Since my return from a study abroad trip to Italy, I have been able to reflect on what I gained from my experiences there. After going back through my journal entries and photos, I came to the conclusion that cultural knowledge is the greatest profit of any investment in international travel.

This is a very different philosophy than the one fed to us by social media handles like Instagram. We've all seen the girl with her bright, breathtaking destination vlogs. It's so easy to believe that the joy of travel is found in the hype of sharing it with our followers. Sure, seeing sights and snapping pics are fun ways to enjoy being in a new place!

But, none of that can compare to immersing yourself in a culture different from your own. Not just by trying a new dish or visiting popular tourist sites, but by learning about the history of your location and what it means to the local population. Real, human connection with people of other nationalities is such a beautiful thing. So much can be learned from spending time with people that different from you! After being surrounded by different customs, mannerisms, and rules of etiquette, I was reminded that my way isn't always the best or only way.

My small-town worries fell away, and I took the time to remember the diversity and enormity of this world.

I believe that international travel is especially valuable to those who have lived in the same place for most of their life.

It's human nature to get caught up in our own little worlds, only caring about the things that affect us or those around us. Changing the scenery begs us to think about the worries and cares of people thousands of miles away. Experiencing other cultures leaves us grateful, inspired and more prepared to see the world as a population, not just countries on a map. In a world where news media flashes a stock photo of a foreign country and spouts accusatory language, it is vital that we consider the humanity living within these far-off places.

If you are considering traveling overseas for the first time, I encourage you to think about the wealth of knowledge and experience that you could gain by putting money and time into traveling.

I have never met someone that regretted a well-planned excursion. Money might be tight and your schedule might be packed, but if you are meant to be in a place, you will find your way there. Put a few dollars away, plan out your time, and do some fundraising if you have to. Your brain and heart will thank you for giving them a new worldview to see life through.