I’ve been traveling full-time for 9 months now and it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. I’ve had the time to reflect back on my life and my travels thus far and I’ve learned a few things. I believe everyone at any point in their lives should travel. Travel as much as you can to as far as you can. Or even travel around your own state. Don’t be afraid to take that time off from work and go exploring. There is so much to be benefited from that. I’ve put together a list of 9 reasons to travel. If this doesn’t make you book a ticket…honestly, just book the ticket already!

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I’ve met so many people from all walks of life while traveling. Some young, some old. Other travelers and even locals. In fact, when you travel, you tend to have lots of conversations. You connect with people you probably wouldn’t even bat an eyelash with at home. You learn new things from them and that the world is filled with so many genuine, helpful people. I can’t even begin to explain the number of times I’ve been in a bind and there has been someone there to help me. Without me even asking, there are always good people out there running to your rescue.

Additionally, meeting new people doesn’t just mean getting to know them. You start to learn more about yourself and gain perspective of your own life. This was a big part of my journey. You ever stop to notice that when we’re at home, we often surround ourselves with people who are like us. Possibly we share the same beliefs as our friends and family. We only know what we know. But when you travel and meet new people, you gain different perspectives. An outside perspective. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we start to change the way we think and what we think about, but we’re able to open ourselves up and try to understand where other people are coming from. This is an important trait to have especially when it comes to building relationships.

Travel humbles you and makes you realize just how insignificant you are in the universe. Definitely don’t take this the wrong way because it really teaches us the value of ourselves, of others and of the world. And above all else, it makes us appreciative. We start to appreciate our own lives more. For example, I appreciate being able to throw toilet paper into the toilet, and a warm shower, clean drinking water and sleeping in a comfortable bed at night. These are things we take for granted every day in our own lives. Things that so many people in the world, don’t have access to. I know we’re all unconsciously aware of it, but when you’re suddenly immersed into that life, you start to realize what you have and feel more gratitude for the bare necessities.

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Similar to the first point, it’s important to learn about new cultures. You’ll actually develop a cultural sensitivity whilst traveling to places that are completely different from where you grew up. You become more aware of cultural values and norms in new places as well as understand international issues and conflicts. I’ll admit, at first I complained about having to pay to use the bathroom. Why should I have to pay for a natural reaction from my body? I can’t hold my pee in all day and God forbid, I have to do a two. But this is all part of the culture. Especially in third world countries. They need to find ways to make a living. If you’re going to be in their county, support their living. Well, I say that to a certain extent. Support it, as long as no one is getting hurt.

Learn as much as you can about the country you’re visiting. I know, you just want to have fun and see the scenery, but this is so important I don’t know how much to stress it. And here’s why. I’m American, and I know it’s so easy for us to shut ourselves off from the rest of the world. Americans know nothing about the rest of the world; nothing about their economies or policies (again, not all Americans, but a good portion of the majority). However, when you meet people from other countries, you begin to realize they know everything about America. I get people from Germany or Australia that can answer a question about American politics better than I can.

Same with language. How lucky are we to say English is our first language. English is a universal language. It’s a second or third language for a lot of people. Yet, I find most Americans tend to know only one language. Now, I’m not trying to come down hard on my fellow Americans. I’m just trying to open your eyes to opportunity. We’re made to learn a second language in elementary and high school. And I’ll be honest, at the time, I memorized the what I needed to know for a test and that was it. I didn’t go any further than that. But learning a second language is so important. You don’t know what your future holds. Now, knowing that second language comes in handy for me, 1. as a traveller, being able to communicate better with locals and 2. as a business woman. So many jobs especially international jobs, require a second language. It’s time to show the rest of the world that we too are capable of communicating outside of just english.

Try new foods. This one bugs me out so much. So many times, I’ve seen people go to a country, somewhere in Asia or India and they go and look for a burger or something they would normally eat at home. Why?! First off, it’s a matter of safety, think about this. You go to Thailand and instead of ordering Thai curry or something along those lines, because you’re scared of getting Thai belly, you order a burger or chicken fingers. Something that that Thai person isn’t necessarily accustomed to cooking. It’s not part of their culture. However, that Thai curry that you passed up? They have been making that for years. in fact, they’ve probably mastered it. The locals know and love it. Who knows if that burger was cooked properly. Or does it even taste good? I hope I’ve made my point.

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Studies have shown that people are their happiest when they have a vacation planned. They are also more positive about their health, economic situation and general quality of life. I must admit, this one is a big one for me as I do have some lapses of depression and anxiety, specifically around my time of the month. Now I’m not going to say, travel will make this all go away. It most definitely does not. There is going to be times you want comfort and support from friends and family, especially if you’re traveling alone, but you start to also find ways to cope (and no, I also don’t mean drugs and alcohol). If you suffer from depression, you’ll find that you limit the relapses that you have. For example, when I started to get in a state, I’d plan tours or hikes or even go for a long walk. Halfway in, I’d realize I’m starting to feel better. My mind would stop focusing on what I was feeling and start focusing on all the beauty that was around me. And especially if I met other people, we’d start talking about life, experiences, anything, which is a good distraction. The truth is, it’s going to be scary initially, but it’s also liberating, empowering and refreshing. You’re actually removing yourself of day to day worries and allowing yourself space and time to relax and to really take care of yourself when you travel. You’re putting yourself and your health first.

*I’m no doctor and I don’t know everything about mental health. I only know myself and the state of which I sometimes suffer from little episodes. I’d never encourage anyone to do something that would completely compromise their health. Those who suffer from severe mental illness should definitely prepare before travel. Talk to your doctor if you need to and have the support of your friends and family. Research destinations you want to go to, insurance coverage and find and reach out to other who have a mental illness. Trust me, you’re not alone and the best thing is knowing that. Remember, you are not your mental illness so don’t let it define you or stop you from experiencing all that life has to offer.  

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There has been many research studies that show travel to boost creativity. In fact, this was one of the main reasons I decided to travel. I was lacking creativity and honestly believed that if i were exposed to new things, it would open me up to new creative potentials and encourage more out of the box thinking. Neuroscientists and psychologists have been examining this and have found that new sounds, smells, languages, tastes, sensations and sights spark different synapses in the brain and may have the potential to revitalize the mind. According to Adam Galinsky, a professor at Columbia Business School, “foreign experiences increase both cognitive flexibility and depth and integrativeness of thought, the ability to make deep connections between disparate forms.” However, he does go on to stress that it’s not just about going abroad. If someone lives abroad and doesn’t engage with the local culture, they’d get less of a creative boost that someone that truly engages in the local environment. So a week of spring break partying won’t make a person any more creative, but I mean that still shouldn’t stop you from booking that trip to Mexico to party the week away if you have to.

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I can’t even begin to feel so grateful for half the things I’ve experienced. All the adventures I’ve been on and I do enjoy a good adventure. I love hiking and I’ve been fortunate to enough to hike in some of the most beautiful locations the world. I’ve hiked volcanoes and boarded down them,

I’ve hiked to waterfalls of all sizes, I’ve repelled down a waterfall, I’ve visited 5 of the 7 world wonders. This is just to name and few and I’ve barely even scratched the surface. Now, I’m not trying to show off or toot my own horn, but this could also be you. Anyone can do any of these things if they truly want to. Or you can even visit one of the world’s most beautiful beaches or places with so much history. Things you normally see on television, you too can go there and experience it.

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I’ve always been the person that felt comfortable outside my comfort zone. If that makes any sense. To be out of your comfort zone signifies great growth in oneself. Seriously, who doesn’t want to grow. See, as far as I see it, getting out of your comfort zone signifies taking risks. We’re doing things we wouldn’t normally do, seeing things we’ve never seen before and eating delicacies we’ve never eaten before. And you know what? You just might end up loving this newfound “risk-taker” in you. You’re living life on the edge! In fact, I challenge you. When you travel, put the map and your phone away. Walk, walk for as far as your little legs can take you. Make right turns and left turns and repeat them over and over. Ge lost! Think of all the places you’ll discover! Find a cute little cafe or a hole in the wall restaurant (because everyone knows those normally turn out to be some of the best food of your life). Live your life! I’m getting so excited just writing this because you know what? When you take that risk of getting lost, you’ll witness effortless beauty unfolding around you and when you witness these things, then builds the addiction. You’ll want to keep doing it, over and over again. In as many cities as you can think of.

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So not only is travel good for your mental health, but it’s also good for your physical health. Think about how much moving you’ll be doing; sites to see! You’re basically leading yourself to a healthier life. In my days of travel, I’ve averaged anywhere between 10,000 to 25,000 steps a day! Also, get this… Scientist have found that walking and hiking is great for physically growing your brain. Hello! Who doesn’t want to be smarter than a 5th grader! So not only is your body getting fit, but so is your brain (mind blown! literally!) You’re improving your memory and cognitive abilities.

Traveling can also help you lose weight. Now, before you start saying, “but Tam, what about all the food we’ll be eating?” But what you need to remember is you’re most likely creating a calorie deficit. The more activities you’re doing, the more calories you’re burning which makes it easier to get rid of the excess calories that you’re eating on a daily basis. However, this may not always be the case for everyone. I’ve had instances where I’ve lost weight and others where I’ve gained weight, but it’s also come down to the environment and what you put in your body. For example, Once, I spent a summer in Sorrento, Italy. This was before I started eating seafood, so the only thing I ate was pizza and pasta. Okay, if I were in the states and all I ate was pizza and pasta every day, I’d be severely overweight in no time, but for some reason, in Italy, I ended up losing so much weight. The reason for this is because everything in Sorrento was basically homemade, everything was fresh with no preservatives. I think the best way to figure out about the food you’ll be consuming while you’re traveling is to look at the people. What do the locals look like? I’m looking at you America.

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Let’s all remember that life is short and there are no guarantees. You’re not guaranteed a tomorrow or a future. The amount of times I’ve heard people say, “I’ll travel one day when the time is right. I’m working on my career now, but once I’m older or I have more money or *insert every excuse in the book* I’ll travel. You can live a more fulfilled life through traveling. On that inevitable day, you know, the day the universe decides it’s time for you to meet your creator, what do you want your memories to be? Will you have any regrets? Will you really lay there and think, I wish I worked more? This is why I chose this life. I’m constantly thinking ahead. I want a life I can look back on and think, I really lived a full life. It’s not about the number of years, but the quality of my experiences and the fact that I did not limit myself. And how lucky are we now to be living in a generation where we’re able to live a more unconventional life. We’re all in control of our own lives.

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