Why you should prioritize traveling abroad
Taking a break from life is good for the soul. It's important to do. As an American, it's sad that traveling isn't more important in our culture. With most workers only getting 2 weeks vacation time a year (if that!) I understand why.
With such little paid time off (or disposable income, I guess) most Americans choose to vacation close to home. All-inclusive resorts in Mexico, a fancy hotel in Hawaii, or even a quickie trip to Vegas to blow off steam and live like rockstars.
These kinds of trips are relaxing, for sure, and can offer a stress-reset for someone with a busy life. But why not experience something totally different? Expand cultural awareness and see the way other parts of the world live?
Even with only 2 weeks or less, I'd like to make a few arguments for why more Americans should prioritize spending their vacation time (and money) on traveling abroad.
1. The world needs more empathetic hearts now more than ever.
Travel breeds empathy once you see it for yourself. It's not enough to watch the world go by on NatGeo, it doesn't give the whole picture.
I remember my first morning in Vietnam when I was 21. Culture shock. I watched as the city came alive as I walked around looking for breakfast. How hard the people were working to get their shops together, the poverty, and how they made do with limited resources. It forever changed the way I look at foreigners who make their way to America. I developed a new depth in my ability to empathize through my experiences abroad.
2. The food!
This should have been number 1. Exotic cuisine, made by the locals, using local ingredients is so much better than eating at your neighborhood Thai or Indian restaurant. You get exposure to all the foods and ingredients that make a region unique. Traveling abroad expands your palette and satisfies your senses.
3. You're not getting any younger.
Yikes, is that too cliche? But seriously, traveling abroad takes a little more energy than shoving off to a resort in San Diego for a week. So I say do it now before it's too late.
I'm not saying international travel is difficult, or at least it doesn't have to be. But the longer flights, possible jet lag, and the sheer fact that you are perhaps living for a period of time without all the conveniences you're used to, these are all reasons to prioritize this type of travel before age-related health issues take hold and the decision to stay home is made for you.
4. Travel is the only thing you can buy that will make you richer.
Okay, now I'm sounding super cliche. But it's true. Memories are priceless. Travel stories to share at Thanksgiving dinner, or to your grandchildren one day, are things you cannot put a price tag on. Swimming with manta rays, or being 50 feet from a wild rhino, finding out what a fried scorpion tastes like, brushing the hair of a disfigured homeless Indian woman, or getting drunk with Balinese locals (maybe don't tell your grandkids all the details)... these are stories I'll be cherishing as priceless for the rest of my life.
5. Traveling abroad can be cheaper than staying home.
If you pick the right destinations, and use a little ingenuity, you can have the most awesome experiences for as low as $35 a day, even less. Southeast Asia is known to be budget friendly, and if you book your flights around 4 months in advance you can get super cheap flights too. Now, there are some seriously expensive destinations too, like Moscow or Australia, if you'd like as well.
READ MORE: Favorite Websites to Book Cheap Travel
6. Travel is good for your health
Research shows that travel can help you create new pathways in the brain to keep you healthier for longer.
According to a report in the Chicago Tribune, Paul Nussbaum, a clinical neuropsychologist and adjunct professor of neurological surgery at the University of Pittsburgh, has said that travel can help ward off such diseases as Alzheimer's. "When you expose your brain to an environment that's novel and complex or new and difficult, the brain literally reacts," he explained. This grows the brains capacity.
7. Travel helps you move forward in your life
Taking a big trip can be the catalyst for big change in your life. Each big trip I've taken has set the stage for the next big adventure in my life.
Taking a break from college to travel abroad gave me the space to heal my young, 21-year-old broken heart. Spending time in Asia gave me the courage to change careers at 34. Nick and I even came up with the hair-brained idea to rent out our house and move into a travel trailer while we were floating in the Arabian Sea.
The value I give to taking time to spend far away from home is immeasurable. Time and space inevitably gives way to new thought patterns that can help you get un-stuck in life.
8. Travel abroad because it's awesome
Turns out, I don't think you actually need a reason to prioritize traveling abroad. To simply go is reason enough. Get out there and see the world, because the world is a seriously awesome place.