dare to lead. live. laugh
I travel a lot having been to over 70 countries. Yet i have never REALLY reflected on the transformational power travelling has had on my life. It helped me overcome my darkest life moments. Its helped me love myself and find love. It set up my business and made me money. Its helped me change the lives of many and made me a smarter, more caring human.
Let me put this simply.
TRAVEL SAVED MY LIFE. I mean this is so many ways. My ability to own my identity. To overcome my depression and beat poverty. The chance to change other people's lives. To learn about who i am and what i can do. To deepen my awareness of culture. To make me understand all forms of humanity. It gradually kills the number of "unknowns" and "unseens" in your word and that can only be a good thing. To travel is to expand and grow.
Office of National Statistics recognised that the UK travel more than ever, and people visiting here has grown too. There were 37.6 million visits by overseas residents to the UK in 2016, 4% more than 2015. The French visit UK most, with the USA second. Also, 70.8 million visits were made overseas by UK residents in 2016, which was 8% more than in 2015. We visit Spain most, and the USA is the most popular non-EU destination.
This trend is amazing. But 2 things jump out. 1, What sort of travel is it? And 2. Who gets to do it? On the first point, evidence shows the main reason is holidays. GREAT. Rest and fun and chilling is important. But it can't just be that cliche image of the pasty white bod in union jack shorts on a sun lounger. I encourage us all to ADVENTURE more too. Do what i mostly do. Skip the package break and book your own trip. Research a bit of the real local culture and go off the tourist trail. Actually speak to the locals. Meet people who do a similar job to you, book AirBnB or couch surf. Link in to a conference or event. Travel solo. Go volunteering or even use dating sites (!) as a way to integrate into a city and get to know the place. These are all things i do or have done. (I have SO many great hacks, let me know if you think they are useful and i will make a video or write about these properly.)
The second point is about WHO can travel. The simple truth is, travel is a luxury. Its a privilege. And by nature not everyone can do it. Or can they? Wait. My hope for change has to be stronger than the the inequality that blights us. We all CAN travel - sadly some just have to dig deeper and fight harder to find their adventure. For some, it might not even mean international travel. But I learned the hard way that poverty in parochial. And dealing with daily struggles, the last thing you think about is some glorious jaunt to an international hot spot. But that is a trend we must change! In many ways to travel can fight inequality. Maybe it can be a modern and creative alternative or addition to more rigid models of school or study. It involves bravery, patience, independence, vision and planning. And the potential it offers is crazy. I don't read books. I don't have a degree. Im not one for deep academic research. However i do love to explore, ask questions, be exposed to difference and connect with humanity in all its formations. Thats what travel offers. We need to recognise this and tell our kids about it too.
For example, in my teens, I was so blessed to go to Malawi in Africa on a youth programme. I was a very insecure, underclass, closeted, depressed guy. There i met a fellow teen called Frederick. He taught me that "The World thinks in Black and White." yet he chose to "dream in full colour." Wow. That simple sentence, from such a humble man wrapped in authenticity captured me. Something impossible to replicate in my daily life of North Edinburgh. In so many ways people would say we couldn't be more different. The UK white VS the black african. Privilege VS poverty. Northern VS southern hemisphere. etc etc. But through travel i found familiarity. When you connect with people different, you realise you are the same. Its so special. It educates and inspires you.
Another example. I set up Dare2Lead on an aeroplane home from Australia. Seeing the awesome wilderness of Oz, meeting its beautiful people and leaders, being inspired by its indigenous history as well as modern ambition, it all has such a profound impact. In my early 20's I changed my career and life direction. I quit my job overnight, and set about Daring to Lead. This is my main life focus to this very day. It was the back drop of Australia that did that. Granted i was at a huge international conference, and the overall exposure to difference and diversity really fuelled me to be the best i can.
Culture is everything. Climate is everything. Humanity is everywhere. Sometimes the best way to find yourself is to get lost. You will realise you often have the best connections with those most different. We should all go somewhere and at some point feel like the "other" or be the newbie, or seem exotic or strange. Its thrilling. See places you dreamed about or confront things that gave you nightmares. It will bring out the best in you. Its broadens your horizons and gives you a viewpoint back in on your own life. Do it for the story. Travel is the best leadership programme i can recommend. Travel educates just as much as any school, and gives you skills as good as any job. We are all indigenous in this world. So go explore your home. You might just bloody learn something. I am. x