I live in an area where travel is not prioritized. Most of my neighbors/co-workers, ect, think ‘traveling‘ is either going to the coast–whether Myrtle Beach, Charleston, Hilton Head, or gasp! Florida or going to the NC/TN mountains. I have been to both, but I prefer to use these areas as either a day trip or at most a weekend getaway.
There is a lot more to the world than just the Southern United States.
That kind of travel is fine–for some people. Some people never want to leave their home state [I’d wager those are the very people who NEED to leave their home state, but I digress]. Some people just want to be off work and lay on a beach. It’s their vacation; they can use it however they want, but in my opinion that’s not traveling. Neither is a week in Cancun, or the Bahamas, or Jamaica or DR or any other place where you don’t have to get involved.
Some ‘travelers’ turn their noses up at pre-planned adventures or set itineraries. I say that’s better than nothing. It’s not my favorite way to go, but especially if I am in an area where I don’t speak the language, I may sign up for a day trip or tour bus just to get my lay of the land. Usually these pre-planned adventures allow the ‘traveler’ to check off boxes or scratch off one more place off their ‘bucket list’, but what they don’t allow for is the type of travel I consider ‘real travel’–travel that has the potential to change your worldview and who you are at your core. Would I have ever considered going back to school to become a nurse practitioner had I not volunteered in a health clinic for a couple months in Peru? Probably not. Would I have decided to keep my focus on children had I not volunteered in a pediatric hospital/orphanage? Probably, but working in the peds hospital/orphanage cemented my desire to work with children.
Long-term travel–especially solo travel– allows more opportunities for self-discovery and self-reflection, but really any type of travel can be an avenue for reflection. Is it harder to do at the family vacation spot? Absolutely. Is it impossible? No way. Can someone really have a life-revelation on a 9 day mission trip to Haiti? Yes. Is it likely? Probably not. My point is if you truly want to do something to change the direction your life is headed in, then you have to change your direction.
So why do we even leave home?
To be somewhere else of course. It all starts with a desire to be somewhere that we are currently not . For several reasons. Maybe you want to go to the Caribbean in January to get away from the snow. Or to Patagonia in July to see snow. Maybe your job sucks and you want to be ‘anywhere, but here.’ Maybe you just broke up with a significant other and everything you see reminds you of him/her. There are a myriad reasons why someone would want to ‘get away’ for a while; most of them are not so alarming.
I have often thought of why I am different when I am traveling. Part of it is because I HAVE to be more outgoing on the road or a may die of boredom. At home, I have my friends, my cat, and my furnishings. If I want to stay home, no one is going to make me go out and I don’t really feel as if I am missing anything. But if I am in Alaska during the winter, and I don’t feel like going out, I may miss a once-in-a lifetime experience. Part of traveling is exploring and discovering new things and it’s so much easier to do that in unfamiliar territory. Would I have ever eaten anticuchos aka meat on a stick anywhere in the USA? Not a chance. But in Peru, when there are 10 stands set outside a football stadium, and the vendors sell them instead of hot dogs, yea, I gave it a shot. And they were tasty little morsels.
I think when it comes down to it we leave home to search for something more. More within ourselves. More understanding of others. More understanding of ourselves. More stories to tell. More experiences to share. Travel makes us richer; sometimes in ways we can’t understand until we aren’t traveling anymore.
I often wonder if I will ever have the desire to ‘settle down’ or if I will always have wanderlust. I know–at least for now–I will do all that I can do in order to satisfy my urges.