11. Travel, It Expands Your Soul

This essay is part of my 42 Deep Thoughts project.

There are different ways to travel. The comfortable way is to find the most luxurious hotels in the most luxurious places. There is place for that. Getting pampered is enjoyable and sometimes you really just need to recharge.

But if you’re looking to expand your soul, not just recharge it, that’s not the way to travel.

There’s no better antidote to prejudice than to meet different people from different backgrounds than yours. Don’t judge someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes, or at the very least, spoken more than a few words to them.

You don’t need to forego all the comforts of travel in order to grow, but that shouldn’t be the focus if the goal of your trip is to see the world.

If you’re looking to explore the world, and hence expand your soul, focusing on the comforts as the center of your experience turns the focus of the trip inwards. You’re creating a mirror into your personal needs and desires, and are unlikely to see the majesty around you.

When traveling I look to interact with people who live there. Live in their neighborhoods. Eat the food they love. Explore their history, art, and culture.

I love traveling to a place for an extended period of time. When we purchased our home we bought below our means so that we could afford to live elsewhere for a month at a time.

I love to experience how other people live. When you travel only as a tourist you only see the brightest sides of the place you’re visiting, what the local community wants you to see. But often that’s at the expense of seeing the community that lives there.

Experiencing the world of other people will expand your soul. Seeing things in person, that otherwise you could only ever see in pictures, enriches your inner world beyond anything else.

It is a privilege to travel. It can be expensive. But it can be done.

The first time I met Ilana she was preparing for a six week adventure to Europe. She saved up for that trip while working as an administrative assistant in New York. She had lived in a basement apartment with roommates in order to be able to save.

I had a trip planned myself at that time. It was to visit New York for the first time as an adult for two weeks. That trip was empowering for me, to see that I could manage this city I had idealized growing up, but never really had visited by myself.

It wasn’t until Ilana and I traveled to Italy together that I understood the true power of travel. I knew New York, Italy was a completely other world.

This is another example of how the good shit happens outside your comfort zone.

I don’t speak Italian, the streets were unfamiliar. But the world was magical. Seeing art and buildings in person that you only had seen pictures of changes your world. Tasting food that, while familiar, was so unfamiliar too, added a depth of experience. The beauty of the landscape. How Mediterranean, yet still so different from my fellow Israelis the people were.

We stayed cheap places, and budgeted every day to the cent. That’s how we afforded it starting out.

As we walk through the world our brains create patterns, so it doesn’t have to work so hard. What you actually see is limited, and your brain fills in the rest.

When you expose yourself to new things your brain is forced to see more, to experience more.

There is no better way to stretch your mind and soul than to travel. Speak with the people you meet, try and understand their lives. Walk their streets.

There’s no better antidote to prejudice than to meet people different from you.

About the photo: Live music at a pub in Dingle, Ireland