How Travel Changes You

May 28, 2012

My neighborhood is full of construction. Loud, ANNOYING road construction that makes it take forever to get wherever you want to go.

Before traveling in Africa, I would’ve seen all those cones and equipment and traffic jams as simply that: annoying.

But after spending time in a place where roads often aren’t paved at all — and if they are, they’re full of potholes and other obstacles — I see construction at home differently. Instead of considering it a hindrance, I see it as a blessing.

how travel changes you

Does this detour make you groan? (And no, this isn't actually Washington, D.C. Wish we had that mountain view!)

While navigating those cones on my way to the gym this week, I thought about how fortunate I am to have been born in a country where roads are paved. And how great it is that when those roads need even minor upgrades, they get fixed. That construction isn’t problem; instead, it’s a sign we’re moving forward.

Travel will do that to you, especially after you discover a place that’s different from your home. Travelers who spend time in developing countries often talk about re-entry shock, about noticing little details when you arrive back home, about being overwhelmed in the grocery store simply because you have so many choices.

It’s true that you become thankful for all the little things immediately after your return to the mother ship. But it’s the bigger changes in perception, changes that affect us over the long term, that really show how much we grow when we step outside our comfort zones.

It’s still appreciating construction a decade after your first trip to Africa that makes you realize just how much travel has shaped who you are.


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    5 Replies to “How Travel Changes You”

    • Ryan says:

      You hit on my favorite thing about travel: it helps me appreciate the conveniences and freedoms of my home country. I find that when I try to explain this to people who haven’t traveled I get a blank look. Since they haven’t experienced anything but their home country they don’t have that worldly perspective you’re talking about.

    • I feel this way every time I return from a trip. I wrote a post about it back during the holidays – about how travel makes you grateful for what you have ( It was also about travel in Africa. Thanks for reminding me again to be thankful for my life!

      • I totally agree. It’s a holiday tradition now for me.
        Gotta say, you ladies got some apples for traveling in Africa. Should I do that I will definitely want a travel partner.

    • Love that you mentioned the super market as an example of what overwhelms us when we return Stateside. It made me chuckle aloud and felt like I was reading someone who knew me well. After I returned to the US in Jan 2011 after being away for two full years, a trip to WalMart popped my eyes out like a cartoon character. Its preternatural size, its cleanliness, its organization and cornucopia of choices made me feel foreign in my own country. And crikey it was so bloody white! (This was in Ohio.) You know what I thought of the size, in the end? Of course, everything has to be people because these people are blimmin’ gargantuan. It made me think like a foreigner who’d looked forward to going to the US all her life, only to find George Clooney and LadyGaga don’t walk down Wal-Mart aisles.
      While I often rail against the fact that where I’m living today resides in the 1950s or worse, craggily paved roads included, isn’t that what we came to see?

      Cheers y saludos,

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