Traveling is often seen as a luxury or a way to indulge in vacation, rather than an investment. But as a travel lover, I know just how much traveling has affected my life and my finances.
The first time I stepped foot in another country was in 2006 when I studied abroad in Spain. After studying Spanish for 5 years, I was confident in my Spanish speaking abilities and was excited to live in Madrid for the summer. I had saved up for a whole year (which also taught me a lot) just to do this. But when I got there, I was disoriented. Everyone spoke so fast. It wasn't the type of Spanish I learned in Los Angeles (there is definitely a different accent). Very quickly, I was humbled and realized how little I actually knew.
It wasn't just my language abilities that made me realize how little I knew. At 20 years old, living in another country, I learned so much about how others lived and in turn so much about myself. Since that first jaunt abroad, I became obsessed with the idea of travel — even while paying off debt. I have explored the snowy terrain of Iceland, performed a play in Mexico, laid on the beach in Rio de Janeiro, and more. Every single one of these experiences were priceless to me, but let me tell you why I think traveling is a great investment.
It Expands Your Horizons
Although I grew up in the Los Angeles area and experienced diversity, we didn't travel much outside of our home state much when I was growing up. I had very little knowledge of how others lived. I was stuck in my bubble, in my same neighborhood, in my home state. Traveling can expand your horizons and let you see things in a new way. It's a way to break the routine and get out of the monotony of the status quo.
Makes You Think Differently
Whenever you travel and come back home, you are never the same person. You have experienced something entirely new. Traveling can give you insights into how others live and show you things about the world that you didn't know. Traveling can highlight just how big this world is, yet just how small it is too — how much we actually have in common, yet are so different. Learning a new language and experiencing a new culture challenges your thought process. That moment when I arrived in Spain and I couldn't understand a word, was simultaneously so humiliating and invigorating. I thought I had known so much, after studying Spanish for 5 years. But traveling can teach you things that textbooks can't.
Forces You Out of Your Comfort Zone
I firmly believe that getting out of your comfort zone is the greatest way to learn. Arriving somewhere new, where you don't know the geography, you don't know the language, and you don't know a single soul is a great way to get out of your comfort zone fast. Traveling gets you out of your comfort zone and forces you to figure things out on your own, which can give you a nice boost of confidence. Getting out of your comfort zone allows you to be bold and try and do new things you might not feel comfortable doing at home.
You Meet New People
One of my favorite parts of traveling is meeting new people. Your network is your net worth, and meeting people from all over the world can enhance your global community as well your opportunities. Meeting people from other places can teach you so much about life and the world, from a different perspective than guidebooks and the internet.
Language Skills are In Demand
As I mentioned earlier, even after studying Spanish for 5 years, I couldn't understand a thing when I first arrived in Spain. The accent was foreign and it was too fast for my untrained ears. After just a week, I was immersed wholeheartedly and started to understand every third word. By the time I was done, I was having full on conversations with people and not wholly embarrassing myself.
My Spanish speaking skills have helped me score nearly all of my nonprofit jobs. Having the ability to speak and write in Spanish set me apart from many other candidates and also gave me the opportunity to connect with communities on a deeper level.
So, while traveling may just seem like a luxury and a flight of fancy, it is actually an investment in yourself and your career — you can market yourself as a citizen of the world, which opens up so many opportunities.