I am genuinely surprised when I meet a person who has no desire to travel. I have met people who travel for reasons different to my own. I have to suppress the snarky gremlin in my head saying things like “Why did you fly to the other side of the world to sit by a pool and drink cheap cocktails? Isn’t that what you do every weekend anyway?”. Yet we still share the same fundamental wish to leave the norm behind and venture into the world.
The non-travellers confound me though. Comfortable in the security of the known world they reside in, their routine fulfills their needs and desires completely. Sure the same snarky gremlin in my head says “What the hell is wrong with them?” but another voice whispers back “Who cares? It’s one less person in the queue at the Louvre.”
To my fellow travellers, sightseers and tourists, I hope you can relate to this and share the reasons you travel as well. To those who have never left your life behind and slipped off into the unknown, I encourage you to go explore, even if it is only your own town or city, for no other reason than to have a look around.
Here are nine reasons why I like to travel. This is why I spend the flight home planning my next adventure.
1. AMAZE ME!
I want to rediscover that childlike wonder of seeing something for the first time. I want to be in awe of things that have been created or built, by people or nature, and be astounded at how they did it, or what they did, or how it grew or why it evolved that way. I want stop and marvel “There’s a room at the top of the Eiffel Tower? Bullshit! Seriously? Ok, that is cool.”
2. TRAVELLERS ARE COOL
I listed this second as I was aiming for a bit of modesty. I travel because I think travellers are cool and interesting, and I want to be cool and interesting too. If we are being honest, no one wants to hear stories from the guy who went to the mall for 5th weekend in a row.
I want to sit in a cafe, sipping a ristretto, a habit I picked up in Paris, talking about how the sea looks when it freezes at the end of the Great Wall of China. Not actually talking about the Great Wall itself, but casually ignoring it like it’s a Fendi Casa coffee table you step over while looking for the TV remote. I want to talk with other enviable travellers and have stories to share; to laugh knowingly at your first encounter with squat toilets in an open room or that time you found out your hotel was actually a hostel in the red light district.
3. FIGHTING THE ACQUISITION OF STUFF
It is sometimes embarrassing to realise how easily we fool ourselves into believing we need a lot of stuff, and how we seem to believe success and happiness are linked to the things we own. All the things we fill our homes and lives with. Most of it is junk. And worse still, we all have a running list of the junk we want next.
When I am travelling the force driving my ‘Stuff Acquisition’ disappears. I have everything I really want in my pack. A few clothes. A good book. A camera. Strong shoes and a good pair of jeans. I could last months with the things in my pack. Why not years? It becomes a game; how little can I really get by with? How small can I make my pack? That feeling lasts and my life becomes more simple. It is such a feeling of freedom.
I have spoken with people, generally non-travellers, we argue that money spent on travel is wasted, that it is all for short term gratification. I cannot fathom this. The changes, the personal growth, and the memories are worth far more than any item you could buy.
4. TRUE APPRECIATION
There is something magical about having a hot shower and getting into your own bed after some time away. Depending on where you live and where you go, you will appreciate different things. Chatting with friends, calling your parents, a hot shower, running water, having snow on the ground or being close to a beach. Whenever you return, there is something to appreciate.
5. FROM STRANGERS TO FRIENDS
There is something amazing about meeting people while away travelling. Small things bring you together; a common language, a room next door to one another, not wanting to travel the underground by yourself. There are people I have met while away whom I rarely talk to, yet I consider them friends, meeting up again years later in another remote corner of the world. And it is always cool to have someone ask what to do when visiting New Zealand…I mean, everything of course.
6. LEARNING THINGS
This is not limited to the kind of learning where I can recite useless facts, such as how the Massacre of Glencoe happened on the 13 February 1692 or the Indy 500 circuit is 2.5 miles long. I am not entirely sure why such information is stuck in my head, but it is. What I have also learned is how parts of the world work; what people are like outside of my home and what they do that makes them the same, or different from myself. I want to learn what huge cities are like, what different food tastes like, how kings and queens lived and alternatively, what real poverty looks like.
7. GROWING UP
Learning forces me to grow and to change. I have often found my understanding and my beliefs challenged; discovered I have a capacity for being wrong greater than I ever imagined. I haven’t yet learned true humility though, so I take these lessons hard. It is an experience most of the world needs to undertake. It is both frustrating as hell and enlightening.
8. THE CONFIDENCE GAME
If you are like me, then you may not enjoy walking up to a complete stranger and playing charades in an attempt to find a toilet. But when the alternative is pooing your pants, then it has to be done. With these little lessons comes the confidence to deal with things when they come up.
9. TUNE OUT, TURN OFF, AND POWER DOWN
I am writing this on my computer and my phone is next to me. Just sitting here, there are a dozen different ways people can contact me. When I get away, it is blissful being able to disconnect. I do not have a rule stating I must tell people I will be out of touch. I usually send a few status emails telling my parents that I have avoided being kidnapped or eaten by a bear or that my father was right and I should have bought another jacket. Usually though, my phone is in my bag and off. I use it as a tool all the time, but generally I can check it later. Nothing on Facebook should be more interesting than what is in front of me.
10. FEEDING OPTIMISM
It can be disconcerting when it appears we are surrounded by the rapid deterioration of a world gone crazy. When you care about the world, you tend to read about the worst parts. Even travelling I sometimes wonder, especially when watching someone obnoxiously haggling over a $4 t-shirt on the streets of Bangkok. However there is a lot of goodness happening. More than that, there is a lot of change. People do care and you can see that. There is a lot of good; I have seen more smiles than frowns.
I have a cynical side and a dry sense of humour. But in all openness and honesty, in the end I want people to say I cared about the world. Not any one part of it, but the entire thing as a wonderful mess of interconnection.