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Why Travel

Why Travel

Because when you leave behind the familiar, you can’t help but be changed by the foreign.

Because comfort zones become constricting zones over time.

Because the world was meant to be experienced, not imagined.

Because you’ll meet people who are different than you. (Are we all the same? Not really, but that’s OK.)

Because it will frustrate and annoy you at times, and you’ll be better because of it.

Because you are afraid, and it’s always good to make peace with your fears.

Where to?

That’s up to you—it’s a big world out there. The choice of destinations is far less important than the choice to depart.

When you return you’ll look back on your journey and think, Did that really happen? Was I really in the land of _____?

And then you’ll go through reentry and reverse culture shock, and then you’ll face a choice. Option 1: to reminisce, to think about those days when you were brave, and that time when dreaming was something you did wide awake.

Option 2: to take another look at the map, and start planning the next adventure.

Which will it be?

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Kyoto Cemetery: Stuck In Customs

69 Comments

  • Jason says:

    I like your opinion that the choice of destination is less important than your decision to depart.

    I’ve been fortunate to travel to over 30 countries. Many friends/colleagues think I’m lucky to have done so. They’re always telling me about their plans to travel once they’ve saved money, find the time, etc. But what they don’t realize is that they can experience many benefits of travel without going far from home. It doesn’t have to be a far off exotic land. Some of the most interesting places I’ve visited are close to home.

  • Loreen says:

    I really want to plan my next journey I am having trouble with fitting my wanderlust ways into the family schedule. How do you free yourself up from the people your heart is close to ..in my case adorable grandsons ?

  • Nikki says:

    This question comes up frequently when I tell people about the places I would like to go. Great article!

  • Katie says:

    I have a massive list of “next adventures”: Papua New Guinea, an indie overland from Ghana to Senegal, Ethiopia, studying dance in Colombia. I’m studying at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, which means I have a LOT of flexibility in terms of where and how I earn a degree, so I plan on incorporating “travel studies” into the next four years. Very excited!

  • Liv says:

    All this travel sounds such an upheaval doesn’t it? But it is so SO rewarding in so many different ways. It is easy to hide behind excuses and takes bravery sometimes to break out and explore the world, but wonderful if you do!

  • Gemma says:

    People ask me that all the time ‘why travel’ and ‘why did you go for so long?’ I’ve just done a 6 month around the world trip – for the third time. Thanks for articulating so succinctly and passionately what I try to tell people. One guy asked me once ‘what are you running from?’. It’s more like what I am running TO! And YES, I’m already planning the next trip. I’m absolutely hooked on Morocco. Thanks for your inspiring work.

  • Brandy says:

    Last January, 6 weeks pregnant, I left the US for the first time to go to Kolkata, India to help survivors of human trafficking. I couldn’t have imagined what I was in for if I’d tried. I couldn’t have prepared myself for the culture shock. And the morning sickness did not help. On the way back, landing in JFK, after the 15 hour plane trip from Dubai, I finally understood why people kiss the ground when they get home.

    I had amazing experiences with the kids in the shelters of India, but truly, aside from those precious girls and meeting other inspiring volunteers, I felt like a complete failure – as a volunteer, a woman and an American. I just wanted my comfort back.

    It’s taken me these last six months to process my experiences – and to honestly say I’m glad I went. I wouldn’t recommend the trip pregnant – to anyone – and if I’d know what I was in for I wouldn’t have gone. Looking back, tho, I’m glad I didn’t know.

    And I think I’m finally ready to plan my next adventure.

  • Kate says:

    I love the way you sum up why we adventure. It’s that desire to expand, expand, expand and not grow complacent. You elegantly and simply explain it. So good and such an affirmation for this fine Monday morning!

  • Totally agree with your article. I’ve been traveling all summer; UK and Paris, Chicago & Lake Geneva. Next stop Taos and Santa Fe. It was my first trip to the UK and Paris and it was fantastic. My favorite quote from you is “the world is meant to be be experienced and not imagined.” Travel inspires me through art, architecture and landscape. I do think people have some basic similarities but we express and experience them differently through our cultures. I am fiercely opposed to a homogenized world! What fun would that be?

  • Leyla Torres says:

    Thank you for prompting. I’m starting to plan my next trip today.

  • colton says:

    Reading this makes me miss my amazing adventure in the Demonican Republic. I saved 2 years so I could go build a home for my friend Renaldo. I did it with the Villiage mountain mission project in Luperon. It was the best experience of my life and I love the Demonicans for there great generosity even though they had almost nothing, and there compassionate love. I’m only 17 but it’s my goal to travel the world as well I’m already trying to make plans for when I graduate. And I’m super bummed because my girlfriend is in Italy already done with Rome and the Vatican and now in Sicily, without me! Well get ready world I am not far behind!

  • RalfLippold says:

    Traveling can be done by train, plane, car,on foot or via ship – bringing you outside your known territory.

    Really the only way?

    Going to a café next door, can be a traveling experience who may have never encountered.

    Why?

    It can happen – if you allow to – that you meet people from all across the world in one place, pretty close to your home. They may be tourists, workers or scientists staying at your city, or even your neighbors from the next suburb over.

    How cool is that?

    Tonight we plan something like that and it is called OpenCoffeeClubDresden and if you are in Dresden that night, just come on over and join the conversation.

  • Liz K Zook says:

    My mom and I are artists. I’ve always felt like, other than talent, life experience is what makes art. I’ve done a lot of things, but I’ve never really traveled. The farthest I’ve been from the “Heartland” is Georgia. My mother has never left North America.
    I’m planning a trip to take us both to Paris in May. First step: passports. Second step: parler Francais. Third step: saving. Any trips for visiting Paris? We want to stay for at least a week.
    Eventually, I would also love to see Africa and Haiti, too.

  • I am 9 months into my travel sabbatical in Latin America, and I already know Option #2 will be my choice over and over again.

  • Cathy says:

    I couldn’t agree more. And that’s why I’m passing this along to my 20-something sons!

  • Absolutely true. I imagine myself as a travel-fiend but have never really traveled on my own. I am working toward a big trip next spring that will stretch my boundaries, big time. I am pursuing the idea of “getting lost can help you find yourself.” I anticipate getting lost many, many times in England!

  • Jorge says:

    Option 2!

  • Well put. It’s good to get out of comfort zones, face fears, and learn that there’s so much more around us than our own little space. I know what you mean by reverse culture shock–definitely had a huge dose of that after some long trips. Felt like I couldn’t even understand English, and everything seemed strange. Travel has made me feel much smaller on one hand, and much bigger on the other.

  • Option #1, for sure! I’m not a world traveler yet (finances be damned), but there’s so much to see and do close to home that “traveling” doesn’t always have to involve exotic, far off destinations.

    I’m just getting back from a long weekend in Northern Wisconsin – cultural mecca it ain’t, but I did get to attend a fish fry with the locals, visit a museum dedicated to America’s deadliest forest fire and learn about a new region, just a few hours away from home. Cheap and easy to do, plus I get to learn more about the area I’m calling home right now :)

  • Vicky Edwards says:

    I certainly agree with the general sentiments expressed here. Travel really opens your mind by challenging the ruts that have usually formed there and hopefully, you can become a more understanding and better person as a result.

    …I wonder about the phrase: ‘because the world was meant to be experienced, not imagined’?

    I tend to fill my life with a whole variety of real-life experiences, but I am currently trying experiencing more by staying still. Perhaps always travelling always keeps you busy, seemingly doing something useful; a buddhist perspective may find more value in simply sitting in one place, meditating.

    What do other people think who have travelled a lot?

  • Lisa says:

    Option 2!!!! Thank you for the simple reminder we all need to realize we are often the ones placing limitations on ourselves!

  • Bryan McLean says:

    I personally think its important to travel. we need to remember though, that travelling is more important than the destination. most of us need to live within our means, so try to be sensible here. how much of your own country have you seen, are there places you can visit that are just as close. travel need not be expensive, but leaving to come home is really a big deal, for me at least. a change in perspective is very healthy, and sometimes you can’t really understand where you are right now, to see what parts of your life might need changing. So travel, my new habit this year is to visit places in the city I’ve never been to; take a different route, go to a different restaurant or coffeeshop; the money you were going to spend was the same, but the experience of being somewhere new can a great way to change up any slump you might feel you’re in.

  • Donna says:

    Well, most are changed by the experience, but I remain amazed at the number of people I talk politics with who claim to have spent an extensive amount of time elsewhere and not discovered a single thing that any other nation does better than the US does it. Not even our ridiculous work / life balance. Travel is wated on some people.

  • Chris Stott says:

    I’m always looking at that map. My wife and I have our trips planned out for years to come, including allocated savings for a couple of big things.

    I do reminisce too much though. But when I do, it just sparks up the travel fire within.

    The world has so many places to visit, yet so many places I want to return to. This is why travel is amazing for me.

  • This is a great post this week. I have been running a series of posts about being a digital nomad over the past week and this ties in quite well with my own personal experiences.

    I am a virtual assistant and currently have my office at home. I have 2 children of school age and I have always wanted to travel and see the world.

    My business is completely online and I recently travelled to the US on a family vacation however, I took my laptop and my iPad with me. It was excellent as I was still enjoying myself but I kept in touch with my clients and my level of service remained the same.

    I have plans to move next year to Spain. This is something which I fear doing however, it must be done.

    Thank you Chris for helping me make the right choice – OPTION 2.

  • Rob says:

    I travel to realize how fortunate I am but also more importantly how beautiful the world and people are. Cheers!

  • Pamela says:

    This came at a great time for me. My kids and I have set a goal to experience (not just pass through) each of the 50 states in the next 5 years (inspired by you BTW.)
    We started with 5 weeks in a tent through the southwest this spring, which was amazing, but a lot of effort as the only adult on board. We were loosely aiming towards and exloring the northwest for this fall. Now that fall is almost here, I’ve been kind of complacent about figuring out any details. Thanks for the kick in the pants. Enough slacking- time to motivate. That big and beautiful world is just waiting for us! :-)

  • Thomas says:

    I would add that another reason to travel is not only because you’ll meet people different than you, but because you’ll find that people all over the world are in most ways the same. Customs may be different, but they overlie the same basic human condition. Often we fear other cultures, but, to quote George Orwell:

    “If he were allowed contact with foreigners he would discover that they were creatures similar to himself and that most of what he had been told about them is lies. The sealed world in which he lives would be broken, and the fear, hatred and self-righteousness on which his morale depends might evaporate.” –1984

  • Pamela says:

    I meant *exploring* the northwest.

  • Amanda says:

    I love this. It must be inspired as last night, I told my SO that I’ll be leaving for 40 days in the jungle to re-aquaint myself with me… Thank you. This simply cemented my belief that life is for living.

  • Hristo says:

    Option 2 of course!
    Next two weekends is Malaysia and Myanmar in September for 10 days!

  • Just back from so many travels this summer – Chile (for the first time), last week Cancun/Mayan peninsula (for the tenth? time) and having serious re-entry struggle! The further off the beaten path I go, the more I long to stay there.

    Why travel? Because the further you go on the outer journey, the further you go on the inner journey too.

    For me, it’s Option 2. The map is always out, always open. Africa and Dubai on deck.

  • Corinna says:

    I have always found that each journey into the world brings a parallel journey deeper into myself, and that just as my eyes and mind are opened so is my heart. Self knowledge is deepened by each small step in knowledge of the world. It’s a huge gift to receive, this ability to wander.

  • Jamie says:

    I’m just starting Year 2 of my “Become a More Confident Traveler” adventure and it has been amazing. Each trip has helped me stretch a little farther, grow a little braver.

    Just this week I called France (I called FRANCE!) and attempted French as I booked reservations in Paris, Avignon and Nice. I was nervous but everyone I spoke to was lovely, friendly and helped me grow a bit more. When I had to make another call I was nervous about, I shrugged it off, telling myself, “Hey, at least we both speak English!”

  • Deborah A. says:

    ‘Reverse Culture Shock’ is the best part of traveling. Trekking to far away lands forces you to look at your own way of life with a fresh perspective. Unfortunately, financial and bureaucratic roadblocks (visas, passports, etc.) keep too many from experiencing these ‘eye-opening’ , life-changing excursions!

  • David says:

    My wife and I have started leading cultural tours to different places. In our participants’ hotel rooms was waiting for them a little Moleskin journal with a couple of quotes:
    “The fool wanders; the wise man travels.” – Thomas Fuller
    …and my favorite:
    “The world is a book, and those who do not travel only read one page.” – Augustine

  • Heather Rae says:

    Love this. And all so true. I just returned from my first long trip abroad (Thailand, Cambodia and Laos), and it was the best thing I could ever have done for myself. I am now currently going through both, option 1: I’m actively reminiscing and am in amazement that it wasn’t a dream, and option 2: I’m planning my next big adventure!

  • matt says:

    I believe if more people travel and see the world, there would be a lot less hate. People wouldn’t be as close minded and the world would be a better place.

  • Nina Babel says:

    Interesting factoid is out of the $308M ppl living in the US, only 30% own a passport, 75% in the UK, and 60% in Canada. I have discovered travel is often viewed as a luxury to people and it’s amazing to see how flying internationally deems out of their comfort zone.

    Reminiscing and being brave is my therapy. 2013 adventures are already in draft form, but I don’t rule out spontaneity either.

  • Love this post! Always inspiring messages in my inbox. I have yet to begin my dream of traveling but I’m working on it. :))

  • Daryl says:

    When it comes to travelling I’d agree that it’s the journey rather than the destination that’s important. Too many people get caught up in the ‘where’ rather than the ‘why’. I’ve had some of the best and most unique experiences in the places I’ve least expected.

  • Celeste Melton says:

    I’m going to Whitby tonight. My husband & teenage daughters are already there. Back Wednesday when then arrives his mates, and they go deep sea fishing – no females on their boat allowed!

  • Katrina says:

    Right now I am working on how to get to Thailand to teach English so that I can volunteer for UNICEF and travel the area. I have been looking into working for Pizza Hut for a few weeks/2-4 depending on if I can get some money from HARO or other place. I also have been looking to places to travel short distance so that I can get to know the area better as a tourist and as a local. Cheers and Safe journeys to all.

  • Gerard says:

    I love spreading the travel bug… one line I use is very similar to option 2.
    Spin the globe around, pick where you want to go, and start planning the next adventure.

  • This would have to be one of the best descriptions of the impact that travel has on you as a person. I love your opening quote … when you leave behind the familiar. Thank you for your continued inspiration and insights.

  • Victoria says:

    Wonderful piece and agree wholeheartedly. What is strange is that I just posted something about why people emigrate on my blog and I said (and I sincerely think) that the number one reason after economic considerations is…..

    Adventure!

    Our family has done a lot of traveling and we’ve lived on three continents (we’re living in France now) and I’ve often been asked “why do you keep moving around?” I’ve never been able to come up with one good answer. All I can say is that it seemed like a good idea at the time and we have never EVER regretted doing so.

  • Louise says:

    Gosh I feel the need to board a plane RIGHT NOW after that article. I’m very curious as to how many followers are above 50 years old and living the life of non-conformity?

  • MacKenzie Hill says:

    There is absolutely nothing I love more than to travel.. I spend my days daydreaming the next adventure. I’ve traveled a lot in my life – but as a fellow traveler, with the travel bug, you know it is never enough. There is always more to see, experience and learn.. However – money is such a constraint. I am young, fresh out of college, and am trying to pay my own rent and make enough money to eat. All I want to do is travel… So what do I do?

    Sacrifice traveling and get stuck with dreaming about it every day… How do I change this?

  • JenLee says:

    “Why travel .. Because the world was meant to be experienced, not imagined.” True indeed!

    This article is an inspiration to many, travellers and enthusiasts that need a little push to keep it going. I love to travel. I love to see the world and it’s beauty.
    I will definitely choose option 2, to continue my journey and share my experiences to be an inspiration to many.

    Travelling gives me a sense of fulfillment. Being able to enjoy the things I love doing and making the most out of it. Nothing compares to new discoveries and new people met a long the way.

  • Gabriel says:

    I´m from Sao Paulo, Brazil.

    Everytime when I travel I want to move out my city… But it´s very different to enjoy a place when your visiting vs. when your a living…

    what do u guys think about that?

    best

  • khemet says:

    I am happy to read other peoples’ experiences of traveling to different countries. I also like the idea of just getting to know your surrounding area by taking different routes and venturing to locations that you normally passby. I am currently residing in Japan, been here for about 8 yrs. Living here is definitely a life changing experience, one that I will never forget. I hope to venture back to Europe, but I need to go back to the states for a refresher and hope to touch Canada while I am next door. Though I mainly want to travel to places for music (I am not a musician, well not a paid one) I really enjoy the enviroment and the type of people I meet during my travels. Travels wouldn’t be very interesting without the people.

  • Farnoosh says:

    I do believe I have been to that very spot on the photo – Tokyo, yes? I have a dozen photos by those red arches. It was our 2004 and first trip to Tokyo and the same trip that gave me reverse culture shock upon reentry to the US. I hated how I was treated versus how I was treated in Japan. I felt like a princess there and like a commoner here. You bet I had reverse culture shock. And every return trip from Japan gives me the same culture shock. Sigh, now I do miss Japan even more. This was a wonderful distraction. Thank you, Chris and do be safe in your travels.

  • How can you travel like that? People have asked me this question for years.

    You simply just plan and go.

    We saved our money, quit our jobs, put stuff in storage, and backpacked from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail. During July, my 7 year old and I traveled by VW van 4500 miles in the west. With a mortgage, a kid, a husband and not a lot of money, in the past 10 years I’ve been to Canada, Mexico, South America, Europe, and Africa. Next week we leave for Burning Man (my 13th time).

    You’d be amazed how much is possible when you decide to go for it. Our son started camping with us at four months. Granted, I’m a wash n wear kind of gal. I like to cook, I like to camp, I’m not afraid to sleep in my car when I need to.

    Sometimes you do have to leave your children or spouse behind. Sometimes you can take them.

    But GO!

    And don’t forget to write!

  • vina lustado says:

    This is an interesting topic. I think that my answer varies depending on the time of my life, and the experience or wisdom gained over the years.

    Earlier in life, the answer was definitely option #2. It started when I took an extended trip to Europe at age 26 which changed my life forever. I sought travel to find myself, to re-assess my values, and always to keep from getting “too comfortable” with my job and the status quo.

    Even with a demanding profession in architecture, I managed to find ways to travel. Several times, I quit a comfortable position because I was disillusioned with life and my profession. I spent many months internationally to travel and volunteer. I did this during the recession in 1991, 2000 and 2008. I never regret leaving my job, even when I returned unemployed for many months.

    After travel to South America in 2008, my views of travel changed. Previously, travel was a way to define myself by seeing how other people live. Now in my 40′s, I see travel as a way to understand how I fit in this world, and how I can make a difference in my own community. I find great value in cultivating the relationships with the people I already know (at home and globally).

  • Shiroh says:

    Hey Chris, i saw your tweet that you were in Nairobi. Next time, make arrangements to sit and have a cup of tea…

  • I will never forget telling people I was going travelling for six months and having them reply “Won’t you get bored?” The first time I heard it I was flabbergasted and speechless. From then on I always replied “I’m prepared to risk it!” Given that six months later we packed up and went travelling for a year obviously we didn’t get bored. I think the ‘why travel’ list could run for pages.

    The hardest one to explain though is when you start to suspect you just have to, because somehow it’s in your blood.

  • Lesley says:

    I’m not sure how you climbed in to my mind and spoke my exact thoughts, but you did. Option #2 for me, all the way.

  • Travel opens our minds to see anew and embrace all the world has to offer.

    “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain

    “…nothing so liberalizes a man and expands the kindly instincts that nature put in him as travel and contact with many kinds of people.” – Mark Twain

  • Victoria says:

    @Gabriel,

    It IS very different to travel to a place versus living there but both are good.

    When you travel you have time to see stuff that even the natives may not have ever seen. My husband is a native of Paris, France, for example, and before he met me (20 years ago) he had never ever visited the Eiffel Tower or spent time in the 5th district. We are living in Versailles right now and most of my neighbors have never gone to see the castle.

    When you live somewhere it’s different because you get to experience more of the rhythm of life. Going to the market, for example, or talking gardens with your Japanese landlord. Looking for a job is especially challenging. But you figure it out and you wake up one way and what was once exotic and strange is your new “normal”.

    I am a fervent believer in “Love where you’re from but bloom where you are planted.” :-)

  • It takes a combination of both options to maintain the travel bug for me. The culture shock and boredom at home inspire my travel thoughts and motivate me into acting on them but continuous travel tends to wear me down.

    I suppose that traveling to enough places would allow for me to feel at home in foreign lands enough to recharge my travel batteries.

    @Gwendolyn

    I totally agree with you and Chris about travel. Whatever it takes to travel is worth it. I too will be traveling in a VW van that I’ve upgraded. Currently living in it to save up for my next trip.

  • John Sherry says:

    Travel because life is out there not in your room, on a TV set, in a book, or just your city. The world IS the learning experience and your mind, spirit, and understandings expand when you see more, connect to more, and meet amazing people the planet over. With over 250 countries and 10 billion people why only stick to your street and a small bunch of folks? Travel and see how far it takes you! Not to mention all the awesome food and lovely honeys…..

  • Gaston says:

    The other day I decided I’ll visit Japan after completing my PhD. Of course, that’s three years into the future, but that will give me time to get the money for the trip. As a student and traveling every year to Argentina (from Canada) to visit family, it’s kind of hard to save money.

  • Ugis says:

    Hello from Latvia, Chris and thank you for the post!
    I agree about importance of choise to departure. I also agree with RALFLIPPOLD -we can find an adventure even in our everyday environment
    I’ve grown in place (SU) and time when traveling abroad was a tricky privelege. There were a time I thought that only way of traveling was to go abroad. I had seen memorable places but I thought I wasn’t travel. I was so blind!
    For me everything changed when the children were born. I found that we can feel as a travelers even in a simple walk in the forest.
    Traveling is not about crossing a border to get near Eiffel tower or look into effervescent Niagara. Traveling is about crossing our inner borders and diving into our inner effervescent Niagara.
    Best regards and happy diving to all!

  • David says:

    I just read a great quote on why travel -

    “Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.”
    Gustave Flaubert, French novelist

    What better reason than to understand my place in the world and the people here.

  • It is just incredibly refreshing to get out and see different people, perspectives, and things. It lets us know there is more to life than our little, confined ideas and spaces.

    I sure am glad my wife and I decided on Maui for our honeymoon last month.

  • Cecile Missildine says:

    Loved this piece. Makes me want to pack the backpack right now as I remember the pleasures of exploring and wandering around the world. Anyone with ideas on where to go in Asia with my 5yr old & 7yr old?

  • Marty says:

    I leave for my second solo vacation in two days and never thought of it as brave. As a woman traveling alone people warn me left and right and sometimes it causes me to doubt myself. Am I asking for something bad to happen? Reading these stories I see I’m not crazy or alone in my passion for traveling. Thanks for the inspiration here!

  • iktomi says:

    No thanks but good for all of you who want to travel throughout this world. I have travelled within the USA to WDC and NYCNY as well as Kansas, SDakota, Idaho, Calgary- Canada, Montana, Oregon,WA, Utah, and CA and found it adventurous. Perhaps there is a challenge overseas but I never felt the need to look into it. Now if space travel was available, I might like to try that???just for that newness. I see plenty of the world on tv and the inet.

  • Geet says:

    I love Travel.
    Each time I come back home, I am ready thinking where to go next. We get so absorbed in daily routine (office, home and shopping) that we forget, World is too big, larger than the office (where we have a pretended life) and home (doing daily chores and watching TV/internet) and it enriches us is in so many ways.

    I travelled to Prague, Paris, London, Rome, Amsterdam, St. Petersburg (Russia), Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, San Diego, Miami, Mexico and Montreal…………I keep doing more and more
    I suggest to everyone, go out and Travel. be Carefree of the money.
    Money spent on Travel is Money well spent and an Investment.
    cheers!

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