Ever heard someone mentioning the phrase, “bitten by the travel bug” to someone who just can’t seem to not travel? Why do these people love travelling and what’s the magic of travelling? For the simple reason, travelling makes us happy. But more than making me happy, travelling changed my perspective of life and broadened my mind.
Material Possessions vs Travelling
According to the famous psychology professor, Thomas Gilovich from Cornell University, he believes travelling gives us a greater sense of happiness as compared to material possessions. Material possessions only brings happiness for a moment. We see something we like, we get excited and buy it. But after awhile, we adapt and get used to the “new” item and thus, the level of happiness drops. On the other hand, when we travel, we buy experiences. These experiences define who we really are. When we share our experiences with others, it brings us closer to them in a way not possible with material possessions.
So now, rather than spending on the latest tech gadget or shoe, it’ll be a wiser choice to save that money and spend it on a travelling experience. Like, a glacier hike in Alaska.
Appreciating what I have
No doubt when I travel, my favourite mode of accommodation would be AirBnB. I like the interaction I have with the hosts and really understand the country through the eyes of a local. Many a times when I talk to my hosts, I can’t help but appreciate how much I have in Singapore which I openly declare I took for granted.
Take safety for instance. In Singapore, our streets are so safe that we can take a walk on the streets at 10pm at night, without any worries. However, this may be a different case in Copenhagen. Being ranked as the “world’s happiest country”, Copenhagen faces their own set of safety issues. We befriended a local living in a well-to-do district in downtown Copenhagen over our laundry. She explained to us that even though Copenhagen is a nice city to live in, safety is always a concern. She has had refugees sleeping at her door step almost every other night. The local police can chase them away, but they would still return, leaving her exasperated. Locals do not head out to the streets after 9.30pm because that’s the time when the refugees start loitering on the streets.
We were aware of the migrant issues in Europe. But hearing it first hand from a local made us understand how they really felt and empathize with them.
In retrospect, we may have our own set of challenges in Singapore, but safety is something we should always appreciate having. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
Meeting new people
Travelling overseas also meeting new people. I was once an introvert, but travelling changed my perspective on talking to people. We fostered friendships with people we met on our trips. During our Iceland glacier hike, we made friends with a Taiwanese couple and doubled up as a translator to translate whatever the guide was explaining in Mandarin. I had so much fun talking to the couple during the hike about Taiwan and Singapore that I didn’t realise we reached the base of the glacier. It’s always nice to talk to new found friends and realize that there are so much to share.
Then there was an elderly couple we met on our Alaskan glacier hike who were so excited to learn that we came from Singapore. They had so much positive things to share about Singapore that they urged the entire group to visit Singapore too. Of course, it was a proud moment for us, coming from a tiny country where “ang mohs” have got no idea where it is (or think that Singapore is part of China).
Even though there are nice people out there, you still need to make your own judgment on talking to the right people. And I guess it is through travelling that you really get to experience the true nature of humans.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
There will always be hiccups in any trip. Whether it is the sudden change in weather which leads to change in plans or miscommunication with your travel buddy(s). There were many times in my trips where I had to make hard decisions. Once, our glacier hiking trip had to be cancelled because we were unable to cross a make shift bridge. The bridge had been washed away by the river. The old me would have cried and whine why such things would happen when I was looking forward to conquering a glacier. But rather than wasting precious time whining, the decision was made to spend the rest of the day doing our DIY photo shoot in scenic spots around the area.
So don’t sweat the small stuff. Find an alternative and move on. Rather than cry and whine, travelling taught me to take a step back, analyse the situation and make the best decision out of it.
Discovering the Unknown
Being afraid of the unknown is perfectly normal. The uncertainties makes us sacred because we don’t know what to expect. But I learnt how to adapt from the experiences. In turn, I became stronger, physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally.
From a skeptical hiker, I challenged myself to hiking one of Hong Kong’s many mountains, canoed to a glacier and trekked in one of Alaska’s most protected nature reserves. Encounters with nature made me realize how small I am and marvel at God’s wonderful creations. Everyday becomes a lesson not found in any textbook. My mind becomes active as I pick up a new skill and learn something interesting. Not forgetting all the eating adventures, like trying out the freshest sashimi you’ve ever eaten or the most delicious Pad Thai . These are experiences which I can bring home and share with friends and family, no matter how embarrassing it may be, it’s worth a good laugh.
Aside from the short term happiness travelling can bring, it taught me contentment. It gave me a worldly perspective on things and left me with countless memories to share with others. And that’s why you should travel too. It makes you a happier and interesting person.