I’ve just returned home to San Francisco after traveling abroad for the past month. To be clear, this isn’t a normal thing for me. In fact, this is the longest trip I’ve ever been on, and the only trip I’ve ever done largely solo with no real road map. Why? I’ve heard it said that travel changes you. For a long time now, I’ve surrounded myself with people who could attest to that fact with firsthand experience. Me, not so much. I spent the last thirteen years or so grinding it out in the startup world. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change that – I’ve learned a lot, I’ve grown a lot, I’ve got the entrepreneur spirit entrenched deep within me and I dig it. But, I’ve also got a sincere wish to expand outside my realm of experience, to improve in new ways, and for a long time now distant lands have been calling to me. So, a few months ago I decided to take a sabbatical from the world of business, to finally answer that resilient call. And I couldn’t be more elated that I did, because I learned two life-changing things.
Life-changing thing one. Your understanding of what’s possible for you in this world, and in this life for that matter, is largely comprised of your experience in it. Sure, you can learn from books, the internet, TV, stories from your buddies, but passive learning isn’t as impactful as experience itself, not by any measure. Being fully immersed in something, seeing it with your own eyes, tasting it, feeling it, hearing it, that’s when the real magic happens. If you really want to expand as a human, expand your circle of influence. I cannot think of a better way of doing this than visiting a place you’ve never been, preferably where they don’t speak your native tongue, and allowing that place to become a part of you. It takes faith to do something like that, some courage to be certain, and a great deal of confidence. If nothing else (and I hope you take away much more) you’ll learn that you’re far more capable than you realized. But you’ll also learn something else…
Life-changing thing two. Life-changing thing two has me riding on a cloud still, full of life, and amped up to be a human. Because, lesson two, you see, is a lesson on the human experience itself. It’s something so innate, and so obvious, yet so hidden in plain sight if you’ve never sought it out. It goes like this: no matter where you venture in this world, you are bound to meet amazing people. People who are full of life and love, who would like for nothing more than to share some of their stories and spirit with you, likely over a beer, wine, or pisco. People who will cook a meal for you. People who will literally get off a train with you when you’re off track to walk you to the right platform. Angels. You’ll meet beautiful people – inside and out – who will make you happy just by knowing you’re sharing this planet with them. You’ll come to quickly find out that a smile is a smile in any country, and laughter in any language translates the same. You’ll forge friendships that will last a lifetime with people from near and far. You’ll learn to speak the language of the world. Most importantly, you’ll walk away understanding that we’re all connected, the human soul isn’t captive to you, it’s in every one of us, in every single town and city around the world, and to access it all you have to do is be bold enough to smile and say hello.
One of these days, when your travel calls to you, in whatever way it chooses to do so, in whatever form it takes, I hope you answer. I hope you seek out these two life-changing things for yourself. I hope you embrace this world fully, because it has things to teach you if you’re willing. And, by the way, I was wrong, travel doesn’t change you at all – it shines a light on the best parts of you, and helps you see yourself more clearly as the person you’ve always been.