A pensive post on love of travel as I explore La Reunion and Mauritius…
The first time I stepped foot on an international flight, I was still in diapers – that annoying toddler that cries, poops themselves, and makes noise at inconvenient times. I promise you I’ve since improved my travel etiquette. The second time, I was in the third grade and my brother and I spent a week eating soft boiled eggs for breakfast and playing hide and seek in a German castle. I can’t imagine a better way to experience Germany for the first time. But since I’ve been traveling for longer than I can remember (literally) I think I’ve also taken it for granted. So why do I travel anyways? What do I love about travel? Why do I believe everyone should travel? I’ve been contemplating this recently, and I want to share with you all, and I want you to share right back.
Why do I travel?
But there’s more to it of course. Part of my drive to travel far and often is this desire to be so many different things, to try out so many different lives in the only one I have. Travel gives me the opportunity to be a million different things, even if just in my imagination, incompletely, or by proxy of meeting other people. Growing up in diverse Northern Virginia, I always had friends born elsewhere and hearing them talk about where they came from made me want to see it myself. When I was five, a Japanese kid brought sushi in to my daycare, and even though I still believe giving wasabi to an American toddler is totally cruel, it let me know that there are more ways to live / eat / dress / think ‘out there’ than the one I knew. I suddenly wanted to know what other food came from this Japan place, because that sushi (without the wasabi) was pretty damn tasty. So now that I’m old enough, I travel. My mom always says she’s traveling by proxy of my travels, but really it’s me living other people’s lives by proxy of being a guest in their world.
Oh, and it’s partly my parents’ fault as well. They were always saying stuff like “let’s go exploring!” and dragging my little brother and I out on spontaneous weekend trips, or using their own travels as material for our bedtime stories.
What do I love about travel?
Obviously, I continue to travel, even as a broke post-grad with a liberal arts degree and a pathetically low paying ‘job’ as a Peace Corps volunteer (a little over $200 a month! Yeah, I’m rolling in dough right now…) because I love it.
But why? I love the not knowing, the feeling of being somewhere totally unfamiliar, of being bombarded by new sensory experiences. I love the element of discovery and how it both inspires and satiates our curiosity. I love the stories I collect along the way – especially the ones that make others (and myself) laugh. I love the endless possibilities of foods to try and people to meet. Mostly, I love that travel makes life one constant adventure, and, well, as I doubt I will ever fulfill my life aspiration of becoming Indiana Jones or a pirate, travel is as close as I get.
Why do I think everyone should travel?
No, just kidding. Even if you’re not the most observant person and even if you only go a little ways from home only for a little while, I think the act of travel, exploration, and discovery does so much to widen the mind. A whole host of travel enthusiasts before me have touted this same idea, so there must be some truth to it. By leaving home, you learn about the world (hence, becoming ‘worldly’) but also about yourself. Even more significant, traveling has the potential to put people in incredibly difficult, stressful, and otherwise new and mind-boggling situations. You get lost, you don’t know the language, maybe a goat jumps on you while you’re biking or you step in human poop (both of which happened to me this past month) but you face the situation. In my opinion, how you handle these reflects your true self, gives your ‘self’ the opportunity to practice patience and tolerance, or on the other extreme teaches you what your personal boundaries are. Plus, there’s some really great food out there you probably haven’t tried yet, some really fantastic people you definitely haven’t met yet, and some really funny stories yet to be told.
Photos: (1) Travelers sitting on a dock in Kao Yao Noi, Thailand (2) Me demonstrating my awesome hitchhiking sign-drawing skills (3) A Buddhist saying tacked to a tree in Chiang Mai, Thailand