I was recently prompted with the question of why do I travel. Now of course this isn’t the first time that I’ve been asked this or the first time I’ve done a deep dive into my thoughts on the matter. But the beauty of this particular kind of adventure is that my motivations for, experiences with, and lessons learned from travel evolve as I do.
Previously my motivations for travel stemmed from a deeply unsettling realization that I knew far too little about the world, and I wanted to right that wrong. I felt like I could not move forward with my life until I had seen the world. It was like researching for the great big assignment that is life. I’ve always been very (obsessively) thorough in my research.
Now that I’ve visited some 37 countries and spent hundreds of days on the road, I feel like I have a handle on those first objectives. I have seen the world, maybe not every little bit of it, but certainly more than most people have. I’ve rounded out my world view with experiences and perspectives that I could only learn about from beyond my country’s borders.
But I still travel, both because I want to and because I feel very strongly that I NEED to. As I’ve grown and matured, I continue to find lessons and takeaways in every single element of my travels. And those lessons evolve with me. Returning home from my first jaunts abroad, I came back with a sense of amazement about all the surface-level differences that exist between my world and theirs. Now I come back from travels with a set of observations about the interplay between cultural elements from one subset of the population to the next, and about the impact of the international political landscape on the formation of a society’s traditions. This evolution of my travel experiences manifests in a million tiny ways.
So why do I travel? The answer is constantly changing, but this is what is true for me today.
To Gain Empathy
I think empathy is the most crucial element to our collective existence on this planet. Every single person and culture and society is different, but nobody is right or wrong in how they choose to conduct their lives. The only way we can hope to live in harmony is if we commit to trying to understand each other. And I know that for me, I can understand and accept people better when I experience their world myself. People’s culture and values make more sense in context. You could pick out something from any society that would appear bizarre out of context, but when you see it where it came from, it all makes sense. And when you practice this empathy often enough, you can start to understand people without even necessarily seeing where they come from. I think in today’s global landscape, this is more important than ever.
To Grow Personally
I believe that we’re never ever done growing. There’s always something more we can learn or improve on. The day I become stagnant will be a sad day. I believe there isn’t enough time in even a hundred years to learn everything about humankind! And that’s why, as anyone who knows me knows, I have a greedy sense of urgency about my life. I want to see and do and learn all of it, and every day is a chance to work towards that goal. Travel aids me in this lifelong pursuit because it forces me out of my comfort zone and gives me stimuli that I wouldn’t otherwise have. In that way, travel accelerates my learning curve, and allows me to squeeze more into my years.
To Be Inspired
All those stimuli that I expose myself to when I travel are all sources of inspiration. Whether it’s for the creative work associated with my blog, like writing and photography, or for the other creative works I dabble in like drawing and design, my travels are a huge inspiration for me! When I see all the colors and designs of new cities, when I hear different languages and music, when I taste different dishes from around the world, my senses are awakened. These small details all influence how I think and create! And then as I flex my creative muscles, that allows me to think outside the proverbial box, and explore new and innovative ideas for growing my business or approaching problem-solving. It’s all connected in the big picture.
To Know What I Don’t Know
I’ve always known that I want to travel, even when I didn’t know why. I knew I wanted to see the world, but I didn’t know what I would get out of it other than some fun memories. Well travel has completely changed and reshaped my life. And when I think about the massive impact it has already had, I realize that there is so much potential for how it can continue to change me. But I won’t know how or in what ways until I go do it, so the only reasonable plan of action is to continue to travel and see where it takes me!