I’ve been thinking a lot about travel, particularly why we chose to move ourselves through the world in what we call “travel”. Why not just stay in one place? With our families, our friends, our lives? Why do we have this urge to, at times, seemingly complicate our lives, like going through security, loosing luggage, and waiting for delayed flights, to get to a new place on the earth?
I recognize that it is only through the privileged of having the money, time, and resources can one even think about travel. And I am lucky to fall into this cohort of people who can travel. Given the reality of most people in the world, is that they don’t know any other place than the one where they were born.
But even with unlimited resources, why is it that some of us chose to spend our time zipping around the globe? For some, including my mother, she would live a perfectly happy life, if she never stepped foot on a plane again. For others, including my father, there is this rush of excitement at the idea of going somewhere new. So, what’s the difference?
I have found these, as the top 5 reasons for travel.
- Self discovery – I ate a PB&J sandwich everyday of my life until the age of 22, without question or regret. My father still says, “why go out to dinner when there is good food at home?” Well, I finally have an answer, because either 1) there is company you would like to go out to eat with, or 2) there is good food to be eaten! By traveling, I have learned that I love a myriad of foods, whether it be eating chicken neck in Colombia or mashed yucca with shredded pork in Brazil. I have learned that life does not just exist solely in a PB&J sandwich. That the world is SO BIG and there are endless options. With an openness for trying new things, you can learn significant amounts about yourself, finding out about what things you like and what you don’t. This doesn’t just end at trying new foods, but also, goes for trying different ways of transportation, communication, shopping, partying, reading, writing, and living. In each new place, comes new experiences and a deeper understanding of what is important to you in your own life, and realizing that you have the freedom to make those decisions.
- Challenging how you live – I used to be the girl saying, “Oh, if I don’t have a coffee in the morning, I just won’t function.” Only a person who is so completely engrossed in their own routine, would be so blind to their actions to feel as if these were appropriate comment. With travel, you have sometimes skipped lunches because you are on a bus, or you don’t have a morning coffee, because the hotel you are staying at doesn’t serve it. And when you get worked up that you haven’t had your morning coffee, you begin to realize that no one else around you cares – not the people you are with, the hotel staff, other travelers. No one cares that you haven’t had your cup of coffee, except yourself. You are controlling your own emotions, about something as luxurious as a hot cup of coffee. And once you realize that your bad mood is because of something so stupid, a little voice in your head tells you that you should calm down, and that life can be just as happy without something like a cup of coffee. So yes, travel has challenged my routine and made me question what things are truly important and what are not.
- Continual learning – Travel can teach you a plethora about life – about history, politics, economics, culture, and art. Every place has its story. Its unique history. Its people who inhabit its lands. By learning about a new place, we open our minds to how people once lived and continue to live. We pick up new languages to be able to communicate with the people there. We take up their gestures of how they say hello, goodbye, or signal to someone to bugger off. Through travel, we seek to understand our humanity and draw characteristics from each culture and place that make us who we are as human beings. Above picture here, with the “hippie” (other Santiago who I met in Kenya, who I went with to build the chicken house. See full story here) on his birthday in Argentina, at his family’s house for an afternoon of family, barbecue, and celebrating. Learning to live like a true Argentinian 🙂
- Inspiration – We travel to be inspired, whether it be by landscapes, by historic buildings, by sunsets, by vast oceans, or by people. We have constructed all these things – cities, buildings, bridges, restaurants, apartments, all of it. But still, there is something in the absurdity of nature, in its stillness, in its tranquility, and its peace that give us an inner feeling of balance, as if we are part of this earth too. Even in cities, we plant trees, flower beds, and fruit and vegetable gardens. We love nature, because we cannot control it, completely. It is something greater than us, and opens our minds to something that makes us feel so small and helpless in the ludicrousness of this earth and our existence.
- Gratitude – Traveling without giving thanks for life, would be like trying to savor a cold glass of water on a hot, sunny day without a tongue. Or like a blind person trying to enjoy the Mona Lisa. I mean to say, impossible. Without the recognition of the beauty of life, the traveler might as well stay at home on their couch frantically flipping through Instagram, thinking about how great other people’s lives must be. We must give thanks, for being alive, to be able to move around the world, and having been given the resources to do so.
I hope travel will always be part of my being, given that I don’t die from Zika here in Brazil haha. But I don’t want to think of it so much as travel, but just as living. I want to understand how people live, just in different parts of the world. I don’t want to stay in fancy hotels or go to overpriced restaurants. I want to live like locals live, eating street food, walking on two feet, shopping at grocery stores, running in parks, and speaking the language.
I am grateful for this life I have been given, and travel has opened my eyes to who I want to be as a person and what I want to understand about life.
So, I’d like to know, why do you travel?