Vacations. They’re not just an excuse for taking stylish selfies and buying cheesy t-shirts (although both those things are great fun). Vacations can also be an enriching experience, one that can enhance your life in numerous ways. There’s more to traveling this world than layovers and expensive souvenirs. Here are some of my favourites:

You’ll Fall in Love with Local Cultures

Traveling often is great. Traveling widely is even better. Exposing yourself to new cultures can be an eye-opening experience. You will learn things you never knew, not only about the world but about yourself. How would you ever know if you’d enjoy authentic Mexican salsa music without hearing it played in its home country? Or tasty Canadian poutine without visiting the Great White North? Be warned, though, once you fall in love it can be difficult stopping yourself from trying to stow away in Tijuana or buy a piece of Ottawa real estate of your own.

It Gives You a Chance to Unwind

A getaway is supposed to be an opportunity for you to, well, get away. Not simply from your hometown, but from the all-too-familiar stresses of routine life. Staycations are great, but it can be hard to unplug from your responsibilities without changing your surroundings. Traveling helps you disconnect from work, school, and everything else hanging over your head, and helps you reconnect with your larger world and with your passions and hobbies.

You’ll See Things You Can’t Imagine

The Grand Canyon. The Eiffel Tower. The World’s Biggest Ball of Yarn. The world is full of wonders both awe-inspiring and baffling, many of which can only be discovered if you go out searching for them. There are things that can only be experience in person; sure, you can watch a video of Niagara Falls on YouTube, but you can’t feel the spray of the water on your skin. You can learn a lot about Abraham Lincoln from reading a history book, but you’ll learn a whole lot more seeing the log cabin he grew up in firsthand or visiting the Pennsylvania battleground where he gave the Gettysburg Address.

It Brings Loved Ones Closer Together

The best thing about traveling is getting to do it with someone you love. It could be a close friend, significant other, or even the whole family. Every flight, cruise, and train ride becomes an adventure when you’re surrounded by the people that make you smile and laugh the most. Better yet, all the things mentioned above? The sights? The leisure time? The cultural discoveries? They all help strengthen bonds and build shared memories. Those are two souvenirs you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life