The World is a Book – How Traveling Made me a Better Person

The World is a Book - How Traveling Made me a Better PersonI have been very fortunate to visit several destinations around the world while still at a young age. Traveling is a fascinating experience that gives us the chance to experience new cultures, learn about centuries of history, and expand our view of the human experience.

Thinking back, I am reminded of the incredible lessons I’ve learned while traveling abroad.

These are lessons that have opened my mind, opened my heart, and changed me for the better.

These are lessons that I know I would never have learned back home.

Traveling is an educational experience.

There are some things you just cannot understand through a book or on your electronic device. Although I loved history, I was never able to appreciate the true magnificence of the architecture and scenery I saw in pictures. The magnitude of some of history’s greatest triumphs and tragedies was similarly beyond my grasp.

The best educational experience I’ve had while traveling cannot be pinned to one event or place. It has been a journey of discovery and exploration. Visiting the Colosseum in Rome, walking through the halls of the Louvre in Paris, viewing the stunning waterfall on Jeju Island in South Korea, being a part of Mass led by the Pope at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, visiting the Dachau concentration camp in Germany, and touring the grand halls of the Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria have all given me a newfound appreciation for history.

Traveling makes all of the pictures and stories you see and hear about become tangible memories that you remember much longer than anything you can retain in a history class. Often, these personal experiences can heighten our interest in a particular part of history and make us eager to learn more.

Traveling teaches you to step outside of your comfort zone.

For some, the act of traveling may be enough to make them feel adventurous. For others, it may be base jumping in the Cave of Swallows in Mexico (something I would never have the courage to do myself). It can also be visiting locations that emotionally challenge me. In 2014, I visited the Dachau concentration camp in Germany, a profound experience that reminded me that through a time of inconceivable suffering and hatred, there was also the presence of strength, courage and hope.

For some, it can be trying new and exotic cuisine. My most exotic, and perhaps traumatizing, experience with food was trying san nak ji, a signature dish in Korea with is live raw octopus chopped into small pieces and served while still alive. While you’ll never be able to convince me to try it again, you’ll also never hear me say that I am sorry I tried it. Even something small, like deciding to head out of the hotel and go shopping in Seoul with nothing but my purse and an “English to Korean Translation” book, can be a comfort zone basher.

Travel teaches you to slow down and see the beauty around you.

We live in a stunningly beautiful world, but often we miss it because we get too caught up in the hustle and bustle of life. My favorite scenery during my travels was the view at the top of the mountainous city of San Marino, Italy. After my friend and I had made the steep hike up the narrow cobblestone streets, we got there right in time to see the most beautiful sunset. We sat on an empty bench in complete silence for over an hour.

My second favorite view was the view from the Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany. The castle is set in a secluded area (the structure itself was built for a king that wanted to be in complete solitude), and the view is absolutely stunning. These experiences, among many others, have taught me to slow down and appreciate the beauty around me. Especially when you travel abroad, you learn to focus on architecture. It is quite extraordinary to think about buildings that have been around for hundreds – some for thousands – of years. This is an experience you cannot get in the United States.

Traveling gives you perspective. 

When you visit other countries, you have the opportunity to learn from other cultures and traditions. It teaches you to be empathetic towards other people and beliefs, even if they are different from your own. In France, I learned that eating should not be a glutenous experience, but rather a time to savor food and enjoy the company of others. In Italy, I learned that an after-dinner walk (passeggiata) can be a pleasant end to the day and an excellent way to stay active.

In Nicaragua, I was reminded that many people live in a type of poverty that is truly unfathomable. This is a culture shock that can only affect you positively, compelling you to give back to the world and help out in any way you can. It also teaches you to appreciate the most basic of necessities. In Normandy, I learned to appreciate the people who risk their lives on a daily basis to protect the freedom of our country and its people. I also learned that life is a precious gift that should never be taken for granted. There is so much to be drawn from other cultures, and while we many not agree with everything we see or experience, there are many things we can choose to implement in our lives if we open ourselves to new experiences.

Traveling has cultivated a sense of curiosity in me, and it is humbling to be reminded that you are never too old to learn and experience something new and exciting. Ultimately, I’ve learned never to take life for granted, that situations that challenge us change us for the better, and that living in the moment and not being afraid to take chances may lead to the most memorable experiences of your life.

Brian Levesque, is an experienced world traveler who has been to every corner of the globe. He recommends, when traveling, to keep your essentials secure in bags such as those provided at You can learn more about Brian on Google+.


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