Why Traveling In Your 20s Is The Best Way To Enhance Your Perspective

It was world-renowned author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who said, “I think you travel to search and you come back home to find yourself there.” This very cleverly encapsulates everything a young person experiences when on the move abroad.

As a young African, I’ve often gotten questions about my home (South Africa and Ghana, respectively) flying at me in many forms. The most common being something like, “So do you have like … Internet over there in Africa?” Or my personal favorite, “So how’s Mandela doing?”

I mention these not to poke fun at those who ask me these questions, but to highlight how little we all know about cultures outside of our own. This is especially true for many young people who’ve grown up in sheltered communities or within comfortable suburban environments.

The theme of traveling has sustained our ancestors for millennia. It holds educational importance that extends beyond any classroom and beyond the ignorance of those who refuse to see things another way.

I still remember the first time I met someone from Shanghai. I won’t name him today, but he taught me a hell of a lot about stereotypes.

My Chinese friend was tired of people incessantly asking him questions about why he, like so many of his fellow Chinese classmates, was so skilled at mathematics.

He opened up to me about the marginalization he faces daily in his European college and about how he only wanted to be accepted as a fellow student and not be emphasized simply for his perceived mathematical ability.

Hearing his story and seeing the frustration on his face only made me want to expand my own perspectives.

After all, I had become familiar with people from closed communities questioning my accent. If I was Ghanaian by blood, why didn’t I speak like one? Why wasn’t I in Accra, Ghana where I belong? These were the tones that filled my mind as I went through my late teens into my 20s.

Nonetheless, it is possible to change such attitudes and to broaden people’s horizons on others. That change can happen through the opportunity to travel.

Traveling nowadays is understandably pricy depending on where you go. From most African countries to those in Europe, border controls have made it harder for some nationalities to gain access to areas that were quite passable.

If the opportunity presents itself to you in your 20s, take it. I say 20s because we’ve just come out of that maelstrom of confusion called adolescence. There is still time to mature our beliefs and to gather courage for an unpredictable workplace before the pressure is on.

Traveling doesn’t have to be done across thousands and thousands of miles. It could simply be an extended stay in a part of your own country, which you normally wouldn’t think twice about getting to know.

Perhaps because it is not on your own beaten path, you shy away from it. Whatever your reasons, use the opportunity to develop yourself.

Traveling in the form of studying abroad is another absolutely incredible way to tap into that wave of experience and learning. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend college in a different part of the world from where I grew up. A world outside of that which I’d grown so accustomed to.

Despite the initial fears or hesitations, once that decision has been made, the benefits are infinite. You’ll no longer fear meeting new people and your self belief will grow more resistant to negative stimuli -- especially when you’ve had to depend on it to claim your place in a new academic environment.

The chance to travel is a blessing; your willingness to learn from the experiences it grants you is a form of true wisdom.

Go forth.

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