I once heard a friend say that travel is the best healthy drug out there. I thought about it for a moment but then nodded my head in agreement. After all, we’re all people; the world is made up of people, and traveling lets you come in contact with other people.
More specifically though, there are loads of benefits to traveling and they vary from one person to the next; just ask 100 different travelers and you will get 100 different answers.
Words like exotic, special, breathtaking, interesting and unforgettable certainly come into play; words that otherwise wouldn’t enter your lexicon if all your life was a daily commute to some job you absolutely hate.
While all of those reasons as to why travel is awesome are absolutely true, I have a special thing that I love about travel that I haven’t seen mentioned elsewhere.
Allow me to illustrate my point with a quick story.
Back in 2017, I spent most of the year living in Ukraine and then several months at the end of the year in New York City tying up some loose ends. By that point, I had spent about 3 years living in Ukraine with a few random trips even before that.
As a result, I gradually built a decent social circle with a couple of good friends with whom I kept in touch regularly.
Not bad for a lone wolf like myself who mostly does everything alone and fails to make friends in most countries except befriending few guys via Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training.
One fine day, I was sitting in my friend’s NYC apartment having some breakfast and browsing Russian news sites or watching random YouTube videos — my daily breakfast ritual while I devour a big plate of buckwheat.
Moments later, I received a text message from a girl that I used to date. She was in Kiev. She wanted to know whether I would be interested in seeing a movie with her later that evening.
She had absolutely no idea that I had already been to New York City for several months. She had no idea that I was basically living (temporarily, of course) in a place far, far away from Ukraine.
I grabbed the phone and paused before replying.
Finally, I replied, “I can’t. I’ve been in New York City for several months now.”
She had no idea that she just asked someone who was on the other side of the planet to hang out.
I found that rather amusing. What was more amusing, however, was the fact that I was due back in Ukraine the following week.
The next week I caught a red-eye flight to Ukraine, landed, cleared passport control and customs, caught an Uber and in less than 45 minutes was waiting for her near the famous movie theater in Kiev.
We watched the movie and then had a couple of drinks later.
The entire time I couldn’t help to think that just a week ago, I received an invitation from a person to do something, but couldn’t do it because I was on the opposite side of the world, in a completely different country.
Now, that I was back, all it took me was a mere 45 mins to descent to the movie theater from the plane and meet my friend.
This is why travel—and especially extensive living abroad—is so special. Even if you leave the country and your social circle temporarily, all it takes is a quick flight and you’re back in your old environment with your social circle as if absolutely nothing had happened.
Just recently, I decided to spend my New Year’s in Lithuania. There were a couple of reasons for that. First, Lithuania is only one hour flight from Kiev, where I’m based. Second, I had already lived in Vilnius from 2013-2015, so I knew the small city fairly well.
And, last but not least, as a result of living in the city for several years, I had amassed several good friends that I kept in touch throughout the years.
Vilnius may not be the best destination for New Year’s, but it sure had a lot going for itself when compared to other cities.
So, I contacted my friend and told him that I would be coming back to LT for New Year’s. I told him to make sure to also stay in the city and not go anywhere.
He not only agreed but also invited my girlfriend and me to his place for dinner and drinks on New Year’s Eve.
And, so, the result was an analogous situation like the one I explained earlier with seeing the movie.
I boarded the plane, spent about an hour in the air, landed, cleared immigration and customs, caught an Uber, checked into an Airbnb in the center, and a few hours later was shopping for nice wine at my old shopping supermarket. Then, 30 mins later were enjoying delicious lamb at a friend’s house whom I haven’t seen for three years.
I figured four days in Lithuania should be enough, but, in fact, when I returned back to Kiev after a quick 1-hour flight and got back to my apartment, I still felt as though I was still back in Lithuania.
It was a surreal feeling, to say the least.
As far as I’m concerned, this is the very best part about travel or even long-term living. It’s the fact that when you’ve traveled and lived long enough in different countries, you tend to have not only good friends and acquaintances in all of these places but the ability to recreate your past life and continue where you left off as though you haven’t gone anywhere.
Even though I haven’t been to Vilnius for over 3 years, the fact that I can simply catch a flight and relieve my old life—along with friends and experiences—is simply amazing.
It’s beyond amazing; it even feels unreal sometimes.
I have a couple of good friends in both Mexico and Brazil, two countries where I lived extensively. And in both cases, I can simply catch a flight and instantly relieve my experience from years ago—as though I had never left.
Of course, the longer that I had been away from the country, the weaker the experience I will be relieving: people change, they even move to different parts of the world, so when you finally return after many years, what you experience is a weak representation of the original.
But, still, knowing that I can fly to Kiev, and in 45 mins from the time when the plane touches down in Boryspil International airport, I can be enjoying dinner, drinks or a movie with a good friend is nothing short of amazing.
And knowing that I can fly to another country and be invited a friend’s home for dinner and drinks, a friend whom you haven’t seen for ages, is also nothing but magical.
Of course, there’s the part about absorbing the country’s culture and language. When I lived in Mexico, I learned Spanish. When I lived in Brazil, I mastered Portuguese. When I lived in Lithuania, I picked up basic Lithuanian, enough to get me out of trouble should something like this arise.
Since language is the gateway to culture, all of this awesome too. When I was in Lithuania, I was amazed that I could still remember various Lithuanian words and even expressions, even though I hadn’t used them in three years.
And this is Lithuanian language we’re talking about, one of the hardest languages in Europe, and one that bears no other resemblance to any other language (except maybe Latvian).
Nevertheless, nothing eclipses the ability to “transcend” countries and cultures when you essentially “transport” yourself from one place to another while still having the luxury of the familiar environment that was once your home.
And, as far as I’m concerned, this is the absolute pinnacle of travel. And nothing else even comes close.
For some people, traveling is a two-week break from their dreary lives. For others, like myself, it’s a lifestyle that has been part of my life for the last ten years.
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