It seems like around every corner of the internet, there is some twenty-something posting their latest trip to Italy, Thailand, or Mexico with the hashtag #LiveYourLife.
It can be incredibly liberating to break out of the confines of your hometown and sail across national borders to try exotic foods, meet exotic people, and take exotic photos. To strap on a backpack and tour faraway continents, and return with precious memories and experiences. It’s certainly a unique high that a lot of young adults chase, while they’re still early in their careers and relatively unburdened with responsibilities.
Unfortunately, not all of us can afford to visit every country in the world.
And while avid travellers will proclaim that the investment will pay itself off tenfold and that the costs can be made manageable even for those with a low income (“It’s not THAT expensive if you sleep on strangers’ couches and take part-time jobs in a foreign country!”), the fact is that it’s just not feasible.
Money aside, there are many reasons why young people don’t or can’t travel. Perhaps they’ve found themselves in a caretaker role for a family member, or maybe they have other commitments to their local community that they’re not willing to break. Maybe they have no desire to leave the comforts of their home.
This doesn’t make these individuals any less motivated or enlightened.
The fact is, you don’t have to visit a faraway land to become inspired and experience growth.
The travel trend proclaims that exposing yourself to new cultures will somehow offer you a glimpse at life from a different perspective. The reality is, making a temporary home in a new place, eating their food, and feeding their tourism industry isn’t likely to do that, no matter how many inspirational quotes and filters you tack onto your travel photos.
The most valuable takeaway from travelling abroad is the opportunity to connect with people who live differently from yourself – something no travel brochure can guarantee. Empathy and the ability to embrace different viewpoints often comes after taking the time to cultivate relationships and connect on a deeper level with other individuals.
The good news is, this experience is available in your own backyard.
Take Toronto for example – this bustling, multicultural city is overflowing with different subcultures. Have you considered volunteering in a different part of town? Make friends with people who have different life experiences than you. It could even be as simple as striking up a conversation with the new immigrant who moved in next door, or making regular visits to a retirement facility and getting to know the residents.
So the next time you’re feeling bored with your hometown or city, and you’re looking for a change of pace, remember that your experience is only one of thousands. There’s a lot to be gained from exploring your own backyard. And if you’re really craving a tourist trap, you can always climb the CN Tower!