4 Things Travel Teaches You About Empathy

3 minute read

The benefits of travelling are endless—new surroundings, the opportunity to experience a different culture and way of life, to listen to another language, taste different food and escape from your reality. Luckily the enjoyment you get from travelling isn’t just good for your personal wellbeing, it can be great for your career too.

You’ve probably heard that we’re living in a candidate-driven market. But what you may not have realised is that the market is becoming increasingly more saturated. You spent years building loads of amazing expertise and skills, but you’re not the only one.

Many charity employers are looking for all-round candidates, making it tough to get your foot in the door. Candidates may be required to be formally educated, have both office and on-the-ground experience, a worldly awareness, cultural tolerance and empathy. ­­Fortunately, you can pick up many of these through travelling—by getting out and experiencing the world face-to-face.

So, are you ready to truly stand out in your next application? Here are four ways travelling can improve your empathy and help make you a better candidate for a charity role.

4 Things Travel Teaches You About Empathy

1. You’ll become a better communicator

It’s not always easy to keep in touch with family and friends once abroad. You might not have access to the internet or a reliable phone connection, and trying to navigate through time differences can be quite tricky. But being far away makes you realise how important it is to keep up communication, whether for your wellbeing, mental health or just to feel connected to your community.

It will also teach you to be conscious of how you communicate with people from different backgrounds and cultures. Everyone is shaped by different experiences and cultural codes and learning to be considerate of the differences is a big part of building successful relationships. This is such an important skill to have in the charity sector, especially, as you’re likely to be dealing with vulnerable people from a host of different backgrounds.

It’s really important from a business perspective as well. Talking to teams and departments ensures workflow is easy and no key information is missed. It’s a great managerial skill to have, or you could double up on your time travelling and learn a language while abroad­­.



2. You’ll learn what it’s like to be in the minority

Many minority groups across the world feel vulnerable within society. When you travel, you experience what it feels like to be in the minority—you’re the outsider, a stranger in a new land—and through this, you learn to empathise with those marginalised groups. Travelling abroad and being in a foreign place where you are different isn’t and shouldn’t be ­­negative, but sometimes being understood, fumbling over cultural norms and navigating your way around a new place can have its difficulties­­.

Whatever type of charity you decide to apply and work for in the future—whether its homelessness, refugees or autism—you can start to understand what it feels like to be in a minority group that feels marginalised and vulnerable, and how impactful your support will be.

4 Things Travel Teaches You About Empathy

3. Travel keeps you growing and moving

Once in a new place and out of your comfort zone, you’ll have the opportunity to grow. Experiencing new cultures and meeting people from different walks of life will enrich your own life and understanding of the world. Seeing first-hand how people live and the challenges they might face whether personal or political will help you grow as a person, widen your perspective of the world.

It’s important to see and experience different ways of living other than from your own community. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and understanding the context to someone else’s life is the quickest way to build empathy. Demonstrate to future employers that this will stand you in good stead to be able to offer support and care to vulnerable people or to feel passionate about political or worldly issues.

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4. You’ll learn people are all the same

No matter where you come from, a big buzzing city, a politically unstable country or a small village surrounded by nature, travelling will teach you that people are all alike. Perhaps not in the things they own, the routines they have, the food they eat or even the way they are brought up but rather in emotional connections, relationships and friendships.

Above all else, once you remove people’s differences, we are all the same in wanting friendships, to have families and be surrounded by our loved ones. The more people you meet and mix with from around the world, the easier it will be to connect with people on an emotional level, making you an asset to a charity.

So, whether you travel to lie on a beach or trek off the beaten track, it’s inevitable that you will mix and talk to locals. Be open-minded when visiting a new place and don’t be shy to show off how taking time for yourself to travel and see the world, can be a hugely beneficial way to spend your time.

Kaplan International Languages

Kaplan International Languages offers students the opportunity to study English, French, German or Spanish in over 10 countries around the world.

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