Also published on The Huffington Post
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I believe that to grow as a person, you need to experience and learn as many things as possible so that your mind doesn’t curdle and make you smell like sour milk. This doesn’t mean you’re going to have a stinky brain if you don’t move to Alaska, it just means you need to push yourself to engage with people and things that are different from you. Seek change when things are too comfortable and for God’s sake, don’t let uncertainty scare you.
People have a bad tendency of only knowing and understanding what they see in front of them; what they see others doing around them and perceive to be normal. But what makes you a stronger character is looking at what exists outside your own lens – because life is simply not that black and white. It’s surprising how much a person can learn from putting their head in another pond (I may have made that expression up).
Most people aren’t fortunate enough to be born into situations where a holiday is an option, let alone moving to another country to live and work. And my appreciation for winning the life lottery is a big part of what causes me to grab the plane by the wings and ride the hell out of every chance I get. My itchy feet have nothing to do with the tinea in hostel showers, it’s caused by the tickling angst of wasted opportunity.
Travel is the.best.education. and you’ve heard it before because it’s bloody true. So pay attention. I’m not talking about a cheeky two weeks to Thailand to ride an elephant in the jungle, I’m talking about a long-term commitment to being as far away from your roots as possible. Because this is where you find the freshest, most unexpected experiences. This is where you have your subconscious fiddled with. This is how you unconsciously absorb what you observe. Where microscopic seeds of enlightenment seep into your big old brain and influence the way you think.
And you don’t even know it’s happening. It’s beautiful, everybody!
I need to emphasise again that I understand we can’t all just pack up and leave to Alaska. But why not try spending a weekend in a different postcode? Relocating yourself and setting up camp in another culture expands your horizons. But so does visiting a new supermarket after going to the same one for 40 years. Travelling by yourself through a foreign land makes you brave, but so does contacting an estranged loved one after a stupid amount of time after fighting over a stupid little thing.
The fact is, the more you do and the more you push yourself to do the things that scare you, the better of a person you become. Seeing how other people do things teaches you about our differences and generates compassion. Trying out how other people do things educates us and opens up opportunities. Accepting that everyone is a little different and learning about the reasons behind this makes you so much less of a prick.
As a compassionate Gen Y thinker, I feel a strong urge to inspire open mindedness and exploration below the surface, particularly in a world poisoned by media propaganda and stereotypes. Central to this is obtaining a better grasp on the world and the people you share it with so that you’re able to form your own opinions, judge less, empathise more and all round not be unpleasant.
Because ignorance and prejudice is about as becoming as road kill, isn’t it.