In less than a month I’m headed to Nicaragua on a one way ticket. I’ll be there for a month, maybe two, I’m not really sure at this point. Anytime I get ready to embark on a new trip the discussion always seems to make people a little insecure. Some make quips like, “Must be nice!” or they immediately try and tell me all the reasons why I should be afraid to travel in the first place. It’s almost as if the very idea of someone going off and traveling is threatening in and of itself because it reminds people perhaps of their own adventures in life they’d like to have but haven’t made time for.
On Thought Catalog people write travel essays all the time about reasons why we should or shouldn’t travel. Because travel is such an important aspect of my life and I write about it often people naturally assume I must be one of those people that believe in order to live a fulfilling life you must travel. While I definitely advocate others to explore our world and experience other cultures I’m the first person to tell you – you don’t have to travel to live an adventurous life. You’re not any less of an interesting, intelligent person simply because you aren’t interested in going to India or because you haven’t been able to find the resources to go on a trip overseas yet.
Traveling is personal for me. Because I’ve experienced a lot of tragedy in my past and have lost loved ones I’m reminded often just how short life really is. Traveling fulfills something inside of me that I can’t seem to find anywhere else with any other experience. It’s a personal choice I make. People travel for different reasons and everyone has different motivations in life. Some choose to put their money in owning possessions, others choose to spend their money on traveling. Many others are just trying to pay the bills, pay off student loans, and get through life on a daily basis. None of these lifestyles are any better or any worse than the others and I think that’s important to remember when it comes to the idea of travel.
Often there appears to be an online hive mind that travel is the pathway to finding yourself and that to travel is to open yourself up to experiences you otherwise wouldn’t have but I promise you, you can “find yourself” without ever leaving your city limits. Travel is a mindset, a perspective. It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing thing.
What I mean when I say this is that traveling is all about how you look at your environment, the world around you, and the way you seek knowledge and inspiration. When you travel, especially internationally and especially if it’s in a region with a language you don’t speak, you’re brought back to this childlike state of awe and wonder. Everything is new and strange and foreign and confusing and beautiful all at the same time. You notice people, things, conversations, colors, smells, all in a new way. Your senses are heightened and you’re forced out of your comfort zone.
The thing is – you can do all of these things without ever getting your passport stamped. You can explore a neighborhood in your community you usually don’t go to. Do some research, create an itinerary, and become a tourist for the day. Find a local state park or a hiking trail. Take a camera and a notebook and get lost for the day. It might not be Rome or Paris or sunbathing on the beaches of Australia, but it’s an experience that will bring you out of your routine for a moment. Expand the way you look at the resources you already have access to – the town you live in, the state you live in, your own backyard. Create the adventure you wish to experience with what you have.