Traveling or living abroad can initially be a complete shock to your mind in many different ways. You’ll be immersed in a totally different world, which may present you with various challenges.

However, just like muscles overcoming weight resistance at the gym will eventually result in a stronger body, overcoming the psychological challenges of traveling can result in a stronger mind and an overall improved character.

Traveling is a workout for your brain and character in a variety of different aspects.

Here are 7 ways that traveling or living abroad can make you a better person:

7 Ways Traveling & Living Abroad Can Make You a Better Person

1) Traveling & Living Abroad Can Make You Tougher and More Self-Reliant

Unless you’re a glampacker staying in fancy Western-style accommodations, part of an all-inclusive tour group or a Bubblepat, then you’re going to need to be able to take care of yourself in a foreign country.

A young Western man in sunglasses walking through Bangkok.
You need to take care of yourself when traveling or living abroad. There aren’t as many cushions to fall back on as there are back home.
Watch your phone bro.

Back home, you have friends, family members and societal institutions that can prop you up and assist you if you f*ck up somehow. When traveling, on the other hand, you’ve got to make sure you’ve got your sh*t together or you could get yourself into some serious trouble (or worse, have to go home).

You’re drunk af in the middle of the night somewhere, lost your phone and don’t know your address or how to speak any of the local language? You’d better just try and stay awake until the sun comes up and figure it out then.

You’ve been going out too much, but haven’t been working, and now your money is running low? You’d better get creative because making money isn’t quite as simple as back home.

You’re late for work and your bike just broke down on the side of the highway? There’s no one you can call; you’re just going to need to push it and hope you happen across what looks like a mechanic.

You’re dealing with mental health issues that are steadily getting worse? There’s no service or place that can help you, no cushion. You need to completely deal with your problems yourself.

You’re excruciatingly tropically hungover and dehydrated, because you passed out in your clothes last night and forgot to turn on the fan, and now you can barely get out of bed and feel like you should probably be on an IV (and you don’t have any fresh water in your home)? Tough, no one is coming to help you or comfort you; you’ve got to battle through it yourself.

You got really fat and unhealthy and you’re drinking too much? You’d better hit the gym and do something about it ‘cus the healthcare where you’re at probably isn’t great.

Wake up and have no idea where your motorbike is? Well, you’d better get out and start searching cus that sh*t don’t got Find My Car installed in it.

Get into a confrontation in a bar? There’s no Security that’s going to save you from getting hurt, or save you from hurting someone else.

Everything in the world is f*cked for visas because of covid? You’d better figure it out somehow because the only people who are going to “help” you are people trying to extort you.

Basically, it’s just you, your body, and your mind, and you need to deal with problems yourself; that’s your only option.

When traveling alone, all you’ve got is just yourself and your mind. Don’t f*ck up cus you probably won’t have a safety net.

Like a Spartan adolescent, all of the sh*t you go through will just eventually turn your mind into an indestructible powerhouse; you’ll be able to face down situations that’d have most people back home psychologically rocking back and forth in the corner. Living abroad and dealing with challenges increases your mental resilience because what doesn’t kill you naturally makes you stronger (and smarter).

Furthermore, as a result of having to figure out different issues such as these without any assistance, living abroad can increase your independent problem-solving skills, because you’re forced to resolve issues yourself.

Additionally, traveling can increase your confidence because you realize how f*cking awesome you are for overcoming the challenges you did (alone), while people back home are having absolute nervous breakdowns over First World problems n sh*t.

Too many people in Western countries are products of overly-protected, entitled, spoiled upbringings. This is how the concept of “First World problems” was bred.

So traveling can make your mind harder and stronger. But at the same time, it can also make it more flexible and open.

2) Traveling & Living Abroad Can Make You More Open-Minded and Dynamic

People who have barely been outside of their home country may think that the social rules and way of life of their country are as immutable and inherent as the physical laws of the Universe.

People who have never traveled may think that the social norms of their country are as immutable, permanent, inate and true as the Laws of Physics.

This is like a kid entering the most fun, massive, 195-story play center ever and just sitting in one corner forever, thinking they have the answer to everything. Even though there are 194 other floors that are completely different from one another, they still think that their little corner is somehow more correct and better than all of the other floors in every single way possible, despite having never actually seen or experienced the other floors.

On the other hand, when you get out and see the world, you’ll encounter alternate cultures, people, ways of life, social rules and schemas of seeing the world that may be completely different from anything you’ve ever known. You’ll realize that people interact with each other differently and respond to situations differently. You’ll notice that people perceive themselves, others and the world in differing ways.

Traveling can open your mind to the fact that there isn’t just one correct way to live a life; traveling can show you that there isn’t just one correct way to perceive the world.

Furthermore, you’ll observe that even though everything is different from how it is in your home country, people get along just fine with their own ways.

As a result, your mind will become more open and you’ll realize that things that you had previously taken as universal truths may actually not be quite as innate and objective as 1+1=2.

Becoming a more open-minded person will most likely also result in you becoming a more dynamic, interesting and knowledgeable individual. In turn, you’ll probably be a much more refreshing type of person to have a conversation with.

Talking to a closed-minded person is like talking to a rock; it’s much more interesting to have a conversation with an open-minded person.

3) Traveling & Living Abroad Can Make You Less Afraid of Strangers

Consumeristic Western society tries to manufacture people in a way so that they distrust, or even fear, strangers. Suburbia especially is designed with the intent of cutting people off from one another physically and psychologically. By keeping people hidden away in their homes, they feel a disconnect and just keep buying and hoarding sh*t to try and fill the space created from lack of genuine social contact.

Just stay in your fenced-off home and buy sh*t.

As a result, in Western society, strangers rarely interact, unless they are playing some type of role, such as a barista and a customer for example. When two strangers do have a genuine interaction, then it’s such an extraordinary, monumental occasion that a Hollywood romcom will probably be made about it.

On the other hand, when living abroad (and especially when traveling). You’ll generally meet strangers almost every time you go out. From friendly locals to other travelers and expats from all around the world, you’ll find that almost everybody has an at-least-mildly friendly, open attitude.

There’s a pretty good chance that you’ll meet a lot of friendly strangers when you travel or live abroad, exponentially more so than in your home country.

As a result, your comfort zone will expand in regards to other people, and you’ll see the world as a more amicable and less dangerous place. You’ll feel as comfortable standing outside on the busy street of a foreign country as people back home only do when they’re huddled inside sitting on their sofa.

In many countries, there’s a good chance that you’ll feel a stronger sense of connection to the people and society around you than you ever did in your home country.

Furthermore, rather than perceiving people who are different from you as potential threats, you will see meeting them as opportunities to expand your mind and gain alternate perspectives of seeing the world.

4) Traveling & Living Abroad Can Teach You Things You Can’t Learn at Home

When traveling or living abroad, you’ll have the opportunity to learn unique things firsthand that you’d only be able to read about back home. Your observations and experiences can be like a firsthand “case study” that can help you gain a better understanding of history, geography, sociology, anthropology, psychology, politics, international relations, economics and art, as well as less tangible concepts such as love and the true nature of human beings.

You’ll almost certainly discover new types of food and you may even pick up a decent bit of a new language too. When most Westerners see a non-East-Asian-looking-like person rapidly, loudly and intensely speaking an East Asian tonal language then it completely f*ckin’ discombobulates them, so that’s pretty entertaining.

Furthermore, If you often freely go out and about, then living in a place completely different from your own country will most likely give you heightened streets smarts. All of your experiences and everything you learn will be direct and real, whereas people back home will only “know” things that they’ve read about in a textbook or online.

I don’t care how many books you’ve read or how many PhDs you’ve got bro, if you don’t have firsthand experience then I’m not listening to sh*t about what you’re trying to tell me about sociology.

More importantly, you’ll learn new things about yourself, such as what you’re capable of, what your interests really are and what you truly like and dislike. Ultimately, you’ll come to understand the type the people and environments you need to surround yourself with in order to live a content life, as well as gain a better idea of what type of lifestyle will truly bring you genuine happiness.

Traveling and living abroad can cause you to discover things about yourself that you never would’ve found out about otherwise.

5) Traveling & Living Abroad Can Make You Become a Real Person with Real Values

Back home, too many people derive their entire identity solely from what people around them, institutions (such as postsecondary education) or the media tell them they should be like. Society instructs them on what they should value, how they should interact with other people, what they should find funny, and what thoughts/behaviors are acceptable/unacceptable.

Facebook and other social media networks incessantly churn out generic assertions, and people are like, “Yup! I agree! That is so me!” Consumers of media are basically manufactured into walking repositories of regurgitated data and opinions, just repeating sentences, slogans and buzzwords that they read somewhere. This is where creativity dies.

Living in a contemporary Western society, you don’t ever have to be wrong. Facebook, Youtube and other media channels’ algorithms will generally only expose people to things that align with what they already believe, and hide anything that would challenge their beliefs or values.

People back home may go their entire lives without altering or changing their values or beliefs in any meaningful way.

Traveling or living abroad, on the other hand, allows you to observe and experience raw, unsheltered, real situations. Your observations and experiences can then contribute to producing true authentic values into your very core. These are values organically forged through lengthy psychological processing of real-life firsthand experiences; not just secondhand values implanted in your mind and quickly consumed.

You could see people living in actual, true poverty yet appear happier than most people back home.

You might experience pure unconditional kindness from a complete stranger, who helps you genuinely because they see that you’re upset.

You may even encounter someone from a completely different world who understands you in a way that people back home never could.

You could see true cruelty and exploitation.

You may observe firsthand the massive wealth disparity that exists within the world, or even just within one city.

You might witness very good things happening to bad people and very bad things happening to good people.

Both the good and the bad you see and experience will shape you and how you view the world, other people and yourself. Your values and views will be made of actual substance, and not be as hollow as somebody’s who has never actually experienced life outside of the internet. You’ll have an actual personality that was bred from real experiences.

This will instill in you a pure, quiet confidence that stems from deep within yourself; people who had their values superficial inserted into them from the media will never understand that. This is why people who have weak secondhand values get so upset and defensive anytime their values and views are challenged.

Traveling and living abroad can forge authentic true confidence in yourself that will be derived from deep inside; you won’t need validation from anyone and you’ll be immune to haters.

6) Traveling & Living Abroad Can Put Your Problems into Perspective

Back home, it’s easy for some people to get stuck in their own world and think that their problems are monumental and debilitating.

Like, “My friend said a mean thing about me behind my back.”, “That girl didn’t message me back.”, “I don’t like this person because they’re more successful than me.”, “Someone said something that I don’t like on the internet.”, I don’t f*cking know.

At the time, these can seem like massive, debilitating issues and impenetrable barriers to living a happy life. However, when you get out into the world and witness a jillion human lives interwoven into the never-ceasing cycle of the infinite complexities of the world, you realize that really, you’re not the center of the universe. With that realization comes psychological detachment from your now-seemingly mild problems.

Getting out and feeling connected to the world can help to make your problems seem not so severe.

On a more day-by-day scale, if you’re stuck in your head and stressed out about something, then you can get out and go see someplace you’ve never seen before. Being exposed to new and interesting things will kind of shock your brain into becoming present in the moment. You’ll be focused in the Now and less trapped in maladaptive thought cycles; you’ll “snap out of” whatever had you so bothered.

7) Traveling and Living Abroad Allows You to Take Control of Your Destiny

In most Western countries, your entire destiny is basically predetermined. It doesn’t matter what career you choose, if you want to earn enough money to exist in their game (their society), you will almost certainly need to go to postsecondary school, usually university.

It doesn’t matter how f*cking smart or creative or motivated you are. It doesn’t matter how much you would actually be able to contribute to society with your skills and talents. You need to pay about $150,000 into their pyramid scheme if you hope to get a job that will earn you enough to be above the poverty line.

In today’s world, almost everything taught by universities is freely available over the internet, so what are you paying for really? You’re primarily just paying for a piece of paper, and most employers are required to only hire people with that piece of paper. You’re essentially just paying to buy into their pyramid scheme, and to trap yourself into a life where you can’t leave. Thus you’re forced to become another cog, maintaining that the wheels of the system keep turning.

So, of course, almost everyone needs to take out student loans. After this, you are f*cked for life. Your debts ensure that you need to get a full-time job immediately after graduating. Now you’re working 9:00-5:00 (at least), 48 weeks a year, and you can’t stop.

Why can’t you stop? To begin with, you’re now $150,000 in debt. Besides that, you need (not want, actually scientifically need) human companionship and love. Western society attempts to design itself in a way so that you need to spend money in order for somebody to love you. Of course, then you need to get married, because you need society’s permission to love somebody and live with somebody. Then you should buy a home, because what type of person would love or marry somebody who isn’t going to own a home. So now you’ve got a mortgage.

At some point, some people realize that they don’t want to play Western countries’ game (society) anymore, and so they walk away from the table. They realize that Western countries’ game isn’t the only game in the room, they realize there are other games with fairer rules that aren’t trying to enslave them. Thus, they go traveling long-term or move abroad. Like, “f*ck your game, I don’t have to play it anymore.”

When traveling and living abroad, you can own your life. You can decide what you’re doing each and every day; you don’t need anyone’s permission. You can just wake up and do what you feel like doing. Of course, you still need to earn money, but in 2021 remote work is taking over the world. Furthermore, the amount of money you need to earn is a fraction of what you’d need to earn back home, and you aren’t suffocated by extortionate bills, debts and expenses like you would probably be in your home country.

Being free to do what you want and not have anyone or anything tell you what to do will eventually change something within your psyche, like a lion kept in captivity half his life who’s just stretched his legs running across the savannah for the very first time.

Be free lion homie.

As a result of this, you develop a feeling of being in control of your own destiny and life. This contributes to a sense of freedom and confidence, like nothing and nobody owns you. Although you’ll probably have less money than what corporate slaves back home have, your mind will be rich, and free. Personally, I’d rather be poor and have my time and mind liberated than be a slave to a system where I can’t be myself and my time/mind aren’t my own.

When Vietnamese President Ho Chi Minh spoke these famous words, he was referring to a nation, but I think the idea applies on a personal level as well. It’s a message about not selling out and not allowing external forces to control your destiny.

Ain’t nobody taking my f*cking jellybeans from me yo.

Although traveling or living abroad generally has mostly positive effects on a person’s character, sometimes something goes wrong, like having an adverse reaction to a vaccine.

Here are 3 ways that traveling or living abroad could actually make someone a worse person:

3 Ways Traveling & Living Abroad Could Make Someone a Worse Person

1) Traveling & Living Abroad Could Actually Make Someone Become More Closed-Minded

Immersive traveling and living abroad by nature is such that people will inevitably encounter things that will challenge them mentally. Some people may not respond well to these challenges and may become overwhelmed. Basically, they may have trouble adapting to an environment that is so different from their home country.

Traveling or living abroad can sometimes present you with challenges that people back home couldn’t even begin to comprehend, but it’s up to you how you psychologically respond to those challenges. This will determine what type of person you become.

The difficult, yet beneficial thing to do would be to see these challenges as opportunities to overcome, thereby resulting in psychological strengthening and growth. However, going through this process is the path of greater resistance, some people’s psychology may take the easier route instead.

In situations of conflict, the human mind tends to naturally project blame outwards as a defense mechanism of the ego. Often this blame is most easily directed toward the place they are in.

For many people, psychologically it’s easier to just blame an entire country/culture than it is to for them to take a look at themself and consider how they could improve themself, or to understand that someone going through immense difficulty while traveling or living abroad isn’t necessarily anyone’s fault; sometimes, someone can just be just a victim of circumstance.

At this point, these people may return back home with hardened xenophobic attitudes and never travel outside their country again. That’s fine, people have a right to that, of course.

Sure man, sounds like you should probly stay there then.

What’s problematic though, is when people like that continue to live abroad, while thinking that they and their home culture are superior to the place where they are living. Thus, jaded Expatronizers can be born, lingering in a foreign country while maintaining closed-minded, xenophobic, condescending attitudes.

2) “Traveling” & Living Abroad Could Actually Make Someone Stagnant

When I was 23, I arrived in SE Asia with a backpack (still haven’t left, not even for a day). Initially, I stayed in a couple of different highly-rated popular hostels. In these hostels, I would sometimes see some people who didn’t leave the hostel for days; they’d just watch movies, look at their phones and then at night play drinking games with other Westerners. I’d hazard a guess that people are probably not going to be expanding their minds, making profound memories or becoming more diverse, worldly individuals if they don’t ever step foot outside of a Western establishment.

Furthermore, in almost every major traveling destination in the world, there is an expat area. These bubbles are dedicated to creating an artificial Western environment. Often, people will get caught in these areas for weeks, months or even years on end, surrounded by the same types of people, places and ways of thinking as back home, like a transnational all-inclusive resort.

These Venus flytraps can siphon years and an unnecessary amount of money out of people, all without contributing to any sort of real personal growth. A Bubblepat is not necessarily directly going to become a worse person, but they might spend months or years of their life without going through any internal changes whatsoever, besides getting fat and maybe losing their motivation and sense of adventure.

3) Traveling & Living Abroad Could Cause Someone to Drink Excessively

Most travelers and expats find that alcohol is a fraction of the cost as it was back home. Naturally, this can contribute to excessive drinking.

Furthermore, when traveling or living abroad, people don’t often have the same level of responsibilities or societal rules imposed on them as they did back home. This can also contribute to excessive drinking.

Finally, in my opinion, meeting new people, experiencing new things, discovering more about yourself, going through introspective growth and having an unknown future can all additionally contribute to excessive drinking.

There are some ways that excessive drinking could make you a better person, but there are probably more ways that excessive drinking could make you a worse person, see Excessive Drinking Vs. Excessive Sobriety for more about that.


So what do you think?

Has traveling or living abroad made you a better person in any way?

Do you think it has made you (or anyone you know) a worse person?

If you’ve already spent years abroad, then how do you think you would be different if you had never left your home country?

Conversely, if you haven’t yet spent much time traveling or living abroad, then do you think it could change you?

Some questions to consider, or let’s hear what your thoughts are in the comments.

Safe travels,

James

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Mat
Mat
9 months ago

Superb writing! The Bubblepat….never heard the phrase but it’s very very common and your analysis is spot on. Also a lot of people where I am from(New Zealand) consider a two week holiday to Australia or uk to be an overseas experience.