“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine
How do you know anything about the world if you don’t travel? How do you know what life is like or what other people think or how other cultures exist if you stay in one place your entire life?
A lot of us travel right out of college which is exactly what I did. Twelve countries in thirty days! When I look back on that time I realize I was fairly miserable during the trip, totally unprepared and out of my comfort zone. But, what an adventure it was. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Here’s the thing. Travel changes you. It changes the way you view the world. It takes you out of your comfort zone and makes you see that there isn’t only one way to live life and only one way to think.
Humans generally fail to appreciate what we have when we have it. I would question you to think about this. In the future, try and be mindful of where you are, of everything you have and the experiences of each day.
Life is nothing but experiences and moments. Even in those toughest moments where you are tired and overwhelmed and you don’t understand anyone and you have no idea where you are going or how you will get there or if you will ever sleep again, those are the moments you should treasure. They are part of your path and there is no way to get around it so you might as well embrace it.
There were so many special moments experienced throughout my trip. I remember eating chocolate and drinking wine on the steps of a church in Paris, being nearly trampled by sheep in Switzerland when I pulled out a box of cookies, the clumpy milk for cereal (they don’t pasteurize), trying not to fall asleep on the train on the way to Germany in case the guys hiding underneath the pull outs tried to steal my stuff, visiting the Fields of Flanders and picking up pieces of shrapnel from WWII, the Domes of Florence and the scenery of Austria, the American Express building where all the Americans hung out in Budapest and the never-ending array of cows.
But, what I remember more than anything is that I wish I had appreciated everything more. I wish I had the maturity to truly understand the gravity of my trip. Unfortunately, my boyfriend and I were not getting along. I remember going to a phone booth in Paris in the pouring down rain and calling my mom crying and wanting to come home because he was being so mean.
Twenty five years later I still have the map of the route we took, my journal and my Euro railpass. Why did I keep all of this? I kept it because it was the beginning of my love affair with travel. It still speaks to me as if I took the trip yesterday.
Every day you slog through work and every day you get up and go to the gym and go to the store and watch television and go to bed are days you will not remember. But, the day you are on your deathbed you will never regret all those places you went and all those people you met and all those things that you saw, experiences you had and all that scenery you never could have imagined existed.
Life is not meant to live in a bubble, at least not for me. Some people have no desire to travel and those people probably won’t read this post. But you….you get it or you want to get it. You understand that everywhere you go, even if just another state is a lesson learned in life and an experience most will never have.
Many of us stay in our little bubbles. We have the same friends, go to the same places, watch the same shows and live in the same environment we grew up in.
But, many of us want more than this. We crave experiences like we crave oxygen. We realize that it is only by expanding our horizons that we truly live and to live any other way is tantamount to death.
For the past 3 years I have not traveled and it has nearly killed me. I have come to realize that I am an adventurer at heart. It doesn’t matter if I’m uncomfortable or fussy or don’t know where I’m going or what I’m doing. The very experience of travel changes me.
There are so many places to go and so many things to see. Do you think you will ever regret going on that safari in Africa, or finding spirituality in a temple in India or drinking wine with Parisians?
Every culture is different than our own and that is what makes it all so beautiful. If you never experience this and never know this I believe you are living half a life. If you have no desire to know others and what they think and believe and why they believe it then I’m sorry for you.
But, again, if you are reading this my guess is that you desire to know what it would feel like to sit amidst Gorillas in Africa, or visit a Bazaar in Morocco or experience the magnificence of Macchu Picchu, eat steak and drink Malbec with Argentinians and see the unparalleled beauty of the Greek islands.
Traveling isn’t about staying in your comfort zone. Traveling isn’t about being tourist. Traveling is about experiencing life in a different way and understanding that we all have a different history and a different way of viewing the world.
Traveling changes who you are. If you are a true adventurer then once you go you can never see the world the same. Some cultures may be a better fit than others and that’s okay, but every place you go will be life changing.
Every time you travel you don’t just learn about other people you learn about yourself. You learn your strengths and your weaknesses, your tolerances and intolerances and you expand your horizons just a little with every step you take.
Whether you drink tea with milk in England or start liking toast with honey for breakfast and even if you decide you hate the idea of never having a washer and dryer or can’t fathom living in the economically and politically oppressed places you visit you will always have a view of the world that is bigger than most.
You will have had experiences. You will carry them with you forever. You will die knowing that you did something that many people will never do and that alone should be enough.