This article was originally posted on Pravassa.com—a wellness travel site—as "Changed By Travel," and is reposted with permission from the author.
It's a rare occurrence when you can point to a moment in your life and say. "That's it. That's when I changed. That's when everything changed."
Yet I know mine: July 5, 2013, 3 a.m.
At that moment, my best friend and I decided to leave our cornfield-surrounded town of 1,500 people and drive to Canada. Fast-forward 12 hours and we found ourselves at a hostel in Toronto. Having never been around so much diversity of people in such an intimate setting, we were overwhelmed to the point that we skipped the shared meal space and hunkered down with homemade peanut butter sandwiches outside on a park bench. We were far from our creature comforts and the familiarity of our small town. And we swore that the next day we'd head for a proper hotel.
Three years have passed since that fateful night and I can now look back at my 19-year-old self with pride and smile at the memories. Turns out my best friend and I did not leave the hostel — we ended up staying there for an entire week. What changed? Us! We decided to open up and connect with others, which resulted in friendships that are still going strong today.
I followed my bliss.
In that one week, I gained more life experience and learned more about the world than school ever taught me, and further travels in Europe taught me even more. Without cell phone service I finally learned how to read a map. I learned that Europeans never ask for a "doggy bag" (the snickering gave it away). One of my most cherished memories is when a chef from Switzerland cooked me a meal, something that never would have happened back home. Through this, I learned that the simple things are often the most treasured.
That one-week of travel changed my life, teaching me my biggest lesson: How to interact with people who have different backgrounds and opinions. In the past three years I cannot count how many hostels I've stayed in during my travels through Spain, Italy, Ireland and much of the U.S. I've made countless friends and memories, gained confidence, and said yes to a ton of new opportunities.
Every time I think about my past travels, my hearts fills with joy and propels me to always be planning what is next. Whenever someone tell me they are thinking about taking a trip I automatically yell, "DO IT!"
Then I pause to add, "But only if you're ready to be forever changed."
Inspired to hit the road yourself? Check out these other must-see destinations:
WATCH: Z Living's inspiring Travel & Food series
Tell us in the comments: Can you pinpoint a moment that changed your life completely? What was it?