While I’ve never had to search very far for a reason to travel, I am always amazed when I meet people who have never ventured much further than their own county line (parishes here in Louisiana). And even more floored when I hear someone proclaim that they have no desire to travel !***GASP*** While to each their own, in times such as these I can’t help but think of how much travel has directly developed my empathy. Traveling continuously forces me to step back and examine myself, question my preconceived (and more often than not, erroneous) notions, and face down any self-righteousness I may have developed. Simply put, I am who I am because of travel. Nevertheless, there are even more reasons I encourage you to go. Here are my favorite five reasons:
1.Build Self Confidence
I met one of my best and oldest friends in elementary school. It was a small school and any new student was a BIG deal, especially one that talked “funny”. Come to find out “funny” meant saying “you guys” instead of “y’all”. But instead of shyly hanging her head when unrelenting kids taunted her accent during her introduction, she turned to them and said something to them in another language, to the shock of the class (teacher included). Her natural nonchalant demeanor, and the ability to speak roughly 5 different languages rather fluently, was the result of having lived in numerous countries, many of which were third world. She, along with her parents and 8 brothers and sisters, were missionaries. After all that she had seen, the people she had met, and lives she had touched, the pettiness of playground insults had no effect on her. It was like a superpower and I was so intrigued by her self-assurance that I just had to get to know her! And what luck she rode my bus! We would talk endlessly about the places she had been, the bizarre foods she had eaten, and where she wanted to go next. To this day, her self confidence is contagious. After all, once you know you are capable of eating alligator, zip-lining hundreds of feet above the jungle floor, or epically shredding air guitar in ancient amphitheaters, it’s hard to hang your head over much.
2.Dispel YOUR Preconceived notions
Time and time again, I have arrived at a destination with an opinion already formed in my mind on what I will find there just to find I couldn’t be more wrong. That’s not saying I wasn’t prepared. I would research Visa requirements, exchange rates, tipping etiquette, etc. but what I would fail to adequately postulate was the “personality” of a place. For example, my family and I vacationed in Greece and Turkey back in 2011. I just knew that I was going to fall head over heels in love with Greece and all it had to offer, but to say I was more than a little apprehensive about Turkey was putting it mildly. While Greece’s natural beauty found in its countrysides, coasts, and island were breathtaking just as I imagined they would be, the few days spent in Turkey turned out to be some of my favorite from the entire trip. My fears of Turkey being stoic, aloof, and possibly even inhospitable were unwarranted. A few of the people we encountered were an animated guide that accompanied us to Ephesus, a merchant that danced, sang, and dropped to his knees and thanked Allah right there at my feet after making a purchase, and an inviting woman who took the time to instruct me on the proper way to tie knots when making rugs. I was smitten with Turkey. While both places are alluring and absolutely worth visiting, my point is to be willing to let a destination (or anything for that matter) speak for itself instead of making your mind up about it before setting foot there. Otherwise you are setting yourself up for disappointment.
While on vacation abroad, once again with my family from Texas, we were asked several times where we were from. When My family would say Texas, they would always get a response somewhere along the lines of “Texas! Do you ride horses everywhere you go?” or “Oh Texas! Where are your boots?” and my personal favorite “Oh, John Wayne! BANG! BANG!” while making guns with their hands. On another occasion, we had a waiter that, when finding out we were Americans, confided in us that he was learning English in order to change his life and he was going to move to California. When we asked him where in California he wanted to move to, he looked at us funny and said “California”. He was under the impression that California was a city like Chicago or New York. He also thought all Texans rode horses everywhere they went (womp womp). On occasions like this, instead of being insulted or offended by the stereotype, we enjoy the opportunity to share our particular culture with them…even if its just teaching them the proper use of the word “Y’all”.
4.Meet New People/Network
I’m a collector by nature. I collect books, Christmas ornaments, recipes, and little oddities that speak of the place from which I visited. I pick up rocks and shells everywhere I go and take more pictures than is probably healthy. I love to be surrounded by meaningful things and reminders of beautiful places I have been. But even more than that, I love gathering new friends. And now, more than ever, technology and social media, make it easy to remain connected with friends made along the way. New doors remain opened and unique insight cultivated. Whether its Facebook, Instagram, or just an exchange of emails, having that sincere connection with one another is perhaps, personally, the most rewarding aspect of travel.
5. Bring Stories to Life
Stories are a large part of our every day life. From the scriptures read at church to the drama TV series we DVR weekly to the novels we can’t put down. But when you can stroll through battlefields of wars long past or walk through the same victory tunnel into the stadium of your favorite sports legend, the stories becomes more meaningful. A part of you and you are part of them. Whether you are a fan, history buff, or a believer seeking inspiration, the destinations and their stories resonate with significance. And I believe that resonance is the root of what drives wanderlust.
What are your favorite reasons to travel?