It cured my ethnocentrism
When I was a young child I decided that there were only three default countries: the US, the UK and mine. The US and the UK just had to be default. They all spoke English there, and you’d hear things about them all the time, mostly in TV and movies. And my country? Well, that had to be default too, because I lived there, so I knew it. What do I mean by default? I mean having an impression that life was normal there. That people had more or less the right resources to go about living the way they wanted to and more or less the same sensible views on life that I did. All the other countries were weird places filled with the wrong people. If that all sounds a bit vague and unconsidered, that’s because it is. I was a sheltered and privileged person who hadn’t spent much time thinking about the lives of other people in other parts of the world, or even the lives of other people in my own country which were very different to mine. It’s natural for children to behave this way, assuming the sphere of your world is exactly the same as theirs, but into adulthood, some grow out of it less than others. Americans who proudly display a flag in their yard but couldn’t point to Africa on a map. Brits who were googling what the EU was on the eve of Brexit. The more you travel the further you grow past this, seeing just what a diverse place the world can be, with a practically infinite number of people all living their own default lives completely differently to yours. And the more ways you can see how the world can be, the more interesting things you have to write about.
It added authenticity to my descriptions
There are many things that people write about that they have never or could never experience for themselves. Nobody will ever ride a dragon, neither will you. Some very lucky people will ride a spaceship, but probably not you. Lots of people have been to New York, but not you. While you can probably put together a pretty solid description of any once of these things, having travelled and actually put yourself in that situation will give you new insights and tools that you might not have had were you only imagining it. For example, it would be pretty easy to imagine how New York is big and bustling and full of yellow taxis. But unless you’d been there, you wouldn’t know to describe it by its small and authentic descriptions: the way everything was so noisy that even the benches in Central Park rattled slightly as the subway trains passed underneath. The way the pizzas were so oily that the grease would bleed through entire paper plates. The small but constant sense of dread that someone was about to ask for a tip you couldn’t afford on your shoestring budget.
It taught me to be braver
Travelling is about going into the unknown, taking risks and connecting with people, places, things, sometimes in scary and unpredictable ways. I often feel like I’m not so good at taking myself out of my comfort zone, but I’ve learned how to keep doing it and keep going. Often I still feel as shy and awkward as ever, but the amount that I’ve been able to experience in the mean time by putting my nerves aside is incredible. Writing can be that way too, sometimes. It’s nice to just write things for ourselves, but taking the extra step to put our work where people can see it is way more scary and way more rewarding than never stepping outside our box. Knowing that I’ve succeeded in travelling despite fears and awkwardness teaches me that I can be successful in sending my work out to the public, despite fears and awkwardness.