5 Powerful Reasons Why Travel Makes Me Live Life with Purpose
1. Looking for life’s purpose, and exploring along the way
*Kind of the true story of my life. This article is written with language accessible to non-native English speakers
Wandering to find purpose in life
Having purpose in life is a goal most strive for. We want to be fulfilled, happy & content. To feel there’s some meaning to life, to find out who we are and what makes us tick. In other words, to live life with purpose. Some of us stumble on it by accident. Others search desperately for it without luck. Take a trip and you might find it along the way.
Experiencing and exploring countries and cultures that are not mine has shaped who I am today. I’m the son of an immigrant – a world wanderer who spent his adult life globetrotting, exploring and immersing himself in new cultures. Perhaps travel’s in my blood.
Sometimes I wonder if I really live life with purpose
I was born in one country, to parents from a second, and hold a passport from a third. By the age of ten I had lived in three countries. Fifteen years later I had doubled that. I am now close to doubling again, although it’s no longer a goal, it’s just the way I live.
From a young age I lived in cultures that weren’t my own, introducing me to new experiences and ways of thinking and doing. I saw early in life that perhaps the grass really is greener on the other side of the fence. That different ways of doing things can be better. So why not go and have a longer look?
Not all cultures are the same, but they’re worth experiencing nonetheless. And the experience we take from it can be deeper than simply visiting a new place and exploring a new culture. It can help us find purpose in the way we live, and give renewed direction to our lives.
2. Finding balance and perspective
My journey began with Vietnam
I arrived in Vietnam in the late 2000s after accepting a work contract. I did very little research into the country before I landed. I wasn’t coming on a trip of a lifetime, I was coming to get the job done. The plan was a two year contract and then off to the next place.
Despite the initial frustrations of living and working in a country going through rapid development, something about the place felt right. I had opportunities here that I hadn’t found elsewhere, especially with helping those who were less fortunate in life.
Here I started to find a real purpose in what I was doing, working with international NGOs and local charities, setting up social businesses and advising on marketing campaigns. I could see I was making a difference to other’s lives, and that felt good.
Balance and perspective are on the way to my fullest life
Over a decade later I’m still here, the longest I’ve spent in one place. Life has changed. I no longer have the career I had ten years ago, I no longer place value on collecting material possessions. I create simplicity and calm in life, and have a purpose beyond paying the mortgage and expanding the bank account.
Vietnam has given me a work life balance that I found hard to find elsewhere – allowing me to experience my ‘self’ from a different perspective. With more time to reflect I’ve found new purpose that’s helped me to live beyond merely existing. I now focus on what matters to me rather than simply going to work to pay the bills.
And that’s how I truly live life with purpose.
3. We travel to explore ourselves as well as an unknown place
Spending time abroad is not just about meeting new people and seeing new places, exploring new cultures and learning new customs. It’s just as much about exploring the true self. Finding out who we really are, discovering what matters to us and what we want from life. It gives us opportunities to learn and grow that many of us wouldn’t be given back home, to find clarity, purpose and meaning.
Escaping our day-to-day reality, even for just a short while, can help us find new meaning and interests. Although I choose to live in countries for an extended period, I’ve travelled with a backpack many times, arriving somewhere new and then leaving for the next place, full of excitement and adventure.
Stepping away from life’s daily grind helps me destress, relax and recharge, to see the wood for the trees. It allows me to view my life from a fresh perspective, find new solutions to old problems, determine next directions, set future goals, or even reinvent who I am. It’s also allowed me to contribute to the communities I live in, to give rather than just take. To bring value. And that’s how I live life with purpose.
4. Embrace the challenge, embrace the change
At times immersing myself in new cultures has brought out the worst in me, especially those that have values in conflict with my own. Feeling alone in a crowd of people speaking an unfamiliar language. Sitting to eat food that looks and smells unappetizing. Or navigating simple tasks that now take hours rather than minutes. These experiences force us to confront inner demons and personal insecurities.
Overcoming the fear and intimidation of visiting the unknown has made me mentally resilient, given me confidence and toughened me emotionally. Facing the uncertain and unfamiliar has pushed me out of my comfort zone, forcing me to adapt, innovate, improvise. Teaching me patience and problem solving, to become more resourceful and believe in myself.
“The two most important days in life are the day you born
and the day you discover the reason why.” – Mark Twain
I’ve become more open minded, accepting of difference, and grateful for the little things in life. A smile from a stranger, a hello as someone walks by, or a nod of acknowledgement from the lady at the corner store. I believe travel gives us the correct sense of value, one that goes beyond the material to a greater appreciation of our environment, of the world around us, and the people who inhabit it.
5. Once you find your purpose, there’s no going back
Not everyone is cut out for exploration of the unknown and some prefer to stay with the familiar, and that’s OK. It takes something different to pack a bag, head off into the sunset, and away from the things we know.
Perhaps we travel to escape, or to find ourselves. But whatever the case, if we ever return from where we came, we are unlikely to be the same person who left. Not only does travel change us, it makes us better people. It encourages empathy with others, giving us a deeper understanding of the world.
Travel increases our self-awareness and perception, encouraging us to be more creative in what we do and how we think. It builds trust, in ourselves and those around us, grounding us in the present and mindful of who we are. And if we’re lucky, along the way we’ll find a destination, we’ll fully live life with purpose, and that’s when we really start living.
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The article “5 Powerful Reasons Why Travel Makes Me Live Life with Purpose” is republished on Medium by TechBookTravel