Real Talk: Why I Travel

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

I tend to talk about the lighter, fluffier things on this blog, especially when it comes to travel. I write about my adventures - where I went, what I did, food I ate, etc - but I don't really delve into the nitty gritty about why I travel. Today, I decided to change that.

Photo via Pinterest
 Many of you know my story, but for those who do not, I'll give you a brief re-cap:
I grew up traveling with my parents as often as they could take off of work. We drove a lot of places and I saw a good chunk of the United States before I even fully understood the idea of distance. At age 13, I took my first plane by myself and fell in love with solo travel. [Fun fact: Now, I have only ever taken transatlantic flights by myself.] After high school, I packed up my life and moved to Bordeaux, France for a year through foreign exchange. Then I moved to Chicago for college to major in International Studies and travel every opportunity I get. Now, I am in Paris, France for a semester abroad.

I have been to countless cities and countries, and here is what I have learned from it all...
1. I travel because it changes my perspective. With each city I find myself in, there's a different mentality, and it's hard to not soak that up. Sometimes it's an earth-shattering, life-changing thing, where I question the education I have been raised on. Other times, it's a subtle, comfortable change, where everything clicks in the most perfect way. I thrive on hearing others' opinions and learning about their way of life. There is no knowledge in this world that compares to understanding and appreciating someone from another walk of life.

My summer in Turkey changed my perspective on the value of time.
2. I travel because it never ceases to amaze me. This world is a beautiful place and there is an incredible amount of beauty that I would never know if I stayed within my comfort zone. Sometimes this beauty is in the towering monuments and architecture that we, as inevitable tourists, must cross off our list. But the most wonderful beauty is not in a museum or church or historical landmark - it is the journey itself and the people. My faith in humanity is continually restored because of the people I have met during my times abroad. I may know them for one night or for the rest of my life, but being in a city together gives us some unspoken bond that I can't (and don't want to) shake.

These three incredible women (my roommates for the past 3 months) have laughed through all the struggles of living abroad with me and taught me a great deal about making the most of life but also giving yourself downtime every once in a while.
3. I travel because it is a challenge. Every airport I navigate, every language barrier I face, every custom I learn the hard way - it is tough to displace yourself to a new world. They have culture shock down to a science and you can very well pick up a book or two to prepare yourself, but nothing truly primes you for the differences. I have cried, I have laughed, and I have learned that I can endure a whole heck of a lot before my breaking point. It makes me a more durable person and I value life a lot more because of it.

The deer-in-the-headlights look was very common during my first months on exchange in France, but eventually I learned more about their customs, routines, politics and food than I could have ever known from a classroom.
4. I travel because we don't have a lot of time here. I always struggle with this, because I am a bit of a workaholic and my brain is always a month or two (or a year...) ahead of the present. I have checklists for things I need to do by a certain time and a very organized schedule for them. But then I take a trip somewhere and it hits me that those lists may not all be checked off, and that's okay. I'm not saying it blinds me from responsibility or forward-thinking, but it helps me make the most of the present, knowing that I may never get the chance to come back. A lot of people postpone travel for when they're older, but for me that uncertainty is too great of a chance to take - and besides, I don't know that my body will be able to handle all the walking, climbing and hiking in 40+ years.

View from the top of Diamondhead on Oahu - it was an exhausting hike (and scary at times), but I'm so happy I did it!
5. I travel because it makes me realize how frivolous material things are. Sure, the plane tickets and the lodging can be steep, and I am so fortunate to have parents that support me in all my ventures, but once you get past the logistics, money begins to have much less importance. Especially when in a place with different currency, the value of those bills I keep handing over start to make less and less sense and it becomes more about the exchange, and whether I would trade it back or not for anything. Experience has no pricetag. Maybe this has made me less money-conscious, but when I look back at #4, it just seems worth it.

Bartering at markets in Istanbul definitely altered my idea of a fixed price for an item - I only wish we had these kinds of exchanges back in the United States!
6. I travel because it helps me grow. As an individual, a friend, a sister, a daughter and whatever else I am. I am never quite the same when I return from a place, and not just because I get post-travel blues, but because it has an impact on me in ways I cannot explain. The frustration I have faced has made me more patient, the novelties have made me more appreciative, and the distance has made me realize just how important family is. It is difficult sometimes, because I can't convey how a certain place made me feel, but I've come to terms with it. Traveling has made me a stronger, more independent person, while also teaching me that it is okay to ask questions and to be vulnerable. It makes me a happier person, a better citizen of this world, and, ultimately, it gives me so much more than I can write down in a single blog post.


So, why do you travel?

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