“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” This quote is credited as anonymous, yet speaks for the millions of individuals who understand the essence and beauty of exploring the mysterious, yet beautiful, world around us.
But travel may have lost its meaning along the way. When I was young, I’d hear people talk about traveling, referring to it as if it were some kind of vacation to ‘get away’ for a few weeks from the monotony of daily tasks. Vacations, tourist attractions, and resorts have commonly (but mistakenly) been referred to as travel, a word which carries a vast expanse of culture and experience.
Travel isn’t predictable in deciding where you’ll end up or what you’ll do. Nor is it comfortable, with 5 star hotels, room service, and lazy days beside the pool.
Travel is moving forward without knowing which direction you’re heading.
John Steinbeck wrote in his travelogue. “I was born lost and take no pleasure in being found.” It was apparent he was moved to see his country by taking it in slowly, so he could look upon America with a new vision and insight. Taking his poodle, Charley, and his constant paper and pen accompaniment, Steinbeck’s last journey was crossing the U.S., determined to leave his life with a better outlook on the world.
It’s the same with those of us who decide to stop searching, and start doing. How far do we come when we stop setting so many boundaries and allow ourselves to wander?
It’s not a vacation. It’s learning different cultures, meeting new people, and gaining experience over material things. Observing different ways of life allows us to appreciate what we have, allowing us to consider what we’re missing and capable of changing.
Humbling would be a word to put into travel. We learn to live with less. We have to ask help from others. We become less picky.
Yet despite the discomfort in the unknown, asking for help from strangers, and feeling vulnerable, there is something wildly contagious adventurers can’t ignore and would-be travelers can’t shake: we’re meant to do it. Something about the world and everything in it beckons to us with the promise we won’t regret leaving everything we’ve ever known for the great big world.
Ashlea Halpern, magazine editor turned profession itinerant, writes, “It wasn’t until we got back to the U.S. and started unpacking our bags that it really sunk in. I was simultaneously grateful to be home but also growing antsy about where to go next.”
Perhaps it’s the feeling of being surrounded in an unknown world. Everything is unknown. Who you’re going to become, who you’re going to meet, and what you’re going to do remains a mystery until you make up your mind to stop wondering and start wandering.
Being uncomfortable is one of the largest parts of travel; but also something that makes it incredibly worth it.
That’s why I urge people—young and old, rich and poor—to travel.
Why? Because when we do, our perspective changes right along with who we are. We discover as humans, we are all the same, even though cultural and language barriers temporarily separate us.
We are humbled in the process, often times ignorant of customs and have to rely on the kindness of others when we don’t speak the same language, when we are lost, when we don’t know how to catch a cab or board a ferry south of the equator.
Through experiences like this, we become helpful and hospitable, knowing how to return the kindness given to us through others.
If we stopped focusing on our discomfort and allowed ourselves to learn from others and think about them, there’s no doubt our world would be a better place.
Traveling isn’t just for the wealthy, either. Luxurious accommodations, fine dining, and tours aren’t normally part of the earthiness of soulful travel. As far as cheaper destinations, extravagant places such as Paris, France, isn’t really ideal.
Although I agree places such as Paris would be magical (and no reason not to save up and eventually wander the halls of the Louvre), there are still small countries tucked into southern continents and European countries like jewels in a mine. Thailand, Vietnam, Uruguay, and even the Czech Republic are among some of the most beautiful (and budget friendly) destinations in the world, brimming with culture, people, and beauty. Waking up to the Eiffel Tower would be an incredible experience; but waking up in Thailand entails sleeping on mats—protected by a net from the mosquitoes—and listening to the sound of rushing water because it’s just outside your door. You’re susceptibly vulnerable, yet fully alive.
Volunteer programs such as WWOOF; Turtle Teams Worldwide; and Help Exchange, Worldwide provide excellent travel opportunities for individuals. The organization pays for nearly everything in exchange for volunteer from the individual.
Essentially, traveling isn’t something to think about as a vacation, or something to do as an escape from your world.
We do it so, naturally, the world doesn’t escape us.
This article was written by McKenna Vietti, a writer for dusk magazine.