Are you one of those people who loves to go on trips and adventure? Although many world changers love to explore and discover the world, some prefer to cloistering in their normal stomping grounds. However, often even these homebodies will eventually still find themselves on the road or on a plane as they travel forward, making a difference in the world. As this is a common thread for all of us, I am putting together a series about how traveling changes us, pushing us be the people we were born to be and guiding us to live our purpose well.
To start, here are some ways traveling our big, amazing world has grown my perspective and more importantly, what good comes from it.
Travel Makes Us Into Learners
Recently I returned from a long, twenty-four day road trip around the United States; the proof being that my classic blue/gray mom van is still covered in dirt. My synthetic seats have been decorated in goldfish crackers spilled all the way from West Coast beaches, to firefly-laden Appalachia, and back again. (Okay, who am I kidding? There is always goldfish crackers coated in sand jammed into my van’s crooks and crannies.)
Goldfish aside, one of the best things about traveling is renewing my awe of how huge the world is. Although my ability to manage work, activities, and relationships outside of the trip might shrink, switching into exploration/discovery mode has a remarkable impact on my perspective.
The world explodes with new sensations and experiences as I encounter new people, cultures, and places that so few others will ever get to experience. Whether through watching the gradual change of topography, discovering unique views at random rest stops, noting characteristics of various airports, or just watching how people interact differently–an itch is scratched, my world expands, and I become a learner.
For example, did you know that there is a tiny town in Tennessee that has over two-hundred churches in it? How is that possible? And to what effect?
There is also a worn, moss-covered, stone marker embedded into a swamp, in the middle of nowhere Arkansas, to show where two men began surveying the plot of land that actually doubled the size of the United States. What if that the Louisiana Purchase was never acquired by the U.S.A.? How would that have changed our world today?
Or, the other day I was at a Cracker Barrel overtaken with tables of men. From what I gathered, they were converging on Yuma, Arizona for dove hunting season. Dove hunting in Yuma! That’s a thing! They have a website! Who are these people? What is this subculture of desert dove hunters like?
Now, although this knowledge isn’t exactly coveted, it still expands my world. And I am sure as you travel, your perspective grows as well from the unique experiences you have.
How China Blew-Up My Perspective
Being preggers in China is about the best thing a traveller can be. As the majority of Chinese women have been only allowed to carry one pregnancy to term, being pregnant is semi equated to royalty. Of course not with jewels and gold, but in the little things: An extra time on your already ridiculously cheap massages, excessive of cups of hot water to drink, hands to guide you up the stairs, getting upgraded to business class, and generalized awe and wonder (unfortunately, there is also the keeping you away from anything electronic so that the “radiation” doesn’t hurt your baby).
I travelled to China when I was pregnant with my first. Before then, I had explored the world a little bit (for example, my semester in Europe where I found my calling). But nothing–nothing–grew my perspective as much as encountering the sheer number of people in China.
It is a Big World With Lotsa People!
The first week we stayed in a relatively “small” town of maybe quarter million people. There, we became good friends with a girl who told us about her home, growing up in the countryside of a Chinese village (she also introduced my husband to the taste of turtle, however, I got out of trying it–probably because I was pregnant).
Then, before we went on to the metropolis of Beijing, we stayed for a few days in a medium-size city of eight million, smack in the middle of China. Although this thought continued to explode my mind throughout the trip, I have a very specific memory of being on a street, watching thousands of people move to-and-fro and feeling like I finally had a vague grasp for how big the world really is.
Even though I had already traveled the globe a few times, it wasn’t until I was standing on that street in Whuan, China, that it hit me how many people 7,000,000,000 really is.
Humans. People. Everywhere. From villages, to towns, to cities, megacities, a massive country, of almost two hundred countries–the amount of people there are in this world we can barely fathom exist! Our perspective is usually so consumed with our own little circles there is no room in our brains to embrace this.
Have you ever had a similar revelation?
How Perspective Makes Us Into World Changers
For me, when I realize I am just but a small person in the midst of many, it doesn’t discourage me. It humbles me, and humility is one of the foundational characteristics of a world changer. I realize I am just a piece in the puzzle and that is okay–as long as I take my place as that piece. (Who wants to be a lost puzzle piece discarded under the sofa, being responsible for leaving a noticeable gap in the completed puzzle?)
(For more on this, read my post, Want To Change The World? Be Humble.)
It also produces gratitude as I grasp a larger picture and appreciate how lucky I am to even have my world expanded by travel and meeting new people around the globe. Sometimes, on bad days, I go back to these memories to remind myself that I have had a pretty blessed life!
Lastly, my capacity to be gracious also grows. Although I might meet people who are stuck in different mindsets, seeing where they come from helps me temper my frustration.
For example, on this trip I saw political signs and racial slurs that made me mad. However, I was also able to be less judgemental, recognizing that their experiences and what they were taught has been so different from what I was given in my own life. Although I might disagree, and at times hate what they expouse, going into their environment and occasionally even talking with people with such different worldviews helps me. I stop viewing these people as far away and as enemies, but rather, just people. (Albeit people who have a chance to grow and learn–and I might have something to glean from them too!)
Travel reminds me that the world is so much bigger, so much more intricate, amazing, and uncontrollable than I knew. Through travel, my perspective grows, and with it my humility, gratitude, and graciousness.