How Travel Changed My Life, And Can Change Yours

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Traveling is not for everyone. Some people prefer to be homebodies, seeking peace and solitude with the familiar and regular routine – and that’s fine.

But there are others that hunger for adventure and the need to break free from the norm, to experience things that others could only dream of, and to leave behind the daily routines and every day life for something out of their comfort zone.

Those people will benefit from travel.

family sitting in Hot Springs in Big Bend National Park, Texas
Hot Springs in Big Bend National Park, Texas

You may have heard a lot of people say “travel changed my life” a lot, and think those people are just pretentious or exaggerating. It’s an easy assumption to make if you’ve never traveled before. But you’d be surprised by how much travel can affect you.

We all have one of those friends who will take any opportunity to “tell you about my gap y’ar” at any possible moment. Those people sometimes receive eye rolls and responses of “Yes, we’ve heard this story twelve times already,” or they may be met with expressions of awe and envy – usually the latter.

Those friends have a point. They’ve found something on their journey that can only be found if they pack their suitcase, embark on that adventure, and seek a unique experience.

If you want to be more like those friends, here are some of the ways travel can change your life.

How Travel Changes Your Life

1. It Takes You Out Of Your Comfort Zone

caz looking at snow covered mountains in austria
Views from the top of Austria

When I decided to take the leap and go traveling, I was also battling an anxiety disorder that had kept me in its grasp for the better part of a decade.

It was an illness that, at its worst point, had left me housebound for a period of six months.

My anxiety brought with it panic attacks, multiple times a day, for months on end.

A sheltered upbringing and a determination to avoid anything that could trigger a panic attack meant I had no life experience and possessed little common sense.

I didn’t know how to function in everyday life; I had never been on a bus before and I had never eaten rice.

Needless to say, traveling was well out of my comfort zone. When I eventually traveled, I landed myself in the deep end and had to figure out not only how to travel but how to live independently. It taught me lessons that no school or teacher can.

Lauren at the Grand Canyon, USA
Lauren at the Grand Canyon

I was six months into my trip when I suddenly realised I hadn’t had a panic attack in weeks.

Two major things contributed:

  1. Travel gave me an abundance of time to figure out what my anxiety triggers were and how I could either avoid or overcome them in the future.
  2. Travel challenged me to face the things that terrified and intimidated me until I realised they were never as bad as I’d feared.

The combination has done wonders for my mental health and wellbeing.

Travel didn’t get rid of my anxiety for good – I’ll likely battle it for life – but it equipped me with coping mechanisms to handle it.

2. Travel Changes Your Attitude to Food

meat on sticks
Thai street food

So many people name food as one of their greatest motivations to travel. For me, it was my biggest barrier.

I’d never even tried Chinese, Indian, or Thai food before.

For the first few months on the road, I floundered. I subsisted on food bought from supermarkets – pringles, chocolate bars, and bottles of Coke. I was afraid to try new flavours.

Traveling to Vietnam changed everything.

A friend coerced me into trying a steaming bowl of pho and it was the best thing I’d ever tasted. From that moment on, I gulped down bowl after bowl after bowl, eventually branching out to try other soups and gleefully discovering I loved them all.

I suddenly discovered what I’d been missing out on.

Vietnam kick-started an obsession with trying local food, to the point where it’s now one of my favourite aspects of travel.

In fact, I’ve even overcome my fear of strange foods, having now sampled kangaroo in Australia, cockroaches in Laos, crickets in Thailand, lizard in Vietnam, and brain tacos in Mexico!

3. You Get To Try New Experiences

Lauren paddleboarding in Abel Tasman, New Zealand
Paddleboarding in Abel Tasman, New Zealand

It didn’t take long after leaving for me to discover that choosing to remain within my pea-sized comfort zone had been holding me back in life.

Fortunately, travel is all about leaving your comfort zone, often on an hourly basis!

There were many, many things that intimidated me when I started travelling, but I was doing so alone and didn’t have anybody to rely on except myself. There was no escape.

Repeatedly leaving my comfort zone introduced me to new experiences – many of which ended up being the highlight of my travels.

woman sitting on a sand dune
Lauren in the Sahara Desert, Morocco

Learning to surf in Bali. Camping overnight in the Sahara Desert. Riding in a hot air balloon over Lake Bled. Accepting a stranger’s kind offer to show me around Taiwan.

These were experiences I would never find at home.

4. You Learn To Stop Worrying About Things

Anxiety is all about irrational thought processes, many of which revolve around panicking that everything is going to result in your death.

Travel helped me stop worrying that everything was going to end in disaster because everything I did quite often did.

I would leave my hostel for the bus station with a sinking feeling that I wouldn’t be able to find the bus I’d need and it would leave without me.

Guess what? It happened.

And when it did, I spoke to an attendant and he changed my ticket for me and told me where to wait for the next bus.

Sometimes I’d worry about getting lost, would end up in the middle of nowhere, and then hail a taxi to take me back to my hostel. Or used a cached map on my phone to navigate. Or wandered around until I found a landmark I recognised.

Lauren in Guanajuato, Mexico
Lauren in Guanajuato, Mexico

Sometimes, though, something would happen that was even worse than the thing I’d been worrying about.

I thought I would struggle to find something to eat in Shanghai, but ended up getting scammed instead.

I was worried I might get lost in Phuket, but got caught up in a tsunami instead.

I only needed to experience these travel disasters a few times before I started to realise it was pointless worrying about what might happen because many things you cannot predict or control.

Because sometimes the worse case scenario really does happen. And when it does, you’ll take a deep breath and figure it out. It’s almost never as bad as you think it’ll be. You’re more than capable of dealing with it.

You end up worrying less about not only small things, but big things too.

After all, there’s no point worrying about things that might not happen.

5. You Gain a Huge Amount of Confidence

Lauren in Bagan, Myanmar
Lauren in Bagan, Myanmar

Given my struggles with mental health and my lack of experience, you won’t be surprised to hear the pre-travel version of me wasn’t the most confident of people.

I was quiet and shy, preferring to hide from the limelight than let myself shine.

Conquering my anxiety made me feel like I could do anything I put my mind to.

Having things go wrong on the road showed me I was more capable than I’d thought.

Meeting new people in hostels every day helped me hone my social skills.

Trying new things and falling in love with them convinced me to push my boundaries as often as I can.

All of this combined led to a newfound confidence when it came to travel, people, and navigating the world.

6. You Gain Independence

Lauren on beach Koh Nok, in Thailand
Lauren on Koh Nok, in Thailand

I never thought I’d be truly independent.

I thought I was too broken to ever rely only on myself. I was the type of girl who jumped from long-term relationship to long-term relationship with barely a month between.

Travelling solo was all about finding the independence I’d always craved. It was about finding out who I was as a person, what I liked, and what I didn’t. It was about learning how to make decisions without having anyone else to rely on.

It was about being selfish.

Despite now travelling with my boyfriend, I try to spend a minimum of two months of every year travelling solo. I love the independence and freedom it gives me.

Final Thoughts

When I left to travel, I was a nervous, shy girl with no life experience and zero common sense. I had no sense of self-worth, no confidence, and didn’t know how to make friends. I had panic attacks every few hours. I was scared of anything with flavour.

Everyone thought I was crazy for leaving; nobody expected me to last.

Now, as I write this post in my guesthouse in Cambodia, I’ve been travelling for four years and counting. I’ve visited 60 countries across five continents.

Travel anxiety no longer rules my life. I’ve fallen in love with food. I now seek out new and challenging experiences because I know that stepping out of my comfort zone will help me become a better person.

I barely recognize the person I used to be. Travel changed my life.

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How has travel changed your life? Let us know in the comments.

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