2020 saw a 74% decline in international travel and was declared “The worst year in tourism history” by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). But why should we care and why is travel so important?
Traveling is important for many economies and remains the main source of income for large parts of the population in many countries such as the Maldives, Spain or Greece.
There are also many undisputed benefits of taking a trip for us as individuals and for societies as a whole derived from the tolerance that is built on understanding someone else’s perspective through their eyes.
In this article, we want to convince you, if you aren’t already, that travel is important, and here’s why.
Employs millions and spreads wealth
Tourism is a gigantic industry that incorporates many industries like attractions, accommodation, transport, travel companies, and more. The tourism industry employs millions of people worldwide and it accounts for 21% of people employed in the services sector, as reported by official statistics. When considering the total global economy, tourism accounts for 9% of people employed.
In 2020, travel and tourism’s direct contribution to GDP was 4.7 trillion US dollars. From this amount, the United States was the country that contributed the largest sum with approximately 1 trillion dollars.
For some countries, travel and tourism are their main source of income, like Macau, Maldives, Aruba and Seychelles, which had the highest share of GDP generated by travel and tourism worldwide.
These are impressive figures and show the importance of travel for the global economy and employment.
Travel is food for thought. When visiting new places, you learn about their history and culture, about ancient civilizations who inhabited the area, and about different ways of life. This makes you a more educated and interesting person, and gives you stories to tell friends and family.
Research suggests that adapting to new places boosts creativity. New experiences help us learn and develop new neurons and connections. Even just listening to the music of a place we are not familiar with can help our brains develop.
Travel is indeed educational, not just because you learn so much about the places you’re visiting and thus expand your knowledge base, but also because you discover a whole lot about yourself.
Studies show that both serendipitous and independent travel produce personal growth, life skills development, general knowledge, and social and cultural awareness. Which goes hand in hand with our next reason why travel is important in life.
Is an essential human need
Travel is a need for human beings. We have a nomadic genetic heritage coming from our primal hunter-gatherer ancestors, which strongly opposes the sedentary lifestyle.
Research shows that we travel for a variety of reasons, needs and motivations like recreation, amusement, novelty, relaxation, thrill, family, and social relationships.
Riyanka Roy puts it best: “Traveling is not just about the journey or the destination — but the entire process that begins from the time we hope to see a place and plan to visit there, all the uncertainties and surprises that we experience, and the feeling of containment that stays in our heart even after we return back home.”
Helps you grow and teaches you about yourself
When you set off to another place, especially as a first time solo traveler, you are free to do new things, you gain time-management skills, and you acquire the ability to solve problems and make decisions.
New means learning, and navigating a new place will make you expand your knowledge.
Sometimes, you learn the most when you’re out of our comfort zone, and when being in a foreign country you must face difficult challenges. As you overcome those challenges and learn to solve problems, you will develop self awareness, strength of character, and build up your confidence. These are some of the most important benefits of traveling.
Traveling abroad will make you realize how strong you really are and what you’re capable of. Travel makes you grow as a person, and you’ll take back lessons that you can’t learn in a classroom. This is a huge part of the importance of traveling.
Exposes you to other cultures
Traveling to a place that is completely different from the place you live in will confront you with realities you vehemently oppose or find unacceptable in your own culture, forcing you to hear a different point of view to something you had never questioned before and develop empathy for a point of view that may be insulting to your set of beliefs and values.
Getting to know other cultures allows you to gain awareness and thus become a more open minded individual. It’s enriching to see the similarities and differences between cultures, and realizing that what brings us together is more important than those things that set us apart.
Immersing in other cultures widens your perspective of the world, renewing your ways of thinking and living life, and it’s one of the top reasons why travel is important.
It’s easy to argue with someone you don’t know online, but much harder to do so in person when they are right across the table from you and you realize how much you have in common with them.
Expands your palate
One way of discovering a different culture is through its food. Food is a basic need for humans, but it’s also steeped in history and tradition. A place’s food tells you a lot about its culture.
While you’re in a foreign country, don’t be afraid to try new flavors; everything from local food to street food to eating by yourself in a fancy restaurant. You can also share some of your culture by offering to cook your home favorite dish to your travel buddies, or having a conversation about their home country’s typical dishes.
Food brings people together, and sharing it has always been part of human history. Being at the same table, sharing food and having conversations with different people makes travel an enriching experience, one you can learn lots from.
And we would not have most of the foods and dishes you love the most today if it wasn’t because of the early travelers and explorers who exported things like chocolate and tomatoes from the Americas to Europe and cows and sheep to the Americas.
Forces you to communicate without words
Language and communication barriers are common collateral effects of traveling to a country where your native language isn’t spoken. This can be a challenge, but you can bridge the gap by learning basic phrases with the help of language language apps.
Traveling to a place where they speak another language makes you value nonverbal communication more. Sometimes a whole conversation can develop using only your hands and face expressions.
Shows you amazing destinations
One of the main reasons people travel, according to studies, is novelty. People love to visit new places, learn about other cultures, do and see new things. There are a wide range of destinations for every type of traveler, from relaxing pristine beaches to exotic wildlife safaris to modern stylish metropolis. Each one of them has different attractions, sightseeing spots and a unique essence.
As reported by recent data, the most visited destinations by travelers are France, Italy, Mexico, United States and Spain.
The beautiful destinations people visit are one of the most valuable rewards of travel.
Creates meaningful connections
One of the main benefits of traveling solo are the meaningful connections you make abroad. There’s nothing like making a new friend far away from your country, the connection is more genuine and tends to be long lasting.
Humans are a social species, and when traveling, we are more likely to meet new people and make friends so we can have a sense of community and avoid the feelings of loneliness.
Travel makes it possible to come in contact with different points of view. Whether it’s with locals or a group of like-minded travelers, meeting new people can teach new ways of thinking and seeing life. It’s also a great opportunity for networking.
Traveling facilitates genuine connections and friendships while doing activities we don’t usually do in our home towns, like trying new food, going sightseeing, exploring in the wild.
Takes you away from routine
Getting out of the routine is a common reason to travel. For many women, finding time for themselves gets complicated, as they may have careers, spouses, kids and many other responsibilities in their daily lives. Sometimes, it’s not enough to go on vacation, because women may have the same responsibilities they have at home.
To truly enjoy travel, they need to get away from the daily expectations and routine on their own. Travel is great for your mental and physical well being. When you travel solo, you feel free. Free of caring for others, of having people depend on you, of sacrificing your personal time, etc. The best part of solo travel is that it’s all about you.
Travel makes us escape our daily routine and enter a new adventure, with something different happening every day, and gives us the chance to pause and recharge, so we can return home with renewed energy and spirit.
Improves your mental health and happiness
Many of us find ourselves in an accelerated world with many responsibilities, duties, work, family, etc. Travel is an important way to take a break, relieve ourselves, gain peace of mind, add excitement to our lives and enjoy our own company.
Travel improves your mental health by providing relaxation, allowing a reset, improving your mental power and increasing your creativity. Plus, studies prove that stress and anxiety reduce after a trip.
Travel is an awesome way to take a real break from ordinary daily life, you get the pressure off and focus on appreciating the world around you. You get to unwind and immerse yourself in a new destination.
Travel teaches you to be present and build mental resilience. Because of the challenges you face, you get better at overcoming them, and then become more resilient, mentally and emotionally.
Makes you happier
Experiences and memories make people happier than material possessions or wealth, this is proved by science. Traveling is one of the greatest and most rounded experiences one can have and so it is the best gift you can give yourself.
Challenges your priorities
Being by yourself, in another country, with space for reflection about what has happened and what is next in your life may make you rethink your priorities.
Maybe you realized that the life you have back home is missing something, or maybe you remember that vision you had about creating a new business when you see it elsewhere. Or perhaps you just meet someone far removed from your usual social circle, who is doing exactly what you’ve always wanted to do.
Traveling, especially solo, is a great way to reflect on your life and rethink your priorities, putting your happiness first.
Creates long lasting memories
Some of the best memories in my life are from my travels. It may sound strange but those times spent with complete strangers in a foreign land have the potential to transform into life lasting positive memories.
You will remember your travels, whether you had a blast, lost your baggage, got sick, or met your best friend. With highs and lows, travel provides personal growth that sticks with you throughout your life.
As a wise travel quote from Anthony Bourdain puts it best:
“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s OK. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind”.
Makes you value your home
As counter intuitive as this may sound, one of the reasons why it is important to travel is to value what you have back home.
Being in an unknown and foreign place will reveal good and bad stuff about your home town and country, and even your partner and your family. Comparisons are unavoidable. There’s something about being abroad that makes people value what they have back home.
It may be family, friends, your favorite coffee shop, your dog, or your city’s quiet atmosphere but ultimately, for most of us, a trip will provide us with unforgettable experiences to share and keep and with lots of personal growth, education and so much more but above all, it will hopefully also make you grateful for what you have.
A person who doesn’t ever get out of their house may take some things for granted. But a change of scenery will make you change your perspective on your home and appreciate it more when you return.
There are infinite reasons why it is important to travel, so this list might never end! We are all for solo travel, and we encourage you to do it at least once. But often, small group trips are a safe, affordable and convenient way to visit challenging destinations or to test solo travel in a predefined way. Our main goal with Solo Female Travelers is to break down the barriers women face to travel on their own, and small group trips are a great way to do so.