5 Times Travel Made Us Better People

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 “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” – Mark Twain

We’ve now lived in France for 1.5 years. It’s been difficult, but amazing all at the same time! We’ve had the opportunity to travel, not just around France (which by itself is an amazing place), but all around Europe as we’ve learned about different cultures and places. It’s pushed us to learn a new language, to try new foods and to learn new customs. We feel that this has been a beneficial time for our family and are grateful for our time here.

Recently I was asked by another blogger friend, Vy, to participate in a post with a handful of other bloggers dedicated to sharing stories about a time that travel helped make us better people. Below, I invite you to read 5 inspiring stories about a time when travel made each of us better people.

ITALIAN ADVENTURES: SHAPING MY PERSPECTIVE SINCE 2011
by Danielle from thewittywife.com

Danielle is a wife who loves to find adventure at every turn in life. She loves to share her tales of travel and find joyous new things in life during the process.

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At the young age of 23, I have visited 11 different countries, lived abroad once, and have fell in love with travel. When I was 16, I hopped on plane with my mother and younger brother for a 10 flight to Florence. As we arrived, a whirlwind of happiness struck me. This was my first time abroad and my first time living in a different country. I was ecstatic. As time went on, we spent much of our time at a local coffee shop. We connected with the local owners, became like family. They would invite us over for dinner, greet us every morning with smiles and coffee, and try to communicate with us to learn English. To say they were just welcoming would not cover it. Being Italian myself, I know how loving and open most Italians are. But I did not expect to be so welcomed by people who only knew us a few weeks.

As time drew on, we all became closer. We would spend our evenings over at the coffee shop after closing, drinking red wine and having good laughs. There is something different about Italians and their culture than any other place I have visited. Three years later I revisited the coffee shop, the owner in which we grew close to had moved to America to live the “American Dream.” As I sipped my coffee once again from the same coffee shop that changed my view of culture all those years ago, I grew sad wishing time could go back. Times had changed but the inviting aspect stayed the same.

There are billions of people in this world with thousands of different cultures. Staying in one place does not open your eyes to what is around us. Both my mom and brother lived in Florence for four months, me for two (I broke a tooth and flew home). Our perspective of the world changed since that time abroad. I ended up studying abroad three years later, traveling to 9 other countries in the process. My mother, now an entrepreneur artist, still visits Italy biyearly. And my brother, open to new perspectives, cultures, and ideas, has decided to become a Psychologist and help others. It’s amazing what a small coffee shop and a couple locals can do in just a couple months.

THE PLACE WE CALL HOME
by Sasha from themilkywaylover.com

Sasha is a mom living in the Bay Area who loves the outdoors, road trips, and traveling the world with her daughter and husband.

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I remember the first time I met our guide Keller, I was really suspicious that he was capable of leading us through the Costa Rican jungle on a two-day hike. First, the strange English name that sounded a little too similar to Killer was definitely not making me trust him. Then there was the man himself, short and stocky with a huge beer belly. He was wearing knee high rubber boots, which seemed like the most ridiculous choice of footwear to go hiking in the jungle in. All of this is a lesson I’m about to learn for the millionth time about not judging a book by its cover. I’ve mistakenly confused his fatness with being out of shape: the man can out hike me for hours in the sweltering jungle heat without a pause. The beer belly, however, is a real keg as we found out at journey’s end from the way he chugs cold beer like water. Rubber boots, it turns out, are way better for the changing terrains from beach to jungle to river than my Teva sandals, which gave me horrible blisters and miles of agony.

Keller was at home in the jungle. Unlike us who hike only by following the trail, he moves through the jungle alert in all of his senses. Often he would stop us and quietly go off into the foliage to track down some wild animal to show us. We spotted sloths, tapirs, coati, frogs, snakes, and even bats sleeping inside pitcher plants. Keller had been hiking through these jungle since he was a little boy. When we sat down to rest on the beach, he casually hacked away at a few coconuts with his machete and offered us a drink from them. He said when he was a kid, the ocean waves at these very same beaches never came as far up as the trees we were sitting under. Now these tree roots are regularly flooded with each high tide, which explains that large numbers of fallen trees scattered on the beach. Rising sea levels is a fact that he lives with each day of his life as he leads tourists across wild and remote coastline of Corcovado. It made me sad to think that he has to suffer the consequences of global warming, caused by people like us living in cities and countries far away from his home. The plane ride, bus rides, ferry, and truck ride that took us from the United States to Corcovado probably left a larger carbon footprint than he has ever put out in his entire life. The unfairness of it all really stayed with me. I went home determined to make any change that I can in my life to lessen my own carbon footprint. I know traveling is a big contributor of carbon, but travel is a huge part of my life that I do not want to give up. So I gave up meat (most of the time), biked to work, and sold my car so that we can be a one-car household. I’m still learning how to live simpler and waste less. Keller and I live in very different countries and have very different lives, and being able to travel is a gift of my circumstances, but I feel a responsibility towards Keller and the rest of the world to do my part in preserving this planet.

HOW TRAVELING FOR ONE MONTH MADE OUR FAMILY STRONGER
by Yolanda from inspireandwander.com

Yolanda is a household engineer, freelance artist, traveler, and DIY lover. She and her family are always ready for their next adventure. When they are not traveling, they are enjoying everyday adventures in sunny Phoenix, Arizona.

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Not too long ago, my husband decided to switch jobs, an opportunity that left us free from constraints for 4 weeks. We imagined where to go, what we could do…Oh, the possibilities. Our only little problem was school, but after working with teachers and administration, we used Christmas holiday and 2 extra weeks to plan for our journey. With excitement building up, we had 2 months to plan our little adventure. Three things we knew for certain were 1) We would be traveling during a holiday season, which would make hotel and train reservations a little more difficult, 2) my husband needed to attend a conference at some point during the trip 3) we would only carry a backpack and a have carry- on luggage.

After scouring the map, we finally narrowed our itinerary down to the island of Saint Martin, Spain, Italy, and Austria. It was a downright crazy selection of countries. The first week was on beautiful Saint Martin, where we could enjoy some sun and my husband could attend his conference. The second week we bounced from Madrid and Barcelona, Spain to Genoa and Bologna, Italy. Christmas in Italy is so different from here as everyone gathers in the plazas to be with each other. The third and final week was in Austria, where we skied in Innsbruck, enjoyed New Years and spent a couple of days in Salzburg. In four weeks we had 5 plane flights, 6 hotels, 2 apartments, 1 train ride, and an overnight boat ride from Spain to Italy. We tasted some of the most amazing food; from tapas in Barcelona, to picking out your own lobster in Saint Martin, to french fries and shaved beef kabab on pizza in Italy. Experiences that will last a lifetime.

Here’s what we learned.

Respect. Respect all people no matter their shape, size, color, or gender. Respect for the taxi driver that spoke 10 languages. 10! Respect for the hotel manager whose advice was priceless. Respect for the tour groups who constantly walked in front of you and stopped in the middle of the walkway. Respect for all cultures, their food, and their traditions. Respect for each other. Through times that we were lost or tired, through a sprained ankle, through a toothache, through places we didn’t enjoy but someone else did…respect. We learned that even though we are different and we value different things…that’s alright as long as you have respect.

AN HONEST FRAME OF JOY
by Vy from lavyenrose.com

Vy is a working mom from Los Angeles learning to live simply with her little family. She believes wholeheartedly in investing in adventures and experiences over material things and hopes to share the value of it to others.

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We were on our babymoon in Belize and took a day trip out to Guatemala. The road was rough and rugged, but it was manageable. We had stopped by this adorable place for breakfast, and I remember being served hot homemade tortillas in clay pots and my husband enjoying coffee from a clay mug. Everything was so beautifully crafted. The servers were happy to see us with bright genuine smiles on their faces. Across the street were some homes and right behind their homes was the water. In front of the homes was a lawn, and there were 2 children running around. A mom went to put down a basket that was on her head to rally her kids to come inside. A dog ran across. For some strange reason, that moment, in its entirety of a minute gave me a shift in perspective.

I felt joy. I felt joy for the people and what they were doing – playing, chores, corralling the crew. I felt joy watching them run on the grass with their bare feet with the sound of the waves swishing behind them. I even felt joy for the dog running aimlessly. It was that moment when I felt joy from observing these strangers that I realized how much we’re really the same. It made me understand that traveling isn’t just some crazy thing where you visit a destination with different people and go home. You’re visiting their home and realizing that the things that make us happy are – at its core – essentially the same and taking that back with you. You gain more appreciation for your fellow human and respect for our differences every time you interact – or in my case even observe – different cultures.

I partially give credit to being pregnant during this memory that made it so well ingrained in my mind, but within the frame of that minute, my mind shifted from that moment to my future family. I promised myself I would make sure I would teach my child the value of family. I promised I would teach my child to respect the earth as best we can because it provides us with everything. I promised myself that I would teach my child to treat fellow humans as, well, human beings no matter where we are because at the end of the day, we all experience sadness and joy and everything in between very similarly. Lastly, I promised myself to teach my child that the deep sense of joy doesn’t come from money and buying the most expensive, newest, or hippest things. It comes from experiences big and small and from the shared joy of fellow humans.

I may never really know this family, but I thank them for that little frame of a simple and honest experience.

NEW TRADITIONS
by Ashley from ashleydaleyphotography.wordpress.com

Ashley is a mom originally from Southern California, who currently lives in Paris, France and loves to share stories and tips about her family’s travel adventures abroad.

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Since moving to France last summer, we’ve tried to see as much as the country as possible. One thing we enjoy visiting here are the beautiful chateaux. Our favorite is Vaux le Vicomte, only 45 minutes outside of Paris.

We visited Vaux le Vicomte during Easter and learned not only about the French traditions, but also had the opportunity to learn and engage in different traditions from around the world. Our girls participated in a cultural scavenger hunt that led them to different games like rolling eggs down a hill (for Germany and the UK) and catching an egg out of water (for Quebec) while eventually leading to goodie bags of chocolate eggs (the French tradition is that the church bells go to Rome and bring back chocolate for the children on Easter). It was a wonderful way to spend our Easter holiday and a great way to show our girls how different cultures can all celebrate the same holiday in different ways (and that this is okay).

Even though our children are young, I fully believe that they’re benefiting from our time here in France. They’re learning to be more open-minded and to be excited to learn about new places and traditions. This is a mindset that I hope they can keep as they grow older. We’ve been immersed in a new language and culture and when we do move back to the United States, we’re excited to bring some of these new traditions home with us.

Do you have a story about a travel that changed your perspective on life and people for the better? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below! 🙂

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