I freely admit that I am far from the bravest person in the world. I am terrified of most rollercoasters at theme parks; I scream if I see a mouse; I still close my eyes every time my airplane is taking off.
However, I see that in numerous ways, my many experiences traveling around the world have made me a braver and more courageous person. Here’s a list of eight ways that travel can make you brave and courageous, too — just one more reason that travel is something that can enrich your whole life, not just make it extra fun for a few weeks.
#1: Taking Unusual Risks
Even for less-than-brave people like me, there seems to be something about traveling that makes you more likely to take risks you wouldn’t at home. If you’re already something of a risk-taker then this might verge on being dangerous, but if you’re more like me, then it’s probably a healthy thing . It’d take a miracle for me to get into a helicopter at home, for example, but when I’m traveling and I can see that the view over Uluru will be truly spectacular and it might be my one and only chance, then I’ll do it. And of course, having coped with that, I can delete “fear of helicopters” from my list and I suddenly feel a little bit braver.
I was a pretty conservative eater before I started traveling. I’ll always remember my friend taking me out to a Japanese restaurant before I moved to Japan and I read the menu thinking I’d never be able to eat half of the stuff on it. In Japan I definitely learnt to be brave and eat whatever was suggested and nowadays there’s very little I’d refuse.
#3: Talking to Strangers
At home it’s easy to get in the routine of only talking to your friends and colleagues but when you’re traveling, that becomes impossible. The nature of travel seems to make it more natural to talk to strangers — you overhear someone of the same nationality checking in at your hotel; you sit next to a stranger on an airplane and get chatting.
I’ve noticed that I’m much more likely to get into long (and often interesting) conversations with random strangers back home since I got used to talking to strangers while abroad. And it turned out none of them were scary, after all!
#4: Communicating in Foreign Languages
I studied German at high school and university, a total of about seven years, so you would think I’d have been able to strike up a conversation in German. Apparently not! But this was less to do with my actual knowledge of the language and more to do with my fear of speaking it aloud — what if I made mistakes? What if nobody understood me, or they laughed at me?
While traveling in Europe I quickly learnt that there were times when it was either try the German or not communicate at all. These days, I’m married to a German and frequently get mistaken for a native speaker!
#5: Going Up Tall Buildings or Into Dark Tunnels
Lots of people I know have one of these kinds of fears or phobias — they don’t like heights, they don’t like confined spaces, they don’t like going underground. And I certainly admit to feeling a bit squeamish on both counts. But when you travel there are a surprising number of opportunities to do this kind of thing — climbing the tallest church towers, or visiting underground bunkers, and much more. Again, because you’re traveling and have that feeling that you may never be in these places again, you’re more likely to take the plunge and do it — and those accomplishments, getting over those fears, carry with you back to normal life at home.
One way I’ve also felt that I’ve become more courageous is simply by meeting other people on my travels who I consider to be extremely brave or courageous. These are people you are less likely to meet at home perhaps, but seem to pop up often when you’re out there wandering in the world. For example, I met a married couple who were getting close to retirement age but decided to throw in their normal jobs and take to the road and see the world — they’ve now been traveling for over a decade and have taught English in places as varied as Chile, China, Slovakia and Turkey.
#7: Dealing with Change
Being courageous often has a lot to do with being able to cope with constant change. It’s easy to sit at home, safe in a regular routine. It’s much harder to grab a chance to travel and experience significant upheaval on a regular basis — especially if you travel long term. I moved to live in three different countries, and had to make new sets of friends, learn bits of new languages, negotiate new visa regimes, and fit into three different cultures — that’s a lot of change within about five years. But that has certainly equipped me well to be brave about any other new changes that come along in life, and I’m sure I wouldn’t have been quite as open to new experiences if I had stayed living back in my hometown the whole time.
#8: Becoming Confident
Last but certainly not least, feeling and being more confident is a definite side effect of travel that adds to your general bravery quota! Pretty much all of the situations I’ve already discussed are likely to boost your confidence at dealing with life and having more confidence inevitably increases how courageous you’ll be in the face of adversity. It’s a bit like this: once you’ve conquered the tricks and difficulties of traveling, you can do anything!