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Throw yourself into the world and you’ll be pleasantly surprised with what it throws back. - Matthew Sterne, Travel Writer

There is nothing like the feeling of tingly anticipation when you are flying to a new destination and the pilot announces that you’ll be landing shortly. A peek out the window is your first glance at the new world before you. Unknown lights twinkle below and as the plane descends the dark earth approaches. The exhaustion gives way to excitement. The ache of long hours spent airborne eases to a welcomed restlessness. You have arrived and whatever happens now will be an adventure. Why we travel is a personal reflection on the individual. We travel for work, for a much-needed holiday, to visit faraway loved ones, to find ourselves, to lose ourselves. There is no shortage of travel inspiration out there, but we wanted to know more about travel and its influence, from those that really know what they’re talking about. We’ve had the privilege to hear from some of today’s top travel bloggers and writers. These people don’t just know travel, they quite literally make it their business. So when they shared with us their life-changing travel experiences and the countries that have impacted their world vision the most, we took notes. A lot of notes. We’ll be hearing from: Our List of Fantastic Contributors Why is travel at the forefront of many life-changing, horizon-broadening experiences? That excitement we experience upon arrival in a foreign land is just the beginning. As Henry Miller famously put it, “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” Numerous studies have shown that travel is a major trigger for personal growth. An article published last March in the Atlantic details the impact of travel on a person’s creativity, among other effects. As Adam Galinsky, a Columbia Business School Professor has found, "Foreign experiences increase both cognitive flexibility and depth and integrativeness of thought, the ability to make deep connections between disparate forms.” When we are exposed to an unfamiliar environment, we are automatically and intrinsically rewiring our brain with the wash of new sounds, smells, sights and other sensations we experience through travel.

Which destination impacted your vision of the world the most?

Countries that Changed their Vision of the World Many of our contributors agree, the more unfamiliar you are with a place and its culture, the more likely you will experience a deeper understanding of the world, and perhaps of yourself. Abby Roule told us how Spain changed her: Spain - A Quote from Abby Roule Sonja Holverson shared a similar story. As a 19-year old university student from the United States, Holverson fell in love with Hawaii’s cultural diversity during a weeklong holiday. She ended up living there for seven years: Hawaii - A Quote from Sonja Holverson Growing up in any Western society instills a certain ‘box set’ of beliefs. While these vary slightly from country to country, a few themes remain consistent whether you hail from Canada, Germany or the U.K. The freedom of expression, the emphasis on the individual and a high quality of life are all familiar Western concepts. These ideas, among many others are challenged when travellers experience a completely foreign culture. The majority of our contributors agree, if you desire a horizon-broadening travel experience, head east where the culture is radically different from back home. During his time travelling through India, Matt Sterne, a South African realised: India - A Quote from Matthew Sterne India’s exotic mystique coupled with its cultural depth and variety have attracted conscious-minded travellers for centuries. From Kipling to Elizabeth Gilbert, India remains one of the world’s most impactful countries. In Lonely Planet’s survey of over one thousand travellers, India topped the charts, closely followed by Southeast Asia. In countries like Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and China, travellers are exposed to a very different set of cultural norms. In these cultures, many travellers learn how the emphasis is on the greater community rather than the individual, and how the majority of people live without many of the conveniences we might take for granted. Melvin Bocher, who is originally from Cologne, Germany, recalls how his trip through Indochina helped him appreciate the more important things in life: Thailand - A Quote from Melvin Bocher If you're looking for a cultural shift, it's not always heading East where you'll get your fix. Emily discovered Columbia in the West, with the main discovery being the huge difference between past preconceptions and reality: Colombia - A Quote from Emily Luxton Rather than cultural shifts, sometimes it's past events that can shape the energy of a destination, as Mrs O discovered during her visit to New York City: New York City - A Quote from Mrs O It’s one thing to read that 783 million people do not have access to clean water but quite another to witness it. When you see women and children queuing at the community well to pump their daily ration of water, the cold fact becomes a part of our personal narrative. Experience is life's greatest teacher and travel exposes the traveller to unparalleled experience. When we travel we are not only experiencing a place, we are experiencing its people, and its the people who tend to have the most profound impact on us. Bosnia - A Quote from Lisa EldridgePerhaps travelling through Malawi or visiting Indonesia won’t change the course of your life, but it will change you in some way. You might not feel the change, it might take weeks or even years for the affects of your travels to be felt or recognised.  Travelling bravely into the unknown and embracing unfamiliar cultures and customs are important steps for broadening your world vision, but what else?

How to get the most out of travelling?

Many of our contributors’ life-changing travel experiences shared similarities. While they referred to many different destinations around the globe, in the end it didn’t matter where they went. What did matter was that their experiences shared a few essential qualities that led to personal growth and a richer understanding of the world. Almost all of the travel bloggers and professionals touched on one vital component of life-changing travel: going at it solo. Travelling alone seemed to be more than just an occupational habit, it was recognised as a contributing factor of life-changing travel: Solo Travel - A Quote from Kiersten Rich If the thought of travelling by yourself leaves you feeling vulnerable that’s alright, it’s a normal reaction. And it’s true you will be more vulnerable to whatever travel throws your way. Without a companion to lean on you will be forced to not step, but leap outside of your comfort zone. Lisa Eldridge hit the nail on the head: Solo travel - A Quote from Lisa Eldridge Asking for directions, eating a meal, exploring a city, and taking an overnight train on your own will push you to meet new people, ask for help when you need it, and understand what matters to you the most. Do you like spending more time in museums or do you prefer exploring a bustling market? Can you deal with overcrowded public transport or will you pay more money for a private cab? Do you seek out conversations with other tourists or are you drawn to the stories of locals? Through her years of travelling for both business and pleasure Mrs. O has learned this about herself: Solo travel - A Quote from Mrs O But what if we weren’t born with the ‘wanderlust gene’? If trekking across Mongolia or spending six months on the road in South America doesn’t sound like your cup of travel tea, no worries. Many of us are more than happy with our all-inclusive resorts and postcard worthy holidays. When asked the difference between a tourist and a traveller, none of our contributors ranked one above the other. Instead they related the inherent differences.

Is there a difference between a tourist and a traveller?
Some want to wake up at 6am everyday - others just about make it to breakfast before it finishes. And the fact that we have so many choices makes the world so different. And interesting.” - Mrs. O
The word "tourist" is often said with scorn, especially among those who consider themselves (ourselves) travelers. That's elitism, and I'll admit I've been guilty of it. I'm trying to get better. To me, tourists are visitors with limitations, most notably, financial, time, and personal obligations. Travelers, on the other hand, are visitors with flexibility.” - Evo
“A traveller is also a tourist, but a tourist is not a traveller. A traveller is more the individual traveller, who also likes to only book a flight without any accommodation or maybe the first few nights. They like to explore things themselves or in small groups. A typical tourist likes the comfort package tour, all arranged, inclusive tours, transfers, meals.  Both can be found in the luxury and budget segment.  But that's only my two cents and in the end it does not really matter. The most important is, that people do travel and explore different destinations and cultures.” - Melvin Bocher I'm not actually a fan of the tourist/traveller debate because it tends (on the traveller side) to be quite elitist, with many people seeming to look down on anyone they say isn't travelling the "right" way.  Plus, far too many people utter the phrase "I'm a traveller, not a tourist" whilst sitting in a backpacker bar eating a burger... which is pretty much my definition of a tourist! - Emily Luxton“For me, a tourist is someone who is looking to visit the major monuments, tick the boxes for the “must-see” sights, and generally doesn’t venture much off the beaten path. Of course, I think this is all changing. People are more and more interested in travel blogs and “authentic” places to visit when they go to a new city. A traveller, for me is someone who enjoys finding the local spots, getting the most authentic experience, and putting themselves out there as they learn more about the destination and themselves. I’m also pretty sure that we are both tourists and travellers. How could you visit New York without visiting the Empire State Building? Or Madrid without stepping on Kilometro 0 with a wish to return one day? But at the same time, I want to go to the tapas bar where the locals eat and find the best little coffee shop in Queens. We can choose which hat to wear and enjoy them both equally.” - Abby Roule
“I don't believe in travel identity, and I don't think there is a certain travel "hierarchy" that distinguishes someone as a tourist versus a traveler. We are all on a journey as travelers, so whether we take a selfie in front of the Eiffel Tower or choose to couchsurf and only eat where the locals do, it doesn't make one person better at traveling than another. Travel should be able learning about the world, satisfying wanderlust, experiencing and respecting local culture and having life-changing experiences.” Kiersten Rich

And lastly,

“A tourist is rich in money and the traveller is rich in time and they are both jealous of each for both. So the tourist has this mad dash for three weeks and has an incredible time whereas the traveller takes his or her time and slowly wanders the streets and chats to the locals and learns about where he or she is. This is my point - a tourist wants a holiday and a traveller wants an education. As Paul Fussell once said, “travel was conceived to be like study, and its fruits were considered to be the adornment of the mind and the formation of the judgment. The traveller was a student of what he sought.” - Matthew Sterne
Take away...

Experience teaches that it’s less important where we go but how we return; and if that is enlightened after spending time in India that’s great. And if it’s feeling refreshed after charging your batteries in an all-inclusive resort in Mexico, that’s great too. Whether you are travelling to Bhutan or Benidorm the point is to keep travelling because chances are, you will come home with your horizons broadened. How much depends on you. Travel has the power to teach. It has the power to tear down prior belief systems and rebuild them with the tools that travel gives us; understanding, fortitude and gratitude.

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” - Terry Pratchet, A Hat Full of Sky
For the full list of life-changing countries from our contributors click on their names below for full answers.

Ana Silva O'Reilly's Full Answers:

  1. What is the one destination that has impacted your view of the world the most? And why?

I will never forget the first time I visited New York City - I was 21 and I went with my sister, who had just turned 18. For the first time ever, I really felt I was ‘in the centre of the world’ and never before felt the energy, the rush, the noise of a city before. Our visit was a year after 9/11 and it was all still very raw - and visiting the World Trade Centre site was a moment I will never ever forget. I have recently visited the area, 13 years later and I felt exactly the same way.

  1. Do you believe there is a sort of "recipe" for a life-changing travel experience?

I travel in a very particular way - which has been improved over the last 30 years. I don’t tick things or places off lists - and I never pack my itineraries. If I like a place, I make plans to return - so my best memories of say Paris or Rome, involved 5 hour meals and watching the world go by. And a few glasses of wine.

  1. In your opinion, what is the difference between tourist and traveller? And do you think the difference between the two has an effect on the places we go?

Some people need to go the x places before they die, others need to pack in as much as they can in a short period of time. Some want to wake up at 6am everyday - others just about make it to breakfast before it finishes. And the fact that we have so many choices makes the world so different. And interesting. When I go somewhere, I want to have a real sense of place - in style, of course - because for me, and as my mother always taught me, ‘if you leave home, it has to be better’. I want to have the local food - which doesn’t mean it has to be from the street, to be real, I want to meet people who live there and want to know the best places for shopping. And I can do that - whilst someone else may be obsessed with the fact that there is no Starbucks. One thing that I always do, is plan where I eat, way in advance - get advice from readers more and more - it kills me when people say they went to country X or Y and ‘the food was terrible’. Yes, that burger you chose to eat at the main square probably wasn’t the best idea. Julie Falconer's Full Answers:

  1. What is the one destination that has impacted your view of the world the most? And why?

For me it's less a specific destination and more the experience of traveling extensively across the world that has impacted my view of the world the most. Seeing vastly different cultures and societies and learning the ways they function has opened my eyes to different ways to viewing the world, and that has had a big effect on me.

  1. Do you believe there is a sort of "recipe" for a life-changing travel experience?

I don't think there's any one recipe for a life-changing experience because experiences like that are very personal. What is life-changing to one person could be neutral to another, and vice versa. It's more important to focus on what might be life-changing for you as an individual and seek out experiences accordingly.

  1. What is one travel experience that really changed how you see the world, and/or see yourself?

Studying in Nice when I was 18 changed how I saw the world and how I saw myself. I hadn't traveled much before then and I really discovered my love of travel then. It was a great experience to explore Europe and see a lot more of the world than just where I grew up in California. It had a lasting impression on me, and resulted in me studying in Prague, working in Paris and Brussels, and ultimately living in London. Melvin Bocher's Full Answers:

  1. What is the one destination that has impacted your view of the world the most? And why?

?I've traveled for 3 months through Indochina and visited Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam & Laos. Before that trip I mainly explored Western countries and a few others. But Indochina is so different, culture wise and also from the standard, compared to European or North American countries. We were backpacking and were limited to budget and what to bring along. Even with a rather small budget of around $500 per month (+ flight costs etc.), we realized quickly on which high standard we live and travel. Locals who had so much less, seemed to be also very happy, welcoming us and sharing meals with us. We had an amazing time with many awesome experiences. Then we arrived back home and fell into a huge and emotional hole. The Western world started to suck us in again... but never completely!  ;-)

  1. ?Do you believe there is a sort of "recipe" for a life-changing travel experience?

?I would recommend to travel at least once for a longer time. I would suggest to do so with 3-6 months. It's OK to have some good budget to do so, but it shouldn't be too much either. That will get you out of your comfort zone and that's when you realize that you actually don't need that comfort zone to feel happy.

  1. ?In your opinion, what is the difference between tourist and traveller? And do you think the difference between the two has an effect on the places we go?

?A traveller is also a tourist, but a tourist is not a traveller. A traveller is more the individual traveller, who also likes to only book a flight without any accommodation or maybe the first few nights. They like to explore things themselves or in small groups. A typical tourist likes the comfort package tour, all arranged, inclusive tours, transfers, meals.  Both can be find in the luxury and budget segment.  But that's only my 2 cents and in the end it does not really matter. The most important is, that people do travel and explore different destinations and cultures.

  1. ?What advice would you give to people wanting to make the most of their travel?

?My advice is not to plan everything. OK, get as much information about a destination as possible, so that you know what you could do, but don't stick to this then. Get lost and explore the place. Also do not worry too much about things. Just take it spontaneous and step by step. It will all work out, maybe not as you have had in your mind, but then this will be a good story to share afterwards. Evo Terra's Full Answers:

  1. What is the one destination that has impacted your view of the world the most? And why?

Spending three months in a sleepy little boarder town in Thailand (Ranong) really opened our eyes to the differences between cultures. There were obvious similarities: the haves vs the have-nots, corrupt government and fringe activists demanding radical change, the abundance of nature vs the paved-over spaces. And that's what really struck me. Growing up in Western society, we're conditioned to think that "developing nations" such as Thailand are homogenous societies. But as it turns out, cultures around the world are pretty much the same as they are "back home". The game might be played differently, but there's an equal number of pieces in play -- if not more. Humans, as it turns out, are a little complicated and don't fit into nice, neat boxes when looked at in large groups.

  1. Do you believe there is a sort of "recipe" for a life-changing travel experience?

As Dr. Zaius once said "Don't look for it, Taylor. You may not like what you find." We didn't set out to have our lives changed by traveling. But like so many others have reported, it just happened. I suppose that if you spent a month in a brand new five-star all inclusive resort 12 times in a row, you're life may not be all that impacted at the end of a year. But assuming you're not insulating yourself from the real world, you're bound to see/feel/taste/experience things that will change you.We are the sum of our experiences, after all. We're a combination of the good, the bad, and the multitude of stops between those extremes.

  1. In your opinion, what is the difference between tourist and traveller? And do you think the difference between the two has an effect on the places we go?

The word "tourist" is often said with scorn, especially among those who consider themselves (ourselves) travelers. That's elitism, and I'll admit I've been guilty of it. I'm trying to get better. To me, tourists are visitors with limitations, most notably, financial, time, and personal obligations. Travelers, on the other hand, are visitors with flexibility. They (we) find novel solutions to the financial and time restrictions of tourists, and are typically free from restrictions in their personal lives (hooray for self-sufficient offspring and responsible siblings!). This absolutely controls where each group can visit, though one isn't necessarily better than the other. A high-paid executive has the money to afford a three week vacation in Monaco, but hasn't the time to spend three months cycling along the Mediterranean coastline.  Lisa Eldridge's Full Answers:

  1. What is the one destination that has impacted your view of the world the most? And why?

Travel for me is an education that you can’t get from a text book. You meet the people and suddenly their history and life is real. There are so many destinations out there which have impacted me but the biggest one has to be Sarajevo in Bosnia. Learning about the Bosnian war which took place from 1992 to 1995 just tore at my heart strings and the Bosnian people’s strength, solidarity and resilience moved me like no other destination has. The history became even more real when I met a woman on the train whose father had been captured during the war and had managed to escape. Being here was the most humbling experience and made me realise that although there is suffering in the world, there is also hope. It completely changed my perspective of travelling from wanting to sightsee to wanting to find out more about the people from within those countries.

  1. Do you believe there is a sort of "recipe" for a life-changing travel experience?

I believe that being open and taking each day as it comes is the “recipe” for having a life-changing experience. Life can take us in so many different directions and when you try to control the experience it becomes harder and more challenging. Travelling alone you’ll find out what really makes you tick, you’ll overcome your fears and you’ll find out what truly makes you happy as you spend hours contemplating life on the road. Letting go of the outcome and allowing each experience to happen, allows your journey to flow naturally and in the way that it is meant to.

  1. What is one travel experience that really changed how you see the world, and/or see yourself?

During a recent trip to the Caribbean, I began to see how women travelling alone can be perceived in this region of the world. Being a woman in my late-thirties, I experienced a lot of attention from guys and it wasn’t until I was with a tour guide that he explained that many “older” western women come to the Caribbean looking for a Caribbean man. Up until this point I had always been friendly and smiled at people as I travelled. I realised that this could be taken the wrong the way and if I wasn’t interested in a man, I should even avoid eye contact. I didn’t even want to engage in conversation with a man in case he got the wrong idea. I became more withdrawn and changed the way that I had always been to fit in with the culture. It was definitely an eye-opener. Sonja Holverson's Full Answers:

  1. What is the one destination that has impacted your view of the world the most? And why?

When I was a 19-year old university student from the US Pacific Northwest I went to Hawaii for a week’s holiday and stayed 7 years. I never imagined that such a rich cultural diversity could exist in one small place in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. There were not only Hawaiians but also Samoans, Filipinos, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Caucasians and more. However, the complexities of different cultures and historical immigrants trying to live in harmony was not always successful and I learned that the world is full of injustices and paradoxes.The Polynesian culture practices the concept of an extended family which offers unconditional love to those who need it. It also taught me the efficiencies and joy of slowing down, not wasting time and energy by worrying and still get the job done well. A practice was revealed to me which was personally unknown yet existing worldwide, of greatly treasuring one’s ancestors and cultural legacy as well as the land upon which one lives.

  1. Do you believe there is a sort of "recipe" for a life-changing travel experience?

Yes, there are some fundamental approaches to travel in order to be life-changing. Firstly, the most obvious to me are open your mind and close your phone. From there it becomes a more personalized “recipe” since everyone starts at a different stage in their life when they depart, regardless of age, and they all have lived different life experiences beforehand. My recipe usually includes travelling alone which puts me in a position to need to communicate with everyone around me and which also keeps me focused so that I don’t miss anything. I try to at least plan the logistics ahead of time (memorizing the layout of the region) and if possible, research the culture ahead of time because it’s the people that will change your life the most.I try to at least plan the logistics ahead of time (memorizing the layout of the region) and if possible, research the culture beforehand because it’s the people that will change your life the most.

  1. What are some of the most profound affects travel can have on someone, and how do those happen?

I believe

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