8 Life Skills Traveling Teaches
The student travel world is one that remains underutilized to this day. With hundreds of scholarships, organizations, grants, and businesses specializing in giving young people the opportunity to travel, there is no reason why students should not have the ability to go abroad. Many believe that travel is purely fun, rather than an educational experience, and therefore are hesitant to take the first leap and go abroad.
As a student traveler, my objective in exploring the world is twofold: to experience new things and to learn. Of course, travel and study abroad are huge investments, and from investments people expect returns. What can students learn by swimming in a beach in Cancun or wandering the streets of Paris? Fortunately, more than meets the eye!
Communication skills. When you travel, you interact with many different kinds of people, from unfriendly store workers to talkative hostel mates and everyone in between. Especially if you are traveling alone, you will want to meet people throughout your time abroad, which means you will need to be able to communicate effectively. Traveling and meeting people can teach you invaluable networking and communication skills that can be used in the classroom, in the workplace, and in everyday conversation.
A new language. Unless you travel to an English-speaking country, you will probably have to learn at least a few basic phrases in a foreign language so you can get around. It is absolutely fascinating to learn new languages, and acquiring a new language always looks favorable to employers. Essentially, not only are you learning a new language, but you are learning skills on how to adapt to new environments, which looks great on any resume.
History and culture. Sure, you can learn history from a textbook or a lecture, but only while traveling can you actually live it. You can experience things first-hand that you may have only read about before. For example, you can actually learn how to salsa dance in Spain, rather than just reading about it. You can talk to someone who has survived major historical events or view artwork that you had only seen on the Internet. The possibilities are endless, but in every case, you have the opportunity to experience a culture in person, rather than the indirect experience that books and classrooms provide.
Comparative skills. When you travel, you may find yourself saying "wow, this is so different than the way we do that back at home!" Well, in these side thoughts you are learning yet another useful life skill - comparison. However, instead of comparing two things you read or subjects you studied, you get to compare experiences and cultures. Travel helps students examine the differences and similarities between different groups of people and different places in the world, which broadens their perspectives in the classroom and in the working world.
Metacognition. Learning these comparative practices also opens your mind to the world of thinking about your own thinking. This thinking process is one of the highest-level habits of mind, and can be achieved through travel. Once you see or experience something that challenges your beliefs or defies what you are familiar with, you have the beautiful opportunity to reevaluate the way you think about your own life as well as the world at large.
Independence. This one might be obvious, but traveling requires you to find your way, learn new languages, and perform necessary actions like feeding yourself and doing laundry all on your own. You learn not only how fun being on your own can be, but also how much work it entails. You learn to think and act independently, completely of your own accord. And for these reasons, travel is a wonderful way to transition into being a fully independent adult.
Decision-making. Throughout life, you learn to make decisions. Travel certainly helps you learn to make smart ones. As my mother always said, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” You have the freedom to make decisions on your own behalf about what you want to see, do, and experience! You have the freedom to take responsible risks and think through your actions. Travel is a wonderful and vastly thrilling opportunity to go out of your comfort zone and experience something new. After all, the choice is yours.
Open-mindedness. The main lesson from travel, in my opinion, ties into each and every one of these things. Constantly striving to open your mind to different societies is something that comes naturally while traveling. It's almost impossible not to be open-minded when you are in an unfamiliar place, especially if that place is vastly different than your home. This state of mind is crucial for successful education and, additionally, is a desirable trait for all kinds of jobs and programs.
While classrooms offer instruction on school subjects and analytical skills, travel provides education about life in the real world. When students travel, they have the rare and special opportunity to combine the two. And because of this, travel is a meaningful investment unparalleled by anything else money can buy.
Kay Rodriguez is a freelance writer, photographer, and college student based in Houston, TX. She founded The Kay Days, a travel blog that focuses on inspiring students and young people to travel. To read more from Kay, visit her blog, check out her Facebook (facebook.com/thekaydays) or follow her on Twitter (@thekaydays).
All photos courtesy and copyright Kay Rodriguez