Ten years ago today I was in the process of circumnavigating the globe. I was somewhere in between Vietnam and Singapore. And it was awesome.
I was working for the Semester at Sea program, one of a handful of times I have become a willing transient, carrying my belongings with me as I go and drinking in the sights, sounds, smells and knowledge of the world far from my normal.
I don’t talk about my travels much these days so one day when a friend was being smart and teasing, saying if you’ve circumnavigated the globe you can win all arguments, Period, he choked on his own spit when I mentioned I actually have circumnavigated the globe.
I now win all arguments. And that makes me supremely happy.
“I think the sky is green.” “No, it’s blue.” “Well, I circumnavigated the globe.” Win.
“Taco Bell is so much better than Chipotle.” “Well, Chipotle is real food with fresh ingredients.” “I circumnavigated the globe.” Win.
McDonald’s french fries are better than In-N-Out.” “No they aren’t. Ever.” “I circumnavigated the globe.” Win.
Do you see how that works?! Beautiful!
I don’t talk about my travels much anymore. Not because they weren’t life changing and amazing, but – how do you really work it into conversation?
“You know, I gave A-Baby four large bottles of milk today and it’s probably going to make her constipated. I learned that when I was in Brazil, you never give a small person more than three bottles of milk in a day or you’ll be sorry tomorrow.”
“Good morning! You’d like to rent a storage unit today? That’s great! You know, when I was in South Africa learning about apartheid and visiting shanty towns I really wished I could have a storage unit, too.”
See, it’s a little odd.
Even if I don’t talk about them much now, I believe my international experiences have changed me significantly and for the better.
If you’re considering traveling abroad, here are a few reasons I would tell you to go for it:
1. You will stretch your mind. The chaos of traveling in a foreign country pushes you beyond your comfort zone. You have to figure out planes, trains and automobiles while carrying your earthly belongings with you. You have to figure out your priorities and which local attraction to visit. All of these experiences make you stronger, more independent, and capable of handling multiple details when you return home.
2. You will see beauty in the disgusting. My experiences in India were painful. I hated that place! I walked along streets flooded with raw sewage, smelling gasoline exhaust from scooters I feared would run me over. It was awful. But somehow along the way I began to see the humanity in all humans, even when we don’t see eye to eye politically or spiritually or even have the same values for cleanliness or sanctity of life. I look at all people differently now and am able to pull something beautiful out of pretty much every experience.
3. You’ll realize you’re not that special. When you walk among the ruins of the Forum in Rome or into the quarries of Sicily, when you visit the underground cities of Cappadocia or get a drink in the pub Ernest Hemingway frequented in Cuba, when you peer over the railing from the top of the Eiffel Tower or learn about atomic bombs while seeing the shadows of people killed in Hiroshima, Japan, when you do these things… you begin to see the world is not just about your story. Your personal story is important but it is a simple thread in the tapestry of humanity and history… it needs to be strong and significant but your single story is never more important than the whole… that’s an important and amazing realization to have.
4. You’ll win all arguments. Because, even if you haven’t circumnavigated the globe, you can say, “Well, I’ve been to Iceland.” And that’s still pretty cool so you’ll win. Bonus!
Do you think travel abroad is important? Has it changed your life?