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“If you’re 22, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel – as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them – wherever you go.” – Anthony Bourdain

Where was the last place you traveled? I don’t mean last weekend when you drove the couple of hours it takes to see your parents. I mean traveled, out of your state or even your country, to a place that is fundamentally different from the one you are used to.

I can understand the reservations. Why would I want to leave? I’m comfortable here, and besides, I don’t have the money for it.

I hear you, and both are valid arguments, but I still have a response. Have the courage to be uncomfortable. Have the courage to be poor. Work for your food and a place to sleep if you have to. Travel like your life depends on it, and try to do it while you are still young and impressionable.

I have made two major moves in my life. The first was when I went to college; I moved from Kansas to New York. The second was when I studied abroad my junior year; I went from the United States to Italy. Both were enormous culture shocks, and both made me very uncomfortable. I questioned every experience I’d ever had, everything I had ever learned up until that point. And thank God.

We need to be shoved out of our comfort zones. Or better yet, we must have the guts to leap out of them, overwhelmed with both eagerness and fear. When you travel, you will have the freedom to explore yourself away from everyone who knows you and has certain expectations about your personality. Those people aren’t with you when you travel. You can be whoever you want to be. This is the most liberating feeling I have ever had.

I don’t mean to simplify or dismiss concerns or reasons why you are unable to travel. It can be a significant expense, both in time and money, and while there is no substitute for actually getting out into the world, there is one thing you can do that comes close. You can read. Read everything you can get your hands on about different cultures and countries, especially if the books/articles have been written by someone who is actually from those places. (For tips on Traveling on a Budget, complete with websites for hostels and work exchanges, see my next post.)

All I can tell you is this: if you travel, you will grow as a person. You will be confused and feel out of place, but you will learn more than you can imagine. Do whatever you have to do. Just get out of here.

What was the last trip you took? Where’s your favorite place you’ve ever been? Where do you still want to go in the future? What’s stopping you?

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