Traveling is a learning experience. You meet different people, see new things, and work through new challenges. Your mind is stretched and your beliefs are challenged. There is one lesson in particular that has stayed with me throughout my travels:
Outside of your little bubble in your little corner of planet Earth, nobody cares about your upbringing, your accomplishments, your social standing, or who you know…and that’s awesome.
We get so wrapped up in our own world, when the truth is that most of the things that occupy our thoughts are laughably insignificant. In college, students place a huge emphasis on which fraternity or sorority someone is in, which bars they frequent, the clothes they wear, and who they know. People actually form an opinion of someone based on these superficial habits and traits.
Think I’m just talking about high school or college students? This misguided thinking only intensifies as we get older. We get caught up in job titles, which college our kids are going to attend, or who has the newest car on the cul-de-sac.
It’s engrained in our minds. How many times have you watched a movie and become completely caught up in the characters and their world? With movies, we either snap out of it when the lights come on, or the strong emotions fade as we reenter our own reality. But we don’t regularly escape our bubble and see the bigger picture. Travel, especially solo travel, provides this dose of perspective.
Nobody in Germany cares about what sorority you are in; they might not even know what greek life is. Your new friend in India doesn’t care that you know Cam Newton. Even if you explain that he is a famous athlete, they don’t care about American football just like you probably don’t care about Indian cricket players. A farmer in Papua New Guinea doesn’t care that you developed an app that syncs Outlook with your car’s bluetooth system. That doesn’t help him sell more coffee beans. As you struggle to express the importance of the things that are valued by people you would interact with at home, you’ll experience a sense of frustration. They just don’t get it. Even if it’s a good friend that shares your interests, trying to explain the joy of “tailgating” won’t ever do the experience justice.
The end result of all of this not-caring, is that you become free. You’re liberated from the societal norms that define you without your permission, you’re freed from doing what is expected, and barriers break down–nobody is out of your league. The only thing that defines you is what you do and say in that moment. Everything else is irrelevant. Isn’t that the way it should be?