Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Why travel?

Angels Landing from the valley floor,
Zion National Park, Utah, USA
To people who haven't been bitten by the travel bug, the desire to fly, drive, walk or sit on a train for hours just to go look at streets, buildings, trees and people in a different city, state or country can seem baffling. Why go all that distance to spend time outside your comfort zone, around people you may not be able to understand, in a place where it may not be safe to drink the water or eat certain types of food and where you're not unlikely to get lost at least once a day? Why sit on a rattling bus overnight, or trek through bug-infested forests up to altitudes that make you light-headed? Why bother with all the hassle and headaches of traveling, when you could stay comfortably at home?

If you asked 50 travel junkies those questions, you'd likely get 50 different answers, but I'd be willing to bet that most of them wouldn't be all that different from mine, at least in spirit: Because, in getting lost, you'll stumble over people and experiences you didn't know were missing from your life. Because finding a way to communicate with people who live a world away from where you grew up shows you just how how much you have in common, despite the differences in your lifestyles and looks - and because those differences can open your eyes to new ways of doing things, or make you better appreciate your own life. Because beauty - in architecture, in nature, in people - is worth seeking out. And because nothing is more exhilarating than stepping over the edge of your comfort zone and free-falling into as-yet unknown experiences.
Les arènes: Inside the Roman amphitheatre,
Arles, France.

Travel can be terrifying. If you venture away from home often enough, there will inevitably be moments when you want nothing more than to be back where things are simple and figuring out how to interact with the people around you without offending anyone or making a mockery of yourself doesn't take every ounce of brainpower you have. You will likely get sick or hurt at inopportune moments, be scorned by locals who think you should have stayed at your home and well away from theirs, and wonder, once you're past the point of no return on some adventurous outing that required you to sign away the operator's liability for your life, what the hell you were thinking.

Those moments, however, are few and far between and almost always make you laugh at some point down the line. Most of the time, travel is wonderful. You can admire the colors in a national park and wonder just how long it took for such beauty to be carved out of the earth. You can stand at the Pont du Gard or the Roman amphitheatre in Arles and marvel at how such huge constructs have stood for so long without mortar. You can take a walk or a hike and wonder about the thousands of other feet that have been there - who they belonged to, what those people saw, their reasons for coming. You can exchange a smile with someone who was raised in a culture radically different from yours and treasure a brief conversation that you'll never forget. Or you can sit, at a café, on a park bench, on a curb, and watch the world go by, with all its similarities to and differences from the world you know.

Looking back down the path to Inis Mór's
Dún Aonghasa, toward the Irish Sea.
As long as you mind your manners and respect local customs, there's no wrong way to travel. Whatever it is that you're looking for, whatever your reasons for going, as long as you're satisfied with what you see, do and experience, you're traveling the "right" way. For some, that "right" way means setting out on an epic adventure without an end date, while for others it's a long weekend close to home or a week a short flight away.

Travel is personal, with a lot of self-discovery wrapped up in any trip, but whether you travel alone, with friends or with a group, it's also something to be shared. Each new memory you make expands your view of the world and every experience you have can be helpful to the people around you, those you already know and those you have yet to meet.

So, why travel? Pick a reason, there are hundreds. I think a more difficult question to answer is "Why not travel?" I can't think of a single answer that isn't outweighed by the benefits of travel and the discoveries it yields. Can you?


The Endless Terrain said...

Before getting "bit by travel bug", I never like getting lost (aka I try to plan everything) ... but sometimes, not everything goes by plan, and my best experiences have been those when I literally "get lost". It's fun to get lost and explore a city w/ another stranger/tourist who's also lost.

Jessalyn Pinneo said...

I completely agree, Harrison - I'm also an incorrigible planner, but I've come to love wandering the places I visit with no firm destination in mind. Occasionally getting lost leads me to things I would never have discovered otherwise, and is actually kind of fun.

Heather said...

"As long as you mind your manners and respect local customs, there's no wrong way to travel." Amen :-) There are different ways and the important thing is that you're traveling -- if that's what you want to do :-)

Jessalyn Pinneo said...

Exactly, Heather - thanks! :-)

Lorna - the roamantics said...

YES! even the $ reason can, in most cases be remedied by a creative plan, finding work abroad or WWOOFing and/or re-prioritizing your life a little. agree- and i double dog dare you ;)

Jessalyn Pinneo said...

Absolutely! The ability to plan/earn creatively has been one of the best lessons I've learned from the travel blog community so far. Thanks Lorna - and you're on! :-)

Ayngelina said...

I dont know if I could tell you why I travel, there is just something inside me that pulls me to leave.

Ive never been able to describe it but others have told me they felt the same.

Jessalyn Pinneo said...

I think feeling that pull is reason enough. As long as there's something else out there to experience, I don't think it will stop (nor would I want it to!).

Texas City Hotels said...

Yeah, why travel is a good question, hard to answer for me, but one sure thing I've discovered during my trips is that if you need to know who you are and what you are capable of, going on a trip is the perfect means to find out:)) Travelling challenges me on every possible level of decision-making and it sure needs courage. That's all I have to say:D. Hope I haven't discouraged anyone:P

Jessalyn Pinneo said...

Traveling definitely does speed up the process of figuring yourself out! And helps hone those decision-making skills. :-)

Kelly Dunning said...

"Because, in getting lost, you'll stumble over people and experiences you didn't know were missing from your life."

I couldn't agree more with this! I never really understood how true this was until I started traveling, and it has changed my life. I loved this blog post! Thank you!

Jessalyn Pinneo said...

Thank you so much, Kelly, I'm glad this post really resonated with you!

Arai Utan Ujan said...

Living Life aLive. thats what trvel mean to me =)

"Travel is personal, with a lot of self-discovery wrapped up in any trip, but whether you travel alone, with friends or with a group, it's also something to be shared."

happiness is when u share ~ Christopher McCandless (Into The Wild)

xplorer said...

some people are just too afraid of getting lost . But getting lost is actually an opportunity to explore.Travelling doesn't always meant going to faraway destination but for me it's merely of looking things from a different perspective. You will be suprised what you can find in your backyard just by looking at it in a different way

xplorer said...

i'm a fellow traveller my self and i love the way you elaborate on TRAVELLING