You could go up to many people on the street and they would likely agree that putting money in education is an investment. People often make the connection that the more education you have the more successful you’ll become, likely measured by the amount of annual income you pull in. I would say, however, there is an equally valuable investment you can make in yourself that could teach you even more than formal education: travel.
When I say travel, perhaps, images of over-the-top partying, Cancún, and late mornings come to mind and while all of those things are find and dandy, that’s not quite what I mean by travel in this instance. If travel is to be an investment, you have to go into your trip with that mindset. Go with friends who encourage you to push your comfort zone or, better yet, go by yourself. The idea might sound daunting at first, but solo travel is the best way I know to get in touch with yourself and truly prioritize the experience-gathering of the trip.
If you truly want to get the most out of travel, going the extra mile is critical. Wake up that extra hour early to see the city before rush our. Walk to the cafe instead of taking the subway to experience all the people, sights, smells, and sounds on the street. Like the famous scene with the blind man in Amélie, make a mental note of everything you pass, forcing you to consciously evaluate it and experience it, instead of just passing it on by. You might be surprised by what you find.
This does not mean that travel has to be any less enjoyable. Perhaps you are not a morning person and getting up early during travel sounds like complete nonsense. This is when you need to be open to other forms of happiness and break out of your comfort zone, opening yourself to new things. The whole point of traveling as an investment is to expand your worldview and gather new ideas and interactions to add to your bank of knowledge.
That’s not to mention what I feel is the most valuable thing you can get out of solo travel in particular: introspection. Being truly on your own in a new place with a different culture instantly makes you more dependent on yourself… you start to better identify emotions, gain confidence, and become more self-reliant. Speaking from experience, travel has made me realize that I am too dependent on others’ company as a source of happiness for myself. It’s also allowed me to see what I can do in order to be at peace with being alone. Quantifying exactly what that means is not something I’m sure I can do, however I do know that since I’ve been traveling more, being alone is not nearly as scary a proposition as it used to be for me.
In only 36 short hours I’ll be leaving for my longest time away from my friends and family: a three-week solo journey down the west coast and back. Though I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous at all for this, I was hardly able to sleep the other night with excitement. Here’s to coming days of early mornings, new faces, and lots of soon-to-be-had memories. Read more about my trip Into the Wild.
Travel can bring about wisdom, perspective, friendships, knowledge, enlightenment, and happiness. Those are all extremely valuable and all absolutely worth taking the financial and time investment in yourself. Resources spent on honest, open-minded travel are never wasted, opening doors to innumerable possibilities and experiences.