Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
– Mark Twain
Ever since I was a kid, just going around the ‘next bend’ on my bicycle, I have always loved the adventure of travel – the unknown, something different, something new. And I feel the same way today… even though now the ‘next bend’ may be on another continent. I have been extremely lucky to continuously feed my passion for travel. Many out there share my passion while others do not. But, why do I love it so much?
I love the excitement of it all–feeling like an explorer–discovering a new land, a new language, new money and all the little challenges that go along with it. When I travel, I am more spontaneous and don’t live for the future or the past… just in the moment. Being impulsive and saying ‘yes’ to nearly everything is part of the fun.
I love the rush. Habitual runners get off on the kick-in of endorphins that give them that extra boost they need to keep going. I get the same jolt from a day of travel or an unexpected side trip to a new and undiscovered land (for me… not for all mankind) that I hadn’t planned to visit. Traveling seems to give me a near constant adrenaline rush. After a few years of uninterrupted travel, I became quite addicted to this feeling. Traveling can be a challenge, but to me, a fun challenge that I enjoy conquering time and time again. Plus it sure beats having to vacuum, pay bills, or shop for toilet paper.
“…so many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day, to have a new and different sun.” -Chris McCandless – “Into the Wild”
World travel broadens your mind in so many ways. You meet new people, share new experiences, and let down your guard much more than when back at home caught up in the mundane day to day routine of life that we think is normal. I get to see how the world lives. I see the sun and smiles in Israel that go way beyond the CNN clips. I learn about the differences and embrace the similarities. I am not there to complain about how it is ‘so different than back home,’ but rather to appreciate these dissimilarities. Just because something is different does NOT mean it is wrong and in many cases it can even be better. And, the people I meet get to know a bit about me, my world, and my background which can help dispel some other stereotypes as well. And now, some headlines I may have not noticed in the past, grab my attention. I’ve been to these places and have experienced their generosity. Now I’m much more interested and aware of what is going on there.
I love the logistics. I like landing in a new place and trying to figure it all out myself. Where to get money. How to speak the language. How to go from point A to point B. How to pack my bag right so I don’t go insane after packing it for the 135th time. Well, okay, maybe I don’t love that mundane task, but I still figure it’s better than all the tedious chores I left back home when I decided to travel. It all actually becomes easier and easier as it goes and gives you the sense of confidence that you can do anything. If I can plop down in an airport amidst the chaos of Cairo or hubbub in Hanoi and manage to get myself into the heart of town and find a place to stay, all the while, not getting ripped off and keep my sense of humor, then I am certainly not really worried about being able to go anywhere, anytime.
I love the simplicity of it all. My only job is to go somewhere and figure out how to do it. My to-do list is rather short: figure out the exchange rate and get cash out of an ATM, figure out a few key words in the native language, figure out transport to my lodging and around town, exchange books (find English used bookstore), do laundry every 2 weeks or so. Because I travel for longer periods, occasionally I also have to: get a haircut and buy new clothes to replace ratty, holey old ones.
Everything you own is with you in one bag. You only have a few pairs of pants or t-shirts, so getting dressed each day is an easy task. The more we have, the more it seems to weigh us down. Your life isn’t complicated by all the nonsense that is back home. But, guess what? If you really need a new shirt or shoes… you can buy it anywhere in the world. There is not much we actually really need and I think in this mega-consumerist society, we too often forget that. You need food and you need shelter… that’s about it. I enjoy some love, laughter, and happiness too… but that’s free and takes up no space in my luggage.
I love meeting new people all the time. In no other time in my life have I met so many people and made so many new friends in such a short time. The world is full of friendly, generous people. Sure, every place has its share of nitwits too, but as a traveler, you seem much less likely to meet them. Maybe because people want to help you or maybe because you just don’t know some people long enough to uncover their schmuck-like tendencies. Since the nature of travel is to keep moving, these folks never become boring… because you simply don’t know them long enough to discover their flaws or get sick of them.
I love the freedom. I experience a great feeling of independence from traveling solo. I can go wherever I want, whenever I want. I can sleep in. I can stay out late. It’s all up to me.
All this also shows me how easy it would be just to live somewhere else… anywhere else really. Staying in each place for an extended bit of time taught me how I could make friends, find work, and find a flat all rather easily. Things that I would have to do if I was living there anyway-so, in many ways, for all intents and purposes it’s as if I was living there already.
“Afoot and lighthearted I take to the open roads
Healthy and free, the world before me.
The long brown path before me leading
wherever I choose.
Henceforth I ask not good fortune,
I myself am good fortune.
Henceforth I whimper no more,
Postpone no more, need clothing,
Done with indoor complaints, libraries,
Strong and content I travel the open road.”
-Walt Whitman, from: Leaves of Grass