This week I’m traveling through Armenia on a vision trip with World Vision, a top-notch relief organization serving people in need across the globe. As we’ve been traveling around the country and meeting Armenian families who have benefited from, or are in deep need of support from a relief organization such as World Vision, I’ve been reminded as to why I wish everyone would just get off their couch and travel– at least once in life.
I am convinced that if one desires to live a richer and fuller life, one of the keys to getting there is to get out and travel. As I look back on my experiences over the last twenty years, here are five reasons why I think this is the case:
1. Traveling teaches you things about the world that you’ll never learn from a book or in a classroom.
They say that traveling is the best form of education, and I’ll tell you from experience that’s the truth. I have two associate degrees, a bachelors, two master degrees, and am finishing my doctorate, yet I’d be dishonest if I told you that I’ve learned more in the classroom than I have while walking a dusty path in India or a snow covered road in Armenia. In fact, if tomorrow I were told that I could either retain the knowledge I’ve gained from years of graduate work or retain the knowledge I’ve gained from traveling to 40+ countries, I’d choose travel knowledge any day of the week.
If you want to learn– and I mean truly learn, the best advice I have for you is to get out and travel. Simply put, there is a certain education that happens while traveling that cannot be reproduced in any other environment.
2. Traveling inspires & motivates you to start thinking bigger than you’ve thought before.
Different places in the world will evoke different experiences- yet all of those experiences tend to find a way to inspire, motivate, and lead you to think bigger. Whether it’s been standing atop the Mayan ruins of Tikal, snorkeling in the Philippine Sea, watching the sunrise via hot air balloon over the Australian outback, or strolling stone streets in Rome, these vastly different experiences have all similarly inspired me in ways that I simply can’t describe. Likewise, spending afternoons in a Peruvian orphanage talking with abandoned girls about life, spending mothers day holding orphans with disabilities in the Congo, interviewing women who were sold to the brothels of Mumbai when they were just children, or day like today- visiting the homes of impoverished families in Armenia– have motivated me to be the kind of person I continually strive and long to be– someone determined to leave a mark on this world before I’m done passing through.
Traveling inspires you, it motivates you, it breaks your heart, it opens your eyes, and best of all, it opens your mind to think thoughts you’ve never thought before, and to do things that the world so desperately needs doing.
3. Traveling will show you that there are people who live and think differently than you, but that we all have more in common than we hold in difference.
Mark Twain once remarked that travel was the cure for bigotry and all sorts of other ills, and let me tell you, this is true. From traveling and spending time with people from other cultures, one quickly finds that there’s a million different approaches to life– ours, is but one of them. Yet, once we walk and talk with those from other cultures, we have a natural tendency to see the humanity in the other- a humanity that can only be fully realized when two people are looking eye-to-eye. In that humanity, we see that amidst all our differences, we’re really quite similar.
Today while visiting a family in Armenia, I experienced one of those moments. I met a family with 7 children under 7 who lived in severe poverty- surviving on less than a dollar a day, and often unsure how they’ll make it to the next month. They lived in a small, two-room rental heated by a stove that burned animal manure for fuel. Days are spent fetching water, looking after kids, and just pushing forward to the next day.
Yet, when we asked her to tell us about the areas of her life that are wonderful, she beamed and spoke of her love for her children, her thankfulness that they were healthy, and how much she enjoys spending her days raising them.
Turns out, this woman was just like me- someone whose heart beat to see her children laugh and play. Such is the case with each discussion anywhere in the world, with nearly anyone: we discover that we’re really not that different after all.
4. Traveling softens you, and will help you to develop a heart that is people-oriented.
Want your character to morph and develop into someone who is people oriented, radically generous, and who comes to adopt a natural inclination towards a soft, humble, kindheartedness? Get out and travel– because that’s what does it.
It’s almost impossible to spend time experiencing the common humanity in the other and not be changed. In my personal journey, spending so much of my life realizing how good I had it compared to nearly everyone else in the world and by realizing that the “other” often was nothing like the false caricatures we have of them, I found my heart radically change. Like dried out dough that needed a little water and kneading to arrive at the desired texture, traveling is one of the chief things that changed my heart. No matter who you are, trust me, your heart could probably benefit from some kneading now and then.
5. Traveling promotes peace– both peace inside you, and peace throughout the world.
The more you travel and experience some of the results of the points I’ve described, you’ll have a tendency to feel more and more at peace with yourself, and the person you’re becoming. But, what’s more important than that, is traveling promotes peacemaking and prevents conflict.
How? Every traveler is an ambassador, and has the opportunity leave an impression– good or bad– that will be multiplied and used to stereotype an entire people group. Those whose hearts have been successfully kneaded, those who love big and listen long, leave the impression that we’re all friends– and that promotes peace.
Who wants to kill a friend? No one, that’s who. The more we travel, the more we love, the more friends we make, the more peaceful the world becomes.
Traveling will change you in all the right ways– but you’ve got to get out and do it.
However, there is something you can do without ever leaving your home that will begin to accomplish so many of the items I’ve listed above: you can sponsor a child through World Vision. This week, I’ve been seeing first hand the children who desperately need sponsors like you, and have seen the wonderful work World Vision is doing in the field here in Armenia. For just $35 a month you can sponsor a child from here or almost anywhere around the world, helping those children get the food they need, helping to make sure they are clothed, warm, and go to school. In your letter writing with your child, you’ll get to know each other, and will find your heart kneaded in beautiful, and unexpected ways. In fact, I just met a child this morning who I sponsored on-the-spot because the need was so great. Will some of you guys join me in this endeavor? I turn 39 on April 26th, and my goal is to find sponsors for 39 children before I turn 39. Please, consider joining me and sponsoring a child! You can view available children, and sign up right here at this website: (click here). If you sponsor a child, write and tell me- I want to celebrate each child that finds a sponsor!
In the coming days, stay turned for more post from Armenia as I report back on the needs of the people and the work that World Vision is doing in this area!