I was chatting with a fellow traveler about all things travel; including, of course, how our lives have changed as a result of travel. Seems it all boils down to the travel state of mind.
This post was originally published in 2015 . It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content.
How Travel Changes Us
Travel changes us, due largely to the experiences we have on the road. When we travel the world, we do so with an almost insatiable curiosity and an open mind. We eat foreign foods, navigate different cultures and climates, and meet people from different backgrounds, values, and more. And without knowing what to expect, we (usually) keep an open mind.
It’s kind of what travel is about; without an open mind, why bother exploring other places in the world in the first place?
It is with this open mind that we meet people along the way who change our lives. And those people aren’t always locals (although to be welcomed into the homes and hearts of locals is usually the tippy-top prize in a traveler’s satchel of stories). Sometimes the meaningful experiences and relationships we develop are with other travelers, or with expats. (And you know what? That’s okay too. You’re no less a traveler for it).
This experience ultimately changes us by fostering our creativity and giving us new ideas, changing our perspective, increasing our flexibility, and much more.
With an open mind, I met this aboriginal activist in Australia and had my mind opened some more.
My traveling friend was telling me about the amazing conversations she’s had with people whilst in Peru, saying that she never had these kinds of interactions with people back home in Canada, nor could she imagine it ever happening when she goes back.
I begged to differ.
Although some people resume their lives and routines after travel as if nothing happened, it doesn’t have to be that way. This is where the travel state of mind comes in.
One of the most common questions I get is “what is your favourite destination”.
I detest this question. (And yet, like a moth to flame, I’m also inspired to ask it of other travelers).
My favourite destinations have to do with the circumstances that brought me there, the people I was with, and my emotional state of being at the time. So my experience and your experience of a destination will be very different, since you’ll be in different places for different reasons, spending time with different people, and feeling different things.
These factors all reflect on your overall feeling of the destination as a whole. So while there can be commonly loved countries by travelers for various reasons like scenery or food or general temperament of the people, for the most part it’s an intensely personal call. Just look at India: it’s a country of such vibrance and contrast, that people tend to either love it or hate it. Why such a grand difference in opinion? Because we are all different, and we have different travel priorities and thus, different experiences.
Side note: I experienced this first-hand a few years after writing this article. You can read about the dichotomy of my Indian experience here.
Riding trains for weeks on end? Hell for some people, heaven for others.
How to use the Travel State of Mind
Back to the travel state of mind, and how we can use it to create opportunities – both on the road and at home.
With the open mind and curiosity that my fellow traveler felt in Peru, she had amazing conversations with random people, and forged fast friendships. Although the sacred valley of Peru is a special place that attracts some pretty cool people (locals and travelers alike), I’ve had similarly amazing conversations with random people around the world.
So although the destination is important, there’s another factor that makes all the difference: the travel state of mind. The travel state of mind involves being open to new experiences, talking to strangers, and being willing to say “yes” to new opportunities. And hey – if you can do it abroad; why not at home? This creates a receptivity for amazing things to happen. And thus, stuff happens.
So, I assured my traveling friend that when she returns to Canada, she still has an opportunity to have similar amazing conversations and experiences, as long as she keeps the travel state of mind.
How I Travel Without Traveling
I have a home base in Peru. (2020 update: Many years later that home base shifted to Toronto with a few years of travel in Asia in between).
But I’m still comfortable to call myself a traveler without flinching, not only because I still travel for months each year, but also because I continue to nurture a travel state of mind. This keeps me open to amazing new things, which seem to come my way regularly.
Am I lucky? Maybe. Or perhaps I’m just a traveler.