases your money skills. It’ll make you think before buying something, which is a habit that translates to everyday life.

5) Navigate a Foreign City

Navigating an unfamiliar city can be hard enough as it is, but when you don’t speak the native language, there’s an added level of difficulty. Most larger cities have some sort of public transport, which is usually the most efficient way of getting around. Deciphering a bus map or a train schedule written in a foreign language is great for your problem-solving skills, and another opportunity to interact with the locals.

6) Taste New Cuisine 

Even for the pickiest, the opportunity to try the local cooking is one that should not be missed. When you’ve traveled to a new place, you’re selling yourself short if you seek out foods that are familiar. Ask your waiter or waitress what they recommend, or find a place that looks popular. Chances are the locals will lead you to the best food to eat.

7) The Feeling of Returning Home

Traveling is inspiring. When you get home, you might feel like you’re in
a daze, somewhere half-way between home and the places you traveled to. Things might feel like they’ve changed drastically, when really nothing has, or vice-versa. The most important part of returning home after a trip abroad is remembering the things you’ve experienced. A journal and photographs are a wonderful way of keeping those memories fresh. 

If it was your first time traveling, you might feel content to never travel abroad again. But I’m willing to bet that your own wanderlust will be just beginning to grow. And why wouldn’t you want to travel again? There’s such a big, beautiful world to explore. 

This was originally printed in Harness Magazine, Issue No. 1 (Winter 2018).