You hear people say all the time, “I love to travel.” Unfortunately, a large majority of American citizens don’t travel far outside of their country or even their state. With an average of ten days of paid time off each year for U.S. workers, it doesn’t allow for individuals to expand their horizons and explore new cultures.
In contrast, every country in Europe is required by law to offer at least four weeks of paid time off to their employees. It is also customary for students in European countries to take a gap year before heading off to university to finish their education and begin their career.
Traveling can be an impactful and transformational experience for anyone, and it’s never too early to start! Up with People’s President and CEO, Dale Penny, shared his thoughts on the recent global issues and how he believes that through developing trust and mutual respect, we can bridge the divisions that separates so many countries around the world.
So how can traveling create global citizens?
1. The power of humility
As you visit new countries and experience different cultures, you’ll also face challenges, fears and insecurities you may not have encountered before. You’ll experience the daily life of locals in their own communities and any preconceived notions or judgments you might have of the culture will be erased. When you travel, you become the minority and the outsider as you enter into a new country. You learn to speak less and listen more. There is the silencing of internalized assumptions and stereotypes you might have about other people. You learn to accept people as they are and, with a great sense of humility, you might learn that your initial judgements are not always correct.
2. Learning new languages
There are over 7,000 different languages throughout the world. That means billions of people are communicating in various ways that others can not understand. By learning a new language, you are stepping into a world that is completely different from your own. You become part of the conversation instead of a bystander. Learning a new language is also a way to show respect for the culture of that country. You can’t expect everyone you meet in life to speak English, Spanish or Mandarin. If they are willing to try, you should too!
3. Questioning your own beliefs
Everything that has made you who you are as a person until this point will be challenged and as you travel and step outside of your comfort zone. This is a good thing! As humans, we are constantly changing, learning, and growing. It’s unlikely that you’ll be the same person at 35 that you were at 15. Those who identify as global citizens have usually discovered new things about themselves at some point during their travels that change their personal views and beliefs. How can we bridge the divide if we are not able to consider the ideas and beliefs of other cultures? The least we can do is to try and understand, and along the way, you may find yourself changing immensely in ways you would not have thought possible.
4. People are no longer chapters in history books
When you travel, you will have first hand experiences in new, exciting and sometimes scary places. At the same time, you are also meeting new faces each and every day. The people you come in contact with won’t be the same as the people in your own community back home. Peruvians from the Inca Tribes will no longer be a part of your history book as you spend time in Cusco, Peru and meet natives along the street. Mexicans will now have tangible memories associated with them as people, just like you and I, because you had the chance to shake their hands, share a meal, or walk the streets of their cities with them.
5. Your ability to adapt
Traveling abroad involves constant change. It isn’t your typical daily routine or your usual nine to five work day. Just like in the workplace, you’ll learn to adapt to the inevitable hiccups and last-minute changes to your plans along the way. And while in the moment they may seem like frustrating road blocks, they are actually opportunities to teach yourself patience, flexibility and adaptability. These are life lessons that you can take beyond your days of traveling and into your everyday personal and professional life.
The experience of travel is unlike any other experience you’ll have in your lifetime. If you feel that you don’t have the time or ability to travel, put away your excuses and start making it a true possibility for yourself. The more people allow themselves the opportunity to experience a world outside of their own, the closer we will all be to a more hopeful, trusting and peaceful world.
“If I was lookin’ through your eyes,
I wonder what I’d see.
Would I see your good and your bad?
Would I taste the sweet and the sad?
And would I understand you better
If I could see what you see?”
Someone Else’s Eyes © Up with People
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Topics: Gap Year Abroad
Up with People is a global education organization which aims to bring the world together through service and music. The unique combination of international travel, service learning, leadership development and performing arts offers young adults an unparalleled study abroad experience and a pathway to make a difference in the world, one community at a time. Click here to learn more about the internationally acclaimed program, Up with People.