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Why Do We Travel?

Why do you go on travel?

Do you travel to escape the daily grind?  To take that cliche photo? Do you go on travel to see a famous site for yourself?

While none of these are “bad” reasons to travel. I would offer that there is a better reason to travel. Venturing to new places can expose you to new ideas, new cultures, and new people. This exposure can expand your horizons. Mark Twain, one of the great travel writers, wrote in Innocents Abroad that “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” This is the essence of good travel.

If you travel to escape the daily grind, you will find that the grind is waiting for you when you return, often even worse because it has languished and built up while you were away. But, I get it. Sometimes we just need to get away from it all, and physically leaving might be the only way to make it happen. If possible, it would be best to get as far ahead in your work as you can and set up a support system to take care of those things that crop up while you’re away. If this means putting in long hours before you go on a trip, so be it. If it means training up someone else or relegating control of your tasks to someone else, it might just be worth it. Doing so will enable you to have greater presence of mind while you’re away, allowing you to fully enjoy the trip you’ve spent time and money to make happen. You owe it to yourself to set yourself up for success.

I’ve traveled to the Grand Canyon. Yes, I had my camera out to try and capture the majesty of such an amazing natural treasure. I did this for several reasons. First, taking the cliche photo serves as a visual cue to help me remember my experiences there. Second, I enjoy photography and capturing the art that exists in this world. Even so, I don’t feel that these alone are reasons enough to visit a place as amazing as the Grand Canyon. I could have simply searched the internet for “Grand Canyon” and would be able to see even better photos of this landmark. Or, as some sites offer, I could take a virtual tour. This is a lot less expensive and time consuming. We must ask ourselves, what do we stand to gain by actually traveling somewhere? What is our real purpose for going?

Yes, there is something special about seeing a place for yourself. Even though I enjoy reading/writing and photography, none of those mediums can accurately capture what it is to see an object or location for yourself. All too often, these memories prove to be fleeting and, possibly, empty. If that’s the sole reason for traveling, then that is really just an expensive photo op. I would offer that there is much more to travel than these few reasons.

There is an aspect of travel that offers far more enrichment. The problem with travel is that when we go somewhere, we bring ourselves with us. What I mean by this is that, wherever we go, we bring with us our prejudices, our biases, and our limited comfort zone. We bring our baggage. As Alain de Botton states in his book, The Art of Travel, much of what could be gained by travel is avoided because we won’t let ourselves experience everything our travel destination has to offer. A summary of Alain De Botton’s book, narrated by the author, can be found on his YouTube channel here. Wherever we go, whatever we do, we should strive to expand our horizons. We should seek out that which is uncomfortable. We should do things we wouldn’t otherwise do. Take the risk of going outside of your comfort zone. It may not always work out, but it will be more memorable, you’ll have better stories to tell when you come back, and you might just learn something new about yourself. There’s traveling. Then, there’s traveling well. Doing so will ensure that our travels are more memorable. A good traveler has an insatiable curiosity that compels her or him to venture outside their comfort zone. In the end, if we travel well, we will become better human beings.

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  • Reply
    Lisa
    April 12, 2016 at 11:40 am

    Great points and honestly ones I hadn’t thought of before. You’re right. Travel can offer us expansion of the mind, much like reading. Although reading idea a safety net because even though we are transported to new world with diverse people… We are still safe inside our homes, not truly experiencing that world with all 5 senses. I’ll certainly look art traveling through new eyes after reading this.

    • Reply
      Andrew
      April 12, 2016 at 11:31 pm

      Thank you for your thoughtful comments!

  • Reply
    Jean
    April 21, 2016 at 4:22 pm

    Very well said and I agree with you. An open mind and heart while traveling will give you a more satisfying adventure. Add to that some patience, curiosity and schedule flexibility and you will have a great trip.

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