Everyone should devote a chunk of time to seeing all that this rich world has to offer. If you’ve read the likes of women like Elizabeth Gilbert and Cheryl Strayed, then you’re well aware of the power of travel. It can patch a broken heart, open a closed mind and light a fire under you, sending you into a whirlwind of self-exploration and newfound determination.
Still, the little voice in your head is probably worried about leaving your job, delaying going to college or being away from family and friends for an extended period of time. How will you tell Mary that you can’t make her bachelorette party? What about grandma’s birthday? All of these thoughts are warranted, rational and normal, but you should still go.
If travel has crossed your mind – even once – then it’s time to pack your carry-on suitcase, purchase a ticket and never look back. Do it for you and only you. In addition to the spiritual benefits, there’s an abundance of concrete evidence out there that up and leaving responsibilities behind – so you can frolic through the sunflower fields in Europe – can work wonders for your life goals.
Foreign language that sticks
Immersing yourself in a new culture, especially one with its own language, is the best way to perfect your Spanish, French, German or other foreign tongue. A trip abroad is an opportunity to step out of the classroom and into the real world. You’ll be able to practice the language with someone who isn’t your teacher, which means you’ll get to engage in some real talk, including topics like relationships, pop culture, music and personal interests.
Further, the whole “do or die” approach is far more successful than taking an exam when it comes to picking up some new phrases. You’ll be surprised to see just how fast you learn how to ask for directions based solely on the fact that you literally can’t function without them. Oh, and all of this is backed by scientific evidence.
Back in 2012, a team of researchers from University of Illinois at Chicago, Georgetown University and a number of other schools conducted a study that was published in the PLOS ONE journal. The research found that adults could learn a second language – a challenging feat in and of itself – and retain the information months later after returning home from a trip.
This means that if a student or young adult heads off to Rome, he or she can come back with an advantage over introductory level coursework. Said person won’t return with a bank of new words and phrases, only to forget them shortly after settling back into American life.
Then, there’s the whole breaking down cultural barriers thing. People are fundamentally different because everyone has a unique set of DNA. Throw being raised in a completely different dwelling, family and culture into the mix and that’s how these differences come to be. If you’ve never planted your feet on foreign soil, you may never fully understand and appreciate the people around you.
But what about your job or college acceptance?
Oh, and that whole bit about colleges turning away people who’d rather travel – it’s simply not true. According to Time magazine, a slew of prominent institutions – Harvard, Princeton, University of North Carolina – are practically pushing people overseas, by offering scholarships to those who’ve taken a gap year.
Not to mention, you can defer your acceptance or take a leave of absence from that desk job that you love so much. What you can’t do is erase your past, go back in time and relive your 20s. Don’t pass up the opportunity of a lifetime. Next time you look down at your BABY-G watch, your window of time to travel will have closed a little more.
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