What’s that rumbling sound you hear when you’re sitting on the tarmac of an airport thousands of miles from home as your trip draws to a close? Sometimes it’s not just the plane engines firing up. It’s your thoughts swirling, and perhaps even grinding, grating, and crashing right into beliefs you’ve had for years as you have a chance to put into perspective everything you saw and did on your trip — and what you discovered about how others live in another culture. It may be hard to comprehend, but for something that lasted only about two or three weeks, a vacation can have a tremendous influence on some of your most long-standing and innate beliefs.
These are not necessarily things we feel comfortable thinking about, or discussing with others — which makes them all the more important since they can cause you stress if you ignore them. Here are some deeper issues many travelers struggle with at the end of (and well after) their trip that can have a significant impact on their psyche. Chances are you may grapple with some of the same thoughts.
About religion. Every year thousands of people convert to a different religion — from Islam to Christianity, from Christianity to Islam, from Christianity or Islam to Buddhism, from any of the above to atheism or agnosticism, etc. Many people make this conversion after visiting a country whose religious following is different from their own. Does that mean you will? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean you won’t experience a change in your thoughts about the afterlife after visiting a place like The Vatican, Tehran, Jerusalem, and any other number of places.
Having these feelings can cause you anxiety depending on your religious upbringing and the attitudes of your family members (and even your friends). Acknowledging that you could have some significant doubts, inspirations, or personal questions after your trip can make it easier for you to address them in the coming weeks or months and move forward on your personal and spiritual journey.
About race. Want to hear a sad story? I had a friend who wasn’t racist until he started traveling. Going from country to country, he said, and having what he perceived to be negative experiences in developing countries, helped him see “the bell curve” and people “in their proper place”, i.e., how important it was that people had their own culture within their own borders. Is my friend still traveling? More than ever — and I hope I don’t run into him somewhere.
Most people become even more tolerant after they’ve been abroad and seen other branches of the human family; very few become prejudiced, or more prejudiced. The vast majority of us will spend some time thinking about how we’re all different, how and why there’s been so much racism in the past, and what the picture of racial harmony could like like in the future.
About the importance of money. Did you travel through impoverished villages on your trip, and have the time of your life exploring and meeting the residents? Alternatively, are you a middle-class traveler who lived like a king or queen for a couple weeks in a developing country, simply because you could afford it? Doing either can significantly change your perspective on what’s in your wallet, how much you think you need to lead a happy life, and what you do with your finances in the future.
About the future. Many people feel an overwhelming sense of hope and awe over the promise of the future after they’ve been abroad. In so many ways, humanity leaps forward every year in terms of quality of life, tolerance, development, progression, and pure inspiration and creativity.
Depending on their travel experiences, others can dwell on the more negative aspects of the human race — yes, how greedy and self-absorbed we are, how much environmental damage we’re causing, how a major world war could be coming within our lifetime, how likely there is to be a major epidemic, etc.
You shouldn’t be surprised if you experience all of the above thoughts, hopes, and fears about the future on the same flight home. We’re all constantly dealing with the balance of good and bad, hope and pessimism, and of course, change. Travel is synonymous with change. How it changes you is up to you — just don’t let it cause you a lot of stress.
New perspectives don’t always come beautifully framed — but travel always helps us see life in a different light