Everyone has their own idea of what constitutes the ideal travel experience.
Adventure seekers might love the idea of trekking deep in a forest in search of ancient temple ruins.
Leisure lovers might prefer sipping piña coladas while lounging on pristine, white sandy beaches.
The more highbrow type would enjoy shopping and dining on the streets of a regal boulevard.
Foodies can see themselves globetrotting around the world doing culinary and wine tasting tours.
You get the idea.
For me, traveling has always been, first and foremost, a learning experience.
Prior to visiting a new place, I like to sink my teeth into as much information as possible before I get there. A pile of travel guides that have been highlighted, dog-eared and scribbled stand my coffee table top.
This is my way of priming my mind for my upcoming travel experience. Yet, despite all my preparation, there was one travel experience that caught me pleasantly by surprise, and that was my trip to the Scandinavian countries.
Everything from the majestic fjords to the striking physical features of the Nordic natives were exotic to me. Being a history aficionado, I found the region’s bygone Viking era fascinating. I wondered how on earth these ancient sailors navigated the violent and treacherous waters of the Baltic Sea while braving the bitter cold winters in their simple rustic boats.
Dressed in wooly garb, they took on the roles of craftsmen, blacksmiths, leather tanners and epigraphers who inscribed Viking alphabets on stone tablets. Some even posed as warriors and enacted Viking battle scenes.
I eagerly explored the various display stands and tents. As I was walking, I noticed a tall, beautiful lady with Icelandic blonde hair and sparkling blue eyes smile and wave at me. She greeted me in her charming Norwegian twang and asked me about my background.
After a brief exchange of pleasantries, she asked me if I was interested in getting a rune reading done. I decided to partake in the offer. She ushered me into a tiny tent, which had a slight whiff of animal hide, and seated me on a small-sized, crooked log.
After offering some interesting insights into some of the predominant themes in my life, I stood up and handed over the payment to her. She thanked me and said, matter-of-factly, “We are so different, yet we are also the same in many ways.” I smiled and nodded my head in agreement.
They say that you will never be the same person again after returning from a voyage and I can certainly say that this was the case for me after I left the picturesque Scandinavian shores. It was one of the many travel experiences that continue to convince me of the incredible benefits of traveling.
Here are the five specific ways that I believe traveling can enhance us:
1. Your horizons will be broadened: Visiting different countries will expose you to infinite ways of living and being in the world. You may have never even imagined the existence of certain mannerisms, customs, histories and cultures until you witness them. Your world instantly becomes a bigger, richer and more diverse place. You make friends along the way who can give you an insider’s look into their country’s unique lifestyles.
2. Your mind will get stimulated: Whenever you step out of your comfort zone, your mind gets stimulated and stretched into new dimensions of thinking. In fact, science has proven that by breaking out of the rut of daily living and our habitual way of being, our brains will develop new neural connections that trigger original and creative thoughts. Certain travel experiences can also provide a relieving space for spiritual clearing.
3. You gain a sense of perspective on your place in the world: When you witness other lands and other customs in the world, you will gain an instant sense of perspective on your own place of origin and how your values compare to the values of people from other cultures. Witnessing all these wonderful contrasts, on your travels, can solidify your own identity and make you appreciate your own uniqueness in the world. You get an idea of where you fall within the big, wide continuum of the human race.
4. You feel more connected to your fellow beings: Despite all the differences, upon closer observation, you will notice that you actually share a lot of similarities with the people that you encounter, no matter which country that you visit. This realization will instill a sense of respect and tolerance towards others because of this awareness of your shared humanity. You will be embraced and welcomed wherever you go because people will sense your openness, understanding and willingness to connect.
5. You feel more responsibility towards the plight of the planet: Having the opportunity to witness the beauty and richness of so many different lands will inevitably elicit a sense of awe and wonder within you. You’ll feel a spiritual connection to Mother Earth, as you get a visceral sense of all the wonderful gifts that she has to offer. You’ll feel a natural sense of responsibility towards taking care of the planet and preserving all her bounty for future generations to come.
There’s a wonderful proverb that says that we travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us. Travel seems to be inextricably connected to our spiritual longing to discover and explore lands that we have never been to.
Our yearning for travel experiences is one of the many ways that our souls attempt to rise above the mundane and towards the extraordinary.
All my best on your journey,
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