I originally published this article here with Matador Network, one of my favorite travel sites.
1. You become a better listener.
One of the first things you discover during travel is that everyone has a story to tell. Your seatmate on the bus in Santiago was a Mormon missionary from Kansas who loved Chile so much he decided to stay past his two-year term. The woman who asks you for directions in Florence teaches neuropsychology in Finland but decided to take a 6-month sabbatical in Italy. You Airbnb hosts in Montpellier are botanists who spent 11 years in Mali studying the indigenous plants.
When you are constantly surrounded by a wide variety of fascinating people, you learn how to become a better listener. You ask more insightful questions. You express genuine interest in what others have to say. You absorb and remember what they tell you. You receive more joy from listening to someone else’s description of the world than you do from sharing your own.
2. You adjust your perspectives.
When you are immersed in constant novelty, conversing with people from different backgrounds, trying new foods, saying yes to new activities and adjusting your habits, it’s inevitable that you will experience some kind of mental shift.
Travel causes you to rethink your opinions and reevaluate your belief systems. You become more open-minded and curious about ways of living and thinking that are far different from your own. When you have a more pliable mind, you connect with the people around you much easier than if you adhere to rigid notions about the world.
3. You accept relationships in all their forms.
Travel fosters unique connections. Some of the people you meet become your dearest friends and kindred spirits. Others become fun drinking pals, excellent coffee date partners or trusted chefs at your favorite crêperie. And sometimes a relationship is just the 63 cents you exchange for a smile with the homeless man outside the park.
The temporary and permanent relationships you develop while traveling teach you how to embrace connections in your life exactly as they are, however flawed or different from your expectations they may be. You learn that each friendship or acquaintance you have adds something special to your life, so you don’t waste time trying to change or control what is lovely just as it is.
4. You become less judgmental and more empathetic.
Traveling tests your patience, compassion, motivation, creativity, resourcefulness, flexibility and common sense. When you’re on unfamiliar territory confronting your fears and biases, you learn a great deal about who you are. You gain a richer understanding of what fulfills you, what bothers you and how you approach problems.
You make a lot of mistakes. Over time, you learn to forgive yourself. And when you’re more forgiving of yourself, you become more forgiving of others. You give people the benefit of the doubt, you cast aside labels and you hold off on making unfair assumptions. Each of us deals with our own sets of issues and worries. When you travel you understand this universal truth and do your best to extend compassion wherever and to whomever you can.
5. You learn how to be present.
Since connections on the road are so fleeting, travel forces you to savor each moment. When you only have one evening to spend with the cute Portuguese guy who wants to take you on a tour of Lisbon’s fado music scene, you’re not going to waste it by checking your phone non-stop.
Travel teaches you that whether you’re meeting someone new or deepening an existing relationship, the most authentic and organic connections abound when you are absorbed with whatever is right in front of you.
6. You become more considerate.
Unless you want people to stereotype you for your clueless behavior, you will make an effort to do as the locals do. Traveling teaches you the importance of adapting to your environment and adopting the rituals and manners that best suit the lifestyle and group of people wherever you are.
When you greet the storeowner of each shop you enter in France, when you tip 20% at restaurants in the U.S. and when you take off your shoes before stepping inside someone’s home in Japan, you acknowledge and pay respect to the local customs.
Taking the time to learn what the people around you value, then trying to align your behavior with these values, shapes you into a more self-aware, considerate person.
7. You welcome new experiences.
Travel will transform you into the friend or acquaintance who says yes to new adventures. You know from experience that stepping outside your comfort zone usually leads to adrenaline rushes, intellectual highs or hilarious stories.
You agree to accompany the elderly woman you met in Starbucks to a pottery class because you know it could be a wonderful day spent in interesting company. You take that Jamaican guy up on his offer to give you a jerk chicken tutorial because you know you could gain a new friend and a new skill in the process. You create deeper, more profound connections with the people around you by opening yourself up to fresh, unexpected possibilities.
How has traveling changed the way you interact and connect with the people around you?