How travel makes you a better person

Dear Daughter,

As you grow older, I encourage you to do a lot of one thing… travel. Most people like traveling because it’s fun, but it also builds character and maturity faster than anything can.

If you stay in the same general area all the time, you start to live in a bubble. You think the culture of that area is the same as the culture anywhere, because you’ve never gone outside of it to know any better. To you, that culture is the reality of the whole world. The result of such thinking, unfortunately, is ignorance and close-mindedness… two very unattractive traits.

But when you travel to other places—even if it’s just other states in the U.S.—your eyes are opened to the fact that geography plays a very important role in shaping one’s personality, methods, dialect, and overall view of life. You quickly realize that no one way of living is necessarily better than any other, as much as we like to think otherwise.

400 miles south of where we live, in Tennessee, people talk funny but are the most openly friendly people I’ve ever met. 800 miles east of us, in New York, people also talk funny but are the most blunt, intimidating (yet admirable) people I’ve ever met. 1,500 miles west of us, in Montana, the people are so chill and laid back it’s like they’re on another planet. And just a couple hundred miles north of us, in Michigan, the people have a genuine and equal appreciation for both work and play. (But they have goofy traffic laws.)

I’ve traveled a lot, including many trips to Europe and even the Middle East. I feel that those experiences have made me much more tolerable of people as a whole than I would be if I hadn’t gone anywhere. It’s helped me understand that everyone is raised differently, and whatever shortfalls they have (based on my own Midwestern definition of “shortfall”) exist not necessarily because they’re a bad or annoying person, it’s just because they live in a different world than I do. Knowing that makes me more likely to focus on the good in them than the bad.

Travel is also good for the soul because the act of traveling itself brings patience and adaptability. Things are very likely to go wrong when you travel, particularly in airports, and such experiences help you focus on what’s really important in life. If you think about it, not having luggage for 24 hours is a pretty minor hardship in the grand scheme of things.

So, Daughter, in the words of Horace Greely… go west, young (wo)man, and enjoy every minute of it.



1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Jeanine
    Aug 12, 2011 @ 21:35:57

    Love it! Travel it up!


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