Last year Michelle Noble left her high-pace job at a top marketing firm in Vancouver, BC to travel the world for 6-months.  She visited countries including England, France, Italy, Turkey, Thailand, Bali, Australia and Africa exploring their cultures, meeting their people and taking time to explore. Below she shares some priceless lessons she learned while she was ‘out of the office’.

There’s a bug going around that people can’t seem to shake. Once you catch it its like a drug that lives within your soul and craves to know more, see more, discover more; it’s called the travel bug.

Experiencing the world with your own eyes provides an opportunity unlike one that can ever be taught in the confines of a classroom, sitting at a desk and reading a textbook. Traveling allows you to learn much of what you would learn in school but on an experiential level: history, politics, language, geography, economics and even math when dealing with currency conversions.

YOU CAN’T LEARN EVERYTHING FROM A TEXT BOOK

Traveling fundamentally transforms you. You can read a history textbook until your eyes dry up but you will never understand the profound effect it had on the society and culture until you witness if first hand. Seeing the way the majority of the world lives massively puts things into perspective. Your parents have most likely said to you, “Don’t complain, there are children starving in Africa.” However, until you’ve walked through the slums where these children live, have taken in the smells of garbage and human waste, the sights of mothers bathing their sick children in buckets of dirty water and sounds of babies crying, no amount of education can ever prepare you for the overwhelming emotion and gratitude for your own life you will feel.

Media and textbooks can be skewed and give an inaccurate idea of how the world looks, but by immersing yourself directly into a foreign culture, it provides a healthy dose of reality and a deeper understanding of the issues occurring around the world.

LEARNING ABOUT YOURSELF

Setting out in the ‘real world’ away from the comforts of home, the language you’re familiar with and the faces you recognize throws you into an element you’re completely uncomfortable with. In this state, how could you not discover greater depths of yourself? As cliché as it sounds, you really find yourself while in this state and unearth new values that you will carry with you always.

GAINING PERSPECTIVE

By unplugging from the fast pace pressures of the western world you’re open and receptive to new ways of living and are able to break mental, physical and emotional habits that may have been destructive without your knowing it. Traveling allows your body to heal and get back to a pure and healthy state.

It is too easy to get caught up over western stressors and become fixated on the way we perceive our lives are supposed to be, that we drive ourselves crazy trying to conform to that image. Often times we’re stuck in our ways because it’s all we know, but traveling introduces new perspectives on lifestyles and allows for choice in how you want to live your life. In addition to a number of “ah ha!” moments, you will have a kind of mental clarity unlike you’ve ever experienced.

YOU ARE FORTUNATE

A major epiphany you’re bound to have while setting foot on foreign soils with a population far less privileged than your own is how unbelievably lucky you are to have come from the part of the world you did. It’s not hard to recognize the privileges of living in a country like Canada, but to personally experience the hardships and daily struggles the majority of people deal with in the rest of the world, it will really strike a cord that all it comes down to is luck of where you were born. Suddenly, that coffee you spilled on your new shirt doesn’t seem like such a tragedy.

In addition to mental clarity, new perspectives and a greater knowledge of the world, traveling can bestow you with lifelong friends. Each morning you wake up inspired to seize the day, try new things and appreciate something your eyes have never seen before. You feel like a small child who is curious and interested in everything they see because it’s so new and refreshing. In the brilliant words of Mark Twain, “in twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

A huge thank you to Michelle Noble for this contribution to the Elletourage blog.  Connect with her on Elletourage or on Twitter @Michelle_Noble.