Unplugged – How traveling shapes and transforms you
Happy New Year, my friends, fellow toastmasters and guests! It’s that time of the year again, where we all recover from vacations. Criteo, a performance marketing company, reported that Singaporeans took an average of 5.2 trips in the past 12 months. That translates to an average of one trip every two to three months. Despite the high number, do we all know the real value of traveling? Or are we just traveling because we need time off, and hence we make plans to travel to the touristy places in the selected country?
Ever since I decided to start traveling solo, since about four years ago, I have learnt countless lessons. For a start, traveling exposes you to various communications styles. I am not talking about verbal communications but all forms of communications as well. I have been in Germany where I had to practice my German and made a cuckoo out of myself.
Thankfully, the locals were patient enough as I had to juggle between my dictionary and maps. That’s the good thing about spontaneous traveling, you get to focus on select ideas and also be flexible enough to change according to the various circumstances or factors. In this case, time, weather and personal interests. I can’t be visiting all 16 states in Germany in two weeks, so I decided to focus on the Bavarian region with priority given to nature.
In my humble opinion, travelling makes one modest. Humble in a sense, you have to remain curious and ask questions of people who may understand or know the city better than you do. In my recent trip, I took a train from Munich to Salzburg and made new local friends along the way. I asked for recommendations for local attractions. As I am such an avid trekker, I was urged to trek an untouched mountain 30 minutes away from the city centre.
I was told it was an easy walk. When I got to the destination, I was all alone, and the whole forest felt like mine. The land was really untouched. I was trekking all on my own till I met a local person along the way, when I was almost reaching the top. So yes, I trekked on my own by accident. But that aside, I don’t just gain freedom, but also new friendships plus knowledge about the city, Salzburg without the need of a tour guide! Am I lucky or what?
Living out of a suitcase, is worth the time and money. Traveling opens up the wonders of our world. I love the idea of how traveling connects us with culture. When in Australia, people go crazy over beef steak, animal sanctuaries. In Europe, we go crazy over cheese, how they solve socio economic problems and most importantly, chocolates. In Asia, we talk about exquisite food with their strong flavours.
What we don’t realize is, how traveling to explore far places actually brings us closer to who we really are. When we are born, we don’t have any social perceptions or stereotypes. We accept everything by heart. Then there are social actors such as families, schools, environments and governments that dictate our perception of life. But they forgot that we all have personalities and identities. For instance, we are proud Singaporeans. We are proud of our chilli crab, skyscrapers and strict regulations. Germans are proud of their beer. The French are always saying their country is better than any other in Europe.
It is only when we step into their country, that we put ourselves in their shoes, we start to see how close we actually are and how we share the same joys about similar things in life. We cannot change our nationality or languages. But we can always open our eyes and minds to understand the various historical, geographical, social and cultural effects of their different lifestyle practices.
Thomas Paine travelled and said “my country is my world, and my religion is to do good”. 1400 years ago, Muhammad said “Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you have travelled”.
My dear friends, I have travelled, you have travelled. Travel has inspired me to know countries, culture, languages and build communities. Most importantly, to do what I can to make a difference. In Germany, I was impressed at how the country does their best in terms of recycling. I try to recycle my things much more often than I used to before. In other words, it has helped me to become a better world citizen and hopefully a better person when I reconnect with myself and all of you. And I hope it can do the same for you.