The Benefits of Travel: Opening up your Mind to New Opinions

I’m currently sitting at my favorite cafe, Soul Cake, and I am not eavesdropping, but the boisterous ladies opposite me are making it difficult for me to not hear what they are saying.

Soul cake Cafe
Opening up my mind with great coffee

Their conversation and comments have made me breathe a sigh of relief that I have traveled for so long and have learned what a gift it is to not be stuck in your own opinion and so closed off to others.

They are ranting at what “stupid morons” people are who don’t immunize their children for fear of autism.

This was something Craig and I discussed and feared a little when it came time to immunize Kalyra. There is the research out there that does indicate this can be a reality, but there is also the research that is contrary to that fact.

It’s a tough decision to make and we ended up immunizing Kalrya, but I worried about it a lot. Maybe I could have decided to risk her getting chicken pox instead of autism.

I don’t think that would have made me a stupid moron, just someone who thinks in a different way, and who wants to make the best choice for my daughter and what I feel comfortable with.

I am open enough to look at alternatives, to look at different opinions and then make a decision.

I don’t believe that I know everything, nor do I believe that doctors, or medical researchers, or alternative therapists do also.

Defending our Identity Doesn’t Allow us to Evolve

It has really gotten me thinking about how some people become so staunch in their opinions of something, even to the point of abusing someone else because of it and allowing relationships to fall apart.

I am sure that if I had not traveled I probably would be clinging just as tightly to my beliefs and opinions, through absolute terror that if I was somehow proven wrong it would mean the end of my identity and my world.

I know what I believe, but I also know that this can so easily change.

I am so happy to allow myself the freedom to do that. What worked for me yesterday or five years ago, may not anymore because I evolve and change.

When I first set out on my travels I had a certain identity and way of viewing and thinking about the world that was based upon my limited life experiences. Experiences that came only from my family, my small town, my friends, and my culture.

Sure, I was exposed to other ways of being and thoughts through books and movies, but if you don’t experience these in the real world they can have limited impact.

Traveling opened my mind and eyes up to what other people believe and why

As I was on a great adventure, I was open to learn more about other cultures and viewpoints. I somehow did not see it as a threat to myself, just me exploring the world around me and being fascinated by it.

These new ways of thinking and being slowly seeped in and opened up my mind more and more.

Eventually, I became this person who was able to listen to the viewpoints of others and see it as something interesting that I could perhaps learn from, rather than take it as a personal offense to myself.

Of course, I am not perfect, and there are times when my self-righteousness rears its ugly head. But, I have my travel experiences to pull me back on track and tell me to get a grip and remember what I know.

I don’t know what I don’t know

There is always someone who can help me learn something new and open my eyes up to new possibilities. I welcome that.

I may not believe it and want to accept it to be true for me, but I respect their thoughts. I don’t want to let it anger me that much that I call them insulting names.

I never know, it could just teach me something new that empowers my life for the better.

Why would I not want to be at least open to seeing this for myself?

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22 thoughts on “The Benefits of Travel: Opening up your Mind to New Opinions”

  1. nithya (life out of a suitcase)

    The biggest thing that I have learnt while traveling is understanding. I can analyze differences and have a better understanding in different people, cultures and customs. This isn’t saying that I agree with everything, its just saying that i can better appreciate and understand different perspective. As I travel more, I just broaden this perspective.

    1. Understanding and tolerance are so important. You don’t have to agree or like what others do or how they think, but you can definitely try to understand it and accept that it works for them and be happy for them. Some things you do decide you like and take on and your life is enriched by it. Beauty!! You’d never find this out if you weren’t first open to understanding. Great thoughts Nithya! Thank you

  2. I agree that traveling helps expose us to new ideas and ways of doing things. This is very good. However, I must admit that, even though I have lived overseas for 6 years, I still find that I can get annoyed with people who do things differently from me. I can think that my way is right and their way is wrong. For example, I live in Asia and have a 6-month-old baby girl. In Asia, it is very culturally acceptable for anybody and everybody to tell a young mom everything she is doing wrong. I cannot leave my apartment without a myriad of people (strangers) telling me that my baby is too hot, cold, shouldn’t suck her fingers, shouldn’t chew her toys, shouldn’t be carried a front carrier, etc. I get asked by perfect strangers whether my daughter drinks breast milk or formula, whether she was born naturally or via c-section. All of this seriously messes with my American sense of independence. Sometimes I want to scream, “Is this your child?!” Sometimes I am kind and patient towards people. But other times I am cold and hostile. I’m just being honest.

    So, I write all this to say that, yes, traveling opens our eyes to a whole new world. But I don’t know that it is a “cure” for how I can be impatient and downright unkind to people sometimes.

    Thanks for the post, though. I like your site a lot.

    1. I think it is perfectly okay to get annoyed in situations like this and I think that everyone goes through this in one way or another. It is much harder to deal with when it is a culture that is not your own.
      I think by being honest you are recognizing this is a part of you. You can’t grow if you don’t acknowledge and accept where you are now.

      I would not beat myself up about it though if I was you. I really think it is natural for you to get irritated by that. i know I certainly would. I hate people telling me how I should be raising my child. I think you get that anywhere. People think they are being helpful but they just put you into a spin. i think just do your best to smile and say thanks for that and walk away.

      When Kalyra was born I had people constantly telling me this sort of stuff, and it confused me. I ended up going against my better judgement and what I felt to be right for me as they had terrified me into thinking I had it wrong- their way ended up being a disaster for me. So now, I just kindly smile and say thank you and let it go in one ear out the other and change the conversation. For any new mothers my advice will always be, “Trust in yourself. Only you know what works best for yourself and child.”

  3. That’s the main answer I give to people when I get the most frequent question of all- “Why do you travel so much?”

    It expands my mind!

  4. Unfortunately, I think some people are so close-minded that even travel wouldn’t help–although it certainly wouldn’t hurt.

    The word “moron” (or its cousin’s–idiots, stupid, imbeciles, jerks, etc.) has always rankled me. I believe all it really conveys is that the person who says it simply has a need to squelch others to make themselves look bigger, better or more important.

    Hmmm…maybe I’m close minded about people who are close minded? I should probably work on that.

    1. “I believe all it really conveys is that the person who says it simply has a need to squelch others to make themselves look bigger, better or more important.”

      totally agree. It is so obvious to everyone else but them. I agree that those words are very harsh and grating. It is interesting when you stop and think about being close minded about close minded people. I think it all the time about myself too and try to do better. As long as you are aware and doing your best to improve.

    1. I’m here right now Michael as i reply. Contemplating whether to have another cup before I leave! I love this place being my office.

  5. Totally agree with you on this Cas. Whilst I admit that I’m an incredibly judgemental person, I always keep my opinions to myself and never let them get in the way of meeting someone new and different and learning about new cultures. For instance, I don’t believe in God but I wouldn’t call someone that does ‘stupid’; they’re just different to me. If the world realised we’re all different and accepted it, it might be a kinder place to live =)

    1. I think we all can be strong in our opinions- after all only we know what is best for our lives, but I think as you said, you don’t let it get in the way of meeting someone new and treating them with respect. On our travels we kept running into a particular race who were so rude, arrogant and condescending to the local people. It happened every time we ran into these people. Of course we could not help but form judgements about them, but every time we met a person individually we always were friendly and respectful and treated them as everyone deserves to be treated. It helped us to get to know a little bit more about the real person not just how we perceived them to be by some of the “group’s” actions.
      I wish people did realize that it was okay for people to think in different ways, it is not a threat, it is what makes our world so colourful. I think it would be a much kinder place and we wouldn’t feel the need to always be right.

  6. Tyler - Round the World Travel Challenge

    Good to hear that other travelers really are gaining valuable skills from their trip along with their experience. Haha, I also love that some people here are completely comfortable to ignoring other peoples opinions at times.

    It’s a real talent to truly listen to other people with an open mind. Have you ever noticed how absent it is in topics that are most related to peoples core values (religion, politics… raising your baby;)). People just don’t listen because it’s hard and it would be even harder to actually change what you believe.

    1. Very true. It is hard to keep those minds open when it comes to religion and politics. Best not to talk about it. I think I can be very staunch in my opinion when it comes to raising my child. I am open to listening to advice from others though, but I wouldn’t call them names just because they think differently to me. (unless they abused their child then I would call them names)

  7. After reading the first 1/3 of the post I already knew that this is going to be the most important thing I’ll read today. In fact I have stopped reading further blogs for today, not that they of any less value, but so that I may savour the thoughts offered and allow what you’ve written to breath.

    “I know what I believe, but I also know that this can so easily change.” – agreed.

    Thanks for sharing.

  8. How much different, and better would this world be if there was a mandatory “travel time” after graduation from high school, much like mandatory service in the army/navy, etc..

    Instead we are stuck mostly with hometown bumpkins that have it all figured out with their “worldly” view. Sadly, those are the ones that are most vocal.

    I have no answers, just nodding my head in agreement: no evolution. We’re doomed if we keep this up. Writing this in light of 80 or so people murdered in Norway… off topic, but it’s times like this I’m quite sure there is no hope for mankind.

  9. I really like this post and relate to it. Traveling has opened my mind so much…so has teaching ESL/EFL. Many people advised me not to travel to the Middle East last summer (due to their narrow ideas and biases re: Arabs, Muslims, etc.). I didn’t listen since I’d had experiences to the contrary (much of it due to teaching wonderful students from Syria, Jordan, Palestine, etc.). I’m glad I went. A closed mind would have meant missing out on one of my best trips ever.

    My favorite line in this post is “Defending our identity doesn’t allow us to evolve.” Wow. I so get that. And sadly, I’ve seen this in many people. And I know that I need to try to keep an open mind re: those who are more narrow in their thinking. Perhaps that’s my challenge…

    1. It’s so great that you didn’t listen to the naysayers You always have to do what you feel is right based on what you believe. Having an open mind allows you so many more opportunities which are so richly rewarding

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