The real benefit of travelling

I travel quite a lot. I mainly travel for work, and over the years my travel has waxed and waned from primarily domestic, to primarily international, and back again several times over.

Whilst travelling quickly loses its allure as the novelty wears off, and the reality of flight delays, security screenings, arsehole passengers, never being able to find health food choices and so-on sets in, there’s one part of travelling which never gets old for me: talking to people.

If you don’t travel, spending the majority of your time speaking with the same types of people, the same colleagues, the same friends, the same club mates etcetera, it’s hard to develop an understanding of different points-of-view. You tend to live in a bubble, your ideas and perspectives on life, work, politics, religion and such constantly reinforced by your similarly-affected social sphere, and it can become difficult to fathom why everyone doesn’t see the world as you do.

Travelling, if you welcome opportunities to converse with the people you encounter from all walks of life, challenges your preconceptions. Some of my most fascinating and thought-provoking conversations have been with taxi drivers, Uber drivers, service workers, random people in airport bars, cafes, queues and hotel bars. Just now, as I write this, I sit in yet another airport eatery, having spent the majority of my additional hour due to delayed flights speaking with a group of coal miners. These guys spoke in the blokiest of terms about their experiences travelling for their work, of the challenges of maintaining healthy relationships with their significant others, of their fears about job security and the technological changes impacting their jobs.

The thing which always strikes me, no matter the country, the culture, the socio-economic group or job category, is that we are all the same. Overwhelmingly we all worry about our families. Will our kids do well? Will they thrive? Are we doing enough for them? Will we be able to continue to provide for them? Whilst our views on many things differ widely – for example I encounter far more climate change scepticism when I’m travelling than I do inside my own social bubble – we are fundamentally concerned about the same things. Only our perspectives on how to address those things differ.

Travelling is tiring. It’s often lonely, often terrible for health and finances, and is usually undertaken in your own time rather than during so-called company time. But the perspectives it can afford are nuggets of gold. You just have to be open to having a chat with the people around you.

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