“With all that is going on in the world today, why do you travel? I’d be too afraid to travel.” It’s something I hear a lot when I speak about my love of traveling. Most of the time, I’m not a person that lets fear hold me back. Usually, I try to use that fear to propel me forward so I can try and conquer that fear.
Growing up in a military family where constant moving and traveling often to new cities and countries was the norm, I developed a wide-eyed curiosity about travel from a young age. When it came to travel, fear didn’t register in my brain like it does when I think of some of the things that do frighten me. I realize for some people the opposite may be true.
Despite what the media tries to present about the world around us I wanted to share some reasons that you should get out and see the world. This list also serves to inspire those that maybe haven’t been bitten by the travel bug yet.
“We wander for distraction but we travel for fulfillment” – Hilaire Belloc
“Once you have travelled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.”
– Pat Conroy
“People don’t take trips… trips take people.” – John Steinbeck
Travel fulfills our curiosity and adds something to our life that can never be bought and can never be taken away. When you travel you have the opportunity to visit and see these destinations you’ve glimpsed so vividly in Technicolor on your TV screens. You get to breathe the air and smell the flavors that punctuate the air, take in the beauty. The whole rest of your life you’ll have those memories that you can pull from and savor and know how sweet life can be. Travel gives you something to look forward to. Pretty much everyone I’ve ever talked to before they are going on a trip has been excited and enthusiastic about what is to come. Travel began shaping my life when I was young. As I’ve gotten older I’ve found it still continues to enhance my life by improving the quality of it.
How has travel enriched your life?
“Don’t listen to what they say. Go see.” – Chinese Proverb
“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign” – Robert Louis Stevenson
“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries” – Aldous Huxley
While books can provide a vast knowledge and wealth of information about other cultures and their history, there is nothing that can compare to actually visiting a country and experiencing it all, firsthand. Seeing, touching, tasting, hearing and immersing yourself in something is how you come to learn about a culture. What may be a cultural norm in one country will differ in another, but you won’t always know why or understand it until you’ve spent time there. Getting to experience another culture’s customs, beliefs and history in person builds a respect for that culture that allows you to understand why that person or people gets upset when their culture or identity gets appropriated or misrepresented.
Travel allows us to become part of the landmarks, monuments and hallowed ground we’ve heard so much about. Even though we may feel removed from it, we are all a part of history. Standing in the places where history was made makes it come alive for you. I remember visiting Robben Island and seeing the tiny cell Nelson Mandela spent eighteen of his twenty-seven years incarcerated in and thinking how did it not break his spirit. Touring the Auschwitz concentration camps is an experience that still resonates and affects me. Travel has made this history a part of me.
What cultures or history did you learn about while traveling that became a part of you or affected you in some way?
“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” — Maya Angelou
“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.” – James Michener
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain
Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case, but for most people that have had exposure to other places, cultures and people, it can help breach the divide that many have erected out of fear of the unknown. But, you have to want to genuinely get to know and understand another culture and be open to learning and realizing that many of the things you thought you knew of said culture and people, may not be the truth or the reality that many would have you believe.
Travel allows you to form your own opinion, make up your own mind and hopefully embrace learning something different that may be new to you, not just rely on what you’ve heard, or what someone’s told you or even what you’ve seen on TV.
You have to be open to engaging with local people and cultures, sitting down and sharing a meal, experiencing their lifestyle and having conversations. I’ve found that when I travel and most people learn I’m an American, they have an open curiosity to learn or talk about America. Sometimes they even have questions about Black culture. If you’re willing to sit at the table and open up the discussion for dialogue and be willing to listen and learn from them also, not only do you walk away with a rich and unforgettable experience, you also have a better and deeper understanding of someone you didn’t know before.
Eating a meal in a local’s home and getting to interact with them and see how they live with your own eyes will show you that we’re not that different. I often think fondly of the night I spent in Moscow at a Russian lawyer’s house, eating and talking about guys and dating to the wee hours of the morning, few years ago. We’re still Facebook friends. I wouldn’t have had that experience if I didn’t decide to travel.
What was an experience you had where you traveled and had preconceived notions about a people, a place or culture and it was changed or altered by the time you left?
“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” – Anthony Bourdain
“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends.
You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things: air, sleep, dreams, sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.” – Cesare Pavese
“I dislike feeling at home when I’m abroad.” – George Bernard Shaw
I know it’s easy to stay in our comfort zone because it’s where we feel safe and unchallenged, but that’s what’s so great about travel. It pushes you out of the boat and forces you to sink, swim or ask for a life preserver. It pushes you to the edge and sometimes over it and forces you to try something new and different, and that’s not a bad thing. Change and unfamiliarity isn’t always easy, but it can grow us in new ways. Travel does just that when it forces you to deal with the unknown, the other, the foreign: whether it’s new people, new foods, new environments, new cultures, new situations or new choices. Sometimes some of us need to be shoved out of the boat to get a wake up call that maybe our life could be headed in a better or more satisfying direction. Breaking out of your comfort zone can get you off your routine and show you things in your life you may have been blind to before. Travel helps you be more open to getting knocked out of the boat every now and then.
I’m a person that likes to be in control and travel has slowly and sometimes painfully taught me that I control nothing. I’ve been lost enough, missed a few flights and dealt with situations where I’ve had to rely on others, all things outside my level of comfort. When I’ve let go, relinquished control and just went with the flow, a situation that started off as a crisis usually turned into something good.
What was an experience you had while traveling that pushed you out of your comfort zone?
“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” -Gustav Flaubert
“Travel far enough, you meet yourself” -David Mitchell
“And if travel is like love, it is, in the end, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end.” – Pico Iyer
Travel will teach you a lot about yourself. Especially when it comes to dealing with situations you have absolutely no control over. How you handle a long-haul flight fraught with long layovers and having to deal with other things outside your control can be very telling. I’ve been in airports where I have seen people some trying situations bring out the good or the worst in people. It’s in these moments that we get a glimpse at ourselves. Either you’re going to like what you see or you’re going to realize that maybe you could do with some improvement. Travel will definitely teach you how to relax and go with the flow. You’ll go places where buses don’t always come when they say they will; you’ll make plans just to have nothing go right and you either and then you’ll have those quiet moments of introspection where you’re sitting in a desert some place and it’s so quiet and something is revealed to you. I love travel for the discoveries you make about yourself.
When I started long-term travel, I remember having this ‘aha’ moment when I was ordering ice cream and they asked me if I wanted a cone or a cup. At that point, I couldn’t have told you the last time I ate ice cream from a cone, because I was always busy, working. The ice cream usually melted away in a cup before I could finish because a call came in I had to take. I discovered that I was burned out and hadn’t been practicing self-care. From that day on, I made it a point that I would take better care of myself.
While traveling what was a discovery you made about yourself?
“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” – Jawaharial Nehru
“One’s destination is never a place, but always a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller
“Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.” – Seneca
When you see the pyramids in Egypt, the Taj Mahal, Petra, the Grand Canyon, Colosseum and the list goes on, you will marvel and be awestruck. In your mind, you will try and fathom how all this beauty and splendor is even possible. Seeing these wonders inspires you to want to do something amazing, conquer something or even just see other magnificent things. Travel awakens things within us that encourage us to reach for something bigger than ourselves. It opens up your mind to new possibilities, ideas, ways of thinking. It provides these incredible experiences that grow us, shape us, mold us, change us and ensure that we don’t leave the same person we were when we arrived. When I made the decision to travel for a year travel inspired me to write and now I’ve put out a travel book and will publish a fiction novel later this year.
How did travel inspire you?
“Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.” – Jack Kerouac
“And then there is the most dangerous risk of all — the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.” – Randy Komisar
“To get away from one’s working environment is, in a sense, to get away from one’s self; and this is often the chief advantage of travel and change.” – Charles Horton Cooley
When we’re able to get time away from work the first thing most people think about is going on a vacation or seeing a new place. That’s because traveling can be fun and relaxing. For some it’s an escape from their everyday and for others travel is a way of life.
Then there are the people that I hear say they will travel when they have more money, when the kids leave the house, when they don’t have so much responsibility. The thing is that tomorrow that you keep talking about may never come. Each day is a gift that we have and you need to live your life to the fullest. Yes, we all have responsibilities, obligations, bills to pay, etc., those things shouldn’t take away from you enjoying your life right now.
Maybe for some people it’s the getting to a destination that’s holding you back. I know isn’t always fun, especially if you’re someone that hates or has a fear of flying or you’re prone to seasickness; but once you arrive, what a time you will have. Whether you’re the adventure seeker or the type that just enjoys relaxing by the pool or on the beach, travel offers some very fun experiences. Travel is a way for me to enjoy my friends and family. My family and I still talk about an amazing Hawaiian cruise we took back in 2009. While Hawaii is beautiful, what made it amazing was getting to share that experience with the people I cared about the most.
What’s the most fun, memorable travel experience you’ve ever had?
As you can see, I believe there are many reasons that travel is necessary and important to leading a life filled with joy, inspiration and fun. Travel has given me so many rich and meaningful experiences that I cherish. It’s taught me about myself and kicked me out of my comfort zone, forcing me to grow. I hope that travel provides you the same thing.