Posts Tagged ‘why I travel’

I wrote a series of four posts, discussing the Ten Reasons Why I Travel, back in 2011. I just reread them to see if the reasons still stand. They do. You can read these posts in full – the links are in the italicised headings below. But if you just want the abridged version, read on:

The Because-I-have-to reasons

Reason 1: To see what I can see
Reason 2: To experience diversity
Reason 3: Genetics and Geography

The I-am-so-grateful reasons

Reason 4: To appreciate my own country
Reason 5: To keep humble

The Self-indulgent Sybaritic Reasons

Reason 6: For my senses
Reason 7: For escape, rest and relaxation

The virtuous (some might say self-righteous) reasons

Reason 8: I travel to learn
Reason 9: I travel to grow
Reason 10: I travel to be more compassionate

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The virtuous (some might say self-righteous) reasons.

Reason 8: I travel to learn.
Learning languages has always taught me more about my own language, but it also gives me a new and different insight into the people who speak that language. Even when I don’t learn the language of my destination, I find learning about culture and history is always valuable. I see life and my place in it in a different way. I know that western civilization hasn’t always been dominant, that it didn’t invent everything good (and a lot bad). I realise that life today is just a speck in the history of time. I’ve stood on a “new bridge” in France that was four hundred years old, and my mind boggled.

I’ve learned about and witnessed the results of the terrible things human beings do to each other, aghast at the things that have been done in the name of religion. Reading about this is one thing. Seeing the faces of the people of Cambodia or in the slums of Soweto, or standing on the parapet where the Cathars were thrown to their deaths simply because of their beliefs, or visiting the Budapest or Prague Holocaust Memorials, brings a sharpness and clarity to my understanding. Travelling broadens my mind; it is a cliché but it is true. I know that things are never black and white. Travelling simply confirms that, reminds me of that, and I think that knowledge and understanding makes me a better person.

Reason 9: I travel to grow.
Being thrown outside your comfort zone can be disconcerting, but it can also give you confidence in your ability to adapt. I often think of myself as shy, unadventurous, and definitely not brave. I’m not the type to go climb a mountain, and I admire those who do. But when I look back at some of the things I have done in the course of travel, whether for business or pleasure, I realise that maybe I am not such a wimp after all. Getting through all these situations – knowing I could get through them – was priceless. My next attempt to grow will be taking a balloon trip. I’m terrified of heights. If I can manage it, I’ll be ecstatic. I’m a bit more concerned I’ll spend the entire 220 Euros cowering on the floor of the wicker basket.

Reason 10: I travel to be more compassionate.
Seeing how others live, putting yourselves in their shoes, and perhaps finding a way to help them – well, it just seems to expand your heart.

In Thailand, my mother-in-law looked out the window of our air-conditioned jeep and said “ah, look at the peasants. What an idyllic life they lead.” This was from a woman who had lived in a centrally heated house with electricity and plumbing and washing machines and ovens for the last fifty years, without fear of running out of money, always able to provide for her family. When I was able to retrieve my jaw from the floor, I pointed out the worries that a Thai peasant might have – fear of disease, starvation, poverty, unable to provide education or a helping hand to her children, or to get medicine for aged parents. And all that after back-breaking work in the paddy fields. Then, I think she actually felt compassion. (Empathy doesn’t come naturally to her). She realised how good she had it.

I have a problem with people who say help your own country before those overseas. If you’ve seen poverty, if you’ve seen the mine victims in Cambodia, if you’ve been there and imagined what it must be like to live in a tin shack in a slum in the heat of summer in South Africa or India, or to be poor in the depths of the winter at 17 below F in Dayton, Ohio, then you learn some compassion and empathy. Humanity and compassion doesn’t end at the border. And it shouldn’t. Because if it does, we’re all doomed.

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The Self-indulgent Sybaritic Reasons

Reason 6: For my senses.
I travel for warmth in the winter, to feel a tropical breeze on my skin, to experience an ocean that is as warm as a bath, to have respite from a long winter and long, cool spring.

I travel for spices, tropical fruit, new tastes I can bring into my own life and those of my family and friends, and bad smells that bring good memories.

I travel for bright colours, the saris of India and the marketplaces of Asia or Marrakech, the sounds of cowbells in Switzerland, the call to prayer in a Muslim country, or the roars of a lion in South Africa.

I travel to wake up, to feel really alive with all my senses and faculties alert and tingling for an adventure, and to know I will never stop experiencing new things.

Reason 7: For escape, rest and relaxation.
It’s true. You really can out-run your troubles. Well, most of them anyway, and for a short period of time. There’s nothing quite like being somewhere completely new or different from your day-to-day life, somewhere that is a long journey that carries you away from your worries – preferably somewhere out of cell-phone range and with no wi-fi! Somewhere that makes you focus on the “here and now” and allows you to forget your worries, forget the chores that await you, forget the acrimonious or difficult relationships at work or in the family, and escape the everyday stresses of life.

In Africa, our short two week holiday was so filled with new sights, sounds and experiences that I instantly forgot everything about life at home. I lived in the moment, and time slowed. I felt rejuvenated, refreshed, and younger.

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