I was browsing through the photos I took from my recent summer trip in Europe, when I felt a lingering ache – a deep longing to revisit these places again. I miss the feeling I get when I’m out there, exploring and getting lost in the world. It has been 3 months since I experienced the adventure of my life, but I am still reeling from the excitement and experiences gained, and still very much consumed with wanderlust.
I have always been afraid of getting out of my comfort zone. My European summer adventure really was my first time being away from home for more than a month, without my parents, and in a different continent. Before I embarked on this trip, the thought of traveling independently while I am still young, never really crossed my mind. But I am glad I took a leap of faith and jumped on the opportunity to study abroad and experience the world on my own, while I’m still a student, while I’m still discovering myself, and my place in the world. There are many things that I have learnt from this trip. Here are the 6 valuable lessons I have gained from my 2 months worth of travel:
1) You will learn that, as is everything in life, traveling is never about the destination, but it’s the journey which matters most. I was standing at the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, looking down at the view unfurling at my feet, as I thought to myself, “Is this what it means to be happy? To finally be where I’ve always dreamed to be?” It was then that I realize that reaching the destination did not feel half as satisfying as when I was during my journey. I realize this is true – each time I visit a place, the feeling of happiness and satisfaction which I was anticipating, was all but temporal and fleeting. It was the process, the transiting, the on-the-way, the journeying that I felt happiest. I guess it’s true what Hemingway said, “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
2) Travelling allows you to have an intimate moment with the universe, and makes you appreciate life more. It allows you to participate and revel in the beauty of His creations. Turn off the wi-fi, disconnect yourself from everyone you know, and open your eyes to the beauty all around you. Observe and become aware of the little things we so often take for granted. As I weaved through the crowds on a pleasant afternoon in London, looked out at the vast fields rolling past while in the train from Madrid to Barcelona, strolled along the bridges and canals in Amsterdam, I felt a palpable sense of delight in the atmosphere, and a renewed sense of outlook in life. I felt the joy of appreciating the simplest things that we tend to forget in the midst of our hectic schedules back home.
3) Travelling adds chapters to the pages of our lives. We are all books, ready to be read. A large part of the stories we gather come from our travels. When we travel, we gain the experience and knowledge that we would never be able to get from textbooks. Instead of reading the story, we are the ones creating it. We become the characters in our own book. When we are experiencing something during our travels, we might be at a loss for words at the beauty and wonderment we witness. But by the time we return home, we would find ourselves turning into narrators, brimming with chapters after chapters of exciting stories to share with everyone.
“Travelling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta
4) You will meet people of different cultures, different languages, and from various walks of life. You will meet some of the nicest people on earth. They will have an impact in your life – big or small – and you will realize that every single person you meet during your journey are a blessing sent to you from God. Friendships forged in a foreign land are a special kind of friendship that you will treasure all your life. I have a story which I will share in my next article, insyaAllah, about a particular ordeal and how Allah sent the kindest soul our way to help us.
5) You will grow. You will undergo a transformation, and feel something inside you changing internally. There’s just something about the collective experience, the energy from the people you meet, and the beauty and splendor of the places you see, that will infect and will be reflected in you and all that you do. I didn’t believe it at first, until my friends started telling me that they noticed a slight change in me – a happier, optimistic version of myself. I’m surprised how a few weeks away from home in a foreign land can change me. You will be wiser, more independent, and definitely more confident of yourself.
6) Last but not least, you will learn to put complete trust in the Master of the universe. You will feel closer to Him than ever before. Traveling is one of those times when you can clearly see that Allah’s help is truly, always, near. Several times during my trip, I experienced the most trying situations which till today still got me wondering – how did I go through all that? Surely it’s not out of pure luck. It is a clear sign that Allah has been with me all the time, looking after me. I was never alone after all. Even during moments when I felt most lonely and displaced in a foreign place, I didn’t have to worry, for Allah has always been with me.
Immersing yourself in another country and getting lost in the labyrinth of rules and series of guesses, is the best experience you will get in life. It will push you out of your comfort zone and simultaneously mature and shape your worldview and yourself. In all honesty, I didn’t feel I was ready enough to go on my own and be in a foreign country, stripped off the comfort of familiarity. There were many other concerns that were nagging at the back of my mind. But I come to realize that there really is no such thing as ‘being ready’. You have to grab the present, as it presents itself to you. So just go, and move. Sometimes you have to breathe and let be, let go and let God. Let Him bring you to travel the path which might just lead you to the most meaningful journey of discovering your true self, and arrive at the edge of one of the most spellbinding views you would have missed out on, if you had stayed stagnant and unmoving in the center.