The Nomadic Life Travel

If Travel Destinations Were Lovers…

I heart Seattle

This is a post I’ve been contemplating for a few months. It’s still not perfect, so comments and critiques are greatly welcome.

Have you ever tried thinking of the places you’ve traveled to the way you would think of an ex-lover?

I spent an afternoon thinking of it once, and decided that if places were men, Seattle would be the one I fell head over heels for; the one with whom it was love at first sight. Madagascar would be an arranged marriage — an analogy that I think most Peace Corps volunteers can relate to with their country of assignment. Much like an arranged marriage, we have little decision in who/where we get paired up with, but like any marriage, struggle through the bad and revel in the good to make it work. I’d be interested to hear what others come up with.

Besides it simply being fun to think of your favorite travel destinations in the same nostalgic way you’d conjure up a great memory of a friend or lover who has (sadly or not so sadly) disappeared into the vast vault of our pasts, there are similarities in the way we have relationships with places and with people.

Considering how many pieces have been written about “a love affair with Paris/Italy/Bali, etc.” this notion isn’t too radical or new. I’m not the first to think of it, and unfortunately I can’t provide you with this great quote on the topic that I dug out of a book once. Maybe when I find that scrap of paper I scribbled it down on, I’ll insert it here, but in the meantime, I’ll try to summarize and expand on that great author’s point:

The relationships we have with places mirrors those we have with humans. We love them, we connect with them, we fight with them. They push us to grow and experience things outside of our comfort zones. Places, like people, have personalities — often because of the people inhabiting them — and either that personality strikes something within you and begs you to create a deeper connection, or leaves little lasting impression, like a stranger on the train.

I’m sure all of us who have traveled have that one place where, when mentioned, we can’t control our smiles. I’m sure all of us have that place that makes us overly excited when the conversation turns to “the best coffee shops in Seattle” or whatever your equivalent may be. And like lovers and friends, each individual place has a different effect on us, brings out a different part of our personalities, and inspires us each in its own unique way. On the other hand, there are those places that are like a bad friendship, where you felt your soul being sucked out of your skin and slowly shrivel up. For me those places are the “bus depots” of the world (the strongest of which is an actual bus depot in Antananarivo, Madagascar, with whom I had a strong, hateful relationship with, like an unhealthy relationship you can’t end because you’re too dependent on each other…)

Anywho, I’m posting this today, after a too long hiatus, because (and I kind of loathe to acknowledge it) it’s Valentine’s Day. I’m a Valentine’s Day hater, the concept is contrived and cheesy romantic gestures make me vomit a little, but hater or not, today’s a very relevant day for this post. It’s a relevant day for us to think not just of the people we love/have loved, but the places too.

So let me ask you all: If places were lovers, where would be your biggest love? Which place was your greatest romance?

The Nomadic Life Travel

Why Travel?

A pensive post on love of travel as I explore La Reunion and Mauritius…

Travelers in Kao Yao Noi

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?

Hitchhiking to HannoverIt’s in my bones; it’s what I know.

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?

DSC_2582So you can be run out of a cave by a giant boulder, duh.

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.

Your thoughts?

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