I originally started this as a way to keep in touch with friends and family during my ~8 month long round the world journey after wrapping up a MBA in Boston and heading to California. In the process of keeping others in touch, I found writing it was a helpful way of forcing me to reflect on experiences and catalog my thoughts.
Upon reflection, it seems that I should have a “manifesto” as to why I travel, but I have never specifically considered it. At the end of the day, I feel more alive, more cultured, more empathetic, and happier when I am exploring. That said, I thought it would be useful to spend 15 minutes jotting down some thoughts on why I seek out traveling. Below is the result.
To me, travel…
- Encourages empathy. Judgment comes incredibly easily to humans. Empathy, putting yourself in another’s shoes, does not. Being forced to on some level live in another’s shoes (or at least walk their roads, eat their food, speak their language) helps.
- Increases understanding. It is one thing to read about a place in the news, it is another to experience it. Reading about the Middle East feels very different than walking by the Jerusalem bus stop bombed by Palestinians months earlier or driving through the intense checkpoints Palestinians endure every day in the West Bank.
- Erases borders. Literally and figuratively. The world as much less black and white the more I experience and explore it. It turns out many (most?) conflicts and debates have much more of a “right versus right” aspect to them than either side acknowledges.
- Expands boundaries. It is easy to become narrow-mined as an American. Travel makes me grateful for all the privileges I was born into (civil liberties, great education, high per capita income), but also see that other places also have great qualities: be it a balance between work and life, strong family connections, or environmental preservation.
- Is fun and adventurous. Seems simple, but it’s true. I often feel most alive when stepping off a plane, train, boat, or truck into a new country or city. Airports, with people from all around the world bustling to and fro, never cease to excite me.
- Challenges me, and therefore teaches me. It’s easier to be challenging in new and different settings; in some ways, travel is a forced “re-set” of my ordinary routine.
- Liberates me. With just a pack on my back and a passport in my hand, no schedule, no errands, no worries.
- Allows for serendipity: some of the most engaging and interesting conversations in my life have come during travel; be it the physicist on his way to start-up the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland or the priest working in Uganda, I get a chance to meet fascinating people.
- Showcases the beauty of the natural world: it often boggles my mind when I look outside the window of a plane and realize I’m 35,000 feet above earth. The world is a stunning place; my breath has been taken away countless times by some sunset, temple, or vista. I consider them a form of meditation.