Three Ways Travel Makes Us Better People

I don’t think travel is necessarily an elitist activity. I think certain trips and forms of travel can be, but that can be said of anything. Great travel experiences can equally happen close to home or on the other side of the world. Regardless of where or how we travel, here are three ways that travel makes us better people.

Library of Celsus, Ephesus

1. Smarter – While I’d like to say this is a universal benefit of travel, I’m sorry to say that I’ve met plenty of idiots on the road. Still, on the whole, travel does make us smarter. It makes us better global citizens, we know more about the history and culture of the places we visit. This doesn’t have to be to far flung locales either, it can be to a destination just a few hours away from home. No matter if travel to Orlando or Timbuktu, every trip is almost always a learning experience. It’s not just history and art that is transmitted either, we become street smart. Well, not in a West Side Story kind of way, but the process itself is a learning experience every time. The ability to navigate confusing airports and fend for yourself on the dangerous streets of Milwaukee is acquired through time and trial and error. Even the worst, most head in the sand traveler will learn something and grow as a person, whether they like it or not.

2. More Honest  and Kind – I live in Washington, DC and am therefore a natural born cynic prone to cranky outbursts. Over the years though I have been drawn out of my shell of skepticism through the people I meet, most notably when I’m not at home. All over the country and the world, I have seen countless examples of good acts and genuine kindness from mere strangers. This has a unique pay-it-forward effect. I truly believe that this behavior is imprinted on all of us as we travel and when it comes time for us to aid to someone in need, we are standing by the ready to help and assist. Sure, there are always going to be bad actors and unfortunate events that happen when we travel, but on the whole it is a wonderfully positive experience that (almost) always makes me proud of my fellow man. Then I come home to Washington.

3. More Patient – I don’t think it’s possible to argue “logic” with an airport gate agent, lose one’s luggage or look at a menu that could literally say anything and you wouldn’t know, without gaining a fair amount of patience. Travel is not necessarily an easy thing, it can be downright hard and frustrating at times. If we don’t develop a certain level of patience, then we’ll end up on YouTube as the crazy person who freaked out in a Paris train station. It’s not always easy to take a deep breath and accept things in stride, but travel more than anything (well, except for having kids) teaches us this great lesson of slowing and calming down.

What are some other ways you think travel makes us better people?

By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.

18 thoughts on “Three Ways Travel Makes Us Better People”

  1. How about more grateful? When coming back home from third-world countries, we appreciate the simple things we usually take for granted such as clean water & cable TV. I really miss my TiVo sometimes.

  2. Love this! It also makes us more open minded, and not just of other cultures–of other people’s travel experiences. We’re always excited to hear about new places and add to our travel bucket list because of it.

  3. It may fall under ‘honest & kind’ but I think travel can make one more open-minded. We’re really not all the different from each other & lots of our differences is what many may seek while traveling. It makes the world an interesting place!

  4. I agree heartily with your three points (as well as Gerard’s, about appreciating what we have). My favorite photo was the middle one, which, if I had to guess, I would caption “Laughing with new friends.”

    I loved it when you wrote: “Great travel experiences can equally happen close to home or on the other side of the world.” That’s my travel motto. It makes me look afresh at my surroundings when I don’t have the money to travel even out of my own state.

    Also loved your joke, “And then I come home to Washington.” I loved hearing that travel has helped open your heart in that way.

    Great post. Thanks for writing this. ~ Milli

  5. I totally agree with what you wrote, Matt. The kindness part especially. I consider myself a pretty cynical person and travel always makes me see something good in the world. It doesn’t really matter if it’s a specific act of kindness or traditions; I think anyone who allows themselves to really embrace their destination will gain something from it.

  6. I think learning humility is a huge part of becoming a good traveller. It’s so easy to think your society is better because it’s wealthier, offers better education, etc. The truth is that in so many cases, it’s the poorer communities that are the happiest, friendliest and most generous… it’s genuinely humbling and offers a great opportunity to look beyond the economic appearance of a society to its heart.

  7. Travel keeps me aware of how BIG the world is…therefore keeping me AND my life concerns in perspective.

  8. Monica @totaltravelbug

    I was dubious when I first read this title but this is so true.
    And how about it making you a happier person which then leads to you generally being a nicer and better person to be around.

  9. Definitely agree with these. I would also say (like other commenters) that travel helps open our eyes to the world outside our borders, and can make us feel more grateful for the things we have (and the fact that we are able to travel at all!).

  10. Absolutely agree with all of these!

    I think it makes us more observant, also. When you visit a new place you open your eyes and your ears to take it all in, and hopefully those skills stick around a bit when you get home.

  11. Christine @ Food Wine Travel

    Matt, I agree with all those sentiments, and that it makes you more observant and more appreciative of what you have. What you realise is that people are the same the world over – we all have the same needs – food, love, good health, safety and security. There are some bad and a lot of good people wherever you go in the world.

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