Though I don’t always realize it immediately, travel is a big influence in my life. Here’s just one example: In August, I helped my sister move from Wisconsin to Colorado. While with her there, I met some of the friends she had already living near the mountains and got to listen to their stories about hikes and about the area in general.

After I returned home, a writer friend encouraged me to enter a short story writing contest. The theme worked perfectly with the experience I had on my trip: mountains.

This last weekend, I took another trip out west, and on the drive, received an email informing me the mountain story had done well enough in the contest that it would be published in an anthology with the other winners. I’m excited to say the anthology will be coming out in just a couple of months! And I wouldn’t have written the story I wrote if not for my trip.

This more recent trek across the country has me thinking about the benefits of travel. Here are a few I’ve come up with:

  • Lends a bigger base of experience. As a writer, this is vital. If I hadn’t met someone who had hiked a fourteener (a mountain over 14,000 feet tall), it would’ve been harder to write about them, especially considering that I didn’t know what a fourteener was before that trip. For writers and non-writers alike, experience gives us better stories to tell over dinner (I’m an introvert… I think about these things…) and makes us more well-rounded members of society. Travel forces this on us. We’re no longer in our normal environment, so we have to make new choices about even the basics, like food.
  • Strengthens relationships. If you travel to visit someone, you get to see how and where they live, so when they talk about their life, you can relate better. And if you travel with someone, you get to know them on a whole new level. Just be mindful of needing time apart to recharge, especially if there are introverts involved.
  • Memories. They say it’s not the things we remember but the experiences. It’s the way your brother talks about usable art, jokes and shortens the sounds to call it yart, and then is thrilled when you pass a sign for a yart sale. (A sale meant to mimic a yard sale but for art.)  The t-shirt I bought there is nice, sure, but it’s the story behind it that makes it really special. What are the odds his made up word would be on a sign like that?
  • Reveals new possibilities. While out in Colorado, my husband started looking into whether or not there were good job possibilities out here. It’s not that we’re going to up and move, but why stay in one place simply because it never occurred to us to move?
  • Displays God’s handiwork in Creation. I recently read something that talked about how much God’s love for us shines through in the beauty of the creation. In addition to His love, the grandeur of mountains, the peace of fields, and the shimmer of rivers also reflect some of His beauty and glory.
  • Increases gratitude for home. Let’s be real. Travel is exhausting. It’s the driving and the time zones and the altitudes and the change in routine. And if you’re traveling with others, tempers begin to wear thin eventually. So, it’s good to return home and sleep in your own bed again and wake up in a place where you know which restaurants in the area do a good job with gluten-free and which will deliver your taco salad to your table in a deep fried flour shell after you told them you couldn’t have flour. 

Travel doesn’t have to be extreme to achieve these benefits. I’ve done camping trips in my state that have had similar effects on me.

What is your favorite part of travel?