Why I Travel

(and an easy way you can, too)

So far this year I’ve travelled to California, Texas, Washington State, and Germany. Why do I deposit myself in semi-familiar or totally unfamiliar locations? 

I ask myself this question whenever my stomach lurches during turbulent flights, when jet lag floats blurry eyes into my forehead, or when I tally up all my travel expenses. 

Then I think about the memories:

  • the garrulous waiter with the broad smile—his translucent aligners glimmering in the summer sun;
  • the Salzburg beggar peeking under a cotton-weave blanket at his phone;
  • our friends gathered around an outside table at a neighbourhood wirsthaus in Munich;
  • colourful sun rays through spacious stained glass cathedral windows;
  • ancient Bavarian castles, housing homes and stores;
  • the bustling people traffic filling the streets with the sound of faraway languages;
  • birds chirping in the trees high above the ice-cold rushing runoff from the Austrian Alps. 

And, I remember why. 

And I can’t wait to do it again.

Become small, becoming young.

Plunking myself in a strange new world, or a place vaguely familiar to me, sets me outside my comfort zone. I can easily ground myself, recalibrate my perspective, and maintain a zest for life, by throwing myself into a big ocean of new people, places, and experiences. Being in a different country’s culture, (or a variance of the same country) is like dipping into a fountain of youth, going back to the wonders of childhood—with the appreciation and maturity of an adult. Keen observation takes in the new fascinating tapestry of new sensory information, while fear, and a sense of adventure sparks as we embark on new adventure. Often, after a local stranger has provided helpful directions, I think of Blanche DuBois’ iconic line. “Whoever you are—I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” 

Bringing it home.

Besides the practical (and often edible) gifts that I bring home, I hold something more significant. A revitalized awareness of my values, and perspective on my life follows me. I see home and my routine in new ways. I can appreciate the status quo of one thing or want to change another, based on something I have learned from my travels. On a physical, logistical level, this is often about decluttering. But, on a more esoteric level, I return from travels with restored gifts of awe and appreciation, along with new knowledge and discovered ignorance. I return with big goals on how I want to organize my time, spend my valuable time and energy. I am reminded that I’m a small fish with an ocean yet to explore, to experience. I am honoured by my growth, and I am humbled by what I have yet to discover.

How to travel from home.

While I can enjoy being in a new place, I realise, as so many have said before me, that you don’t have to leave home to travel or to experience the marvels of our world. Besides immersive travel books, such as Paul Bowles’ narrative works, or Alain de Botton’s The Art of Travel, or Paul Theroux’s travel essays, (to name just a few of the classics), there are numerous genres that address the spirit of travel, and allow stationary travelers to enjoy the wonders of new places.

Get ready for your trip.

Even if you don’t want to get in the car, a train, or a plane, you can read your way to wherever you want. When you aren’t reading, notice your world, appreciate, engage with and explore it. Utilise full senses, open your heart and mind to experiences within your reach.

Bon Voyage.

So, what books or places are on your travel bucket list?

Ettal Monastery, Ettal, Germany

Leave a Reply