Your Answer to the ‘Why Travel’ Question
I hate this job. I need to get out of this town. I wish life was more exciting.
This is where it starts for most of us. The idea. The dream. The decision.
This is where you buy into the notion that travel could provide some answers to the existential inquisitions lodged in your restless spirit. You’ve watched the films and read the books and heard the stories and now you’re ready to follow in the footsteps of pioneers who have left everything to embrace the unknown. Why not you, too?
I say: Go for it.
Just not quite yet.
Whatever motivates us out the door can easily be a discontent with life as it currently stands. And while our dissatisfaction can fuel positive change, we should be aware of our motives. I propose that traveling with purpose will provide a much more solid and meaningful experience than if we hold a false hope of some fantasy life where conflict, stress, and boredom don’t exist and the grass is greener anywhere but here. If travel is our means of escaping and avoiding, we will not find what we’re looking for, because we’re trying to run from ourselves.
Believe me; the road doesn’t negate the human experience. She exposes it.
‘Why’ is a hard question to walk with, but a crucial one to befriend. If you are running away, the road is long and she’ll outlast you every time. So make sure you have good shoes.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Even when the leaving is sparked by discontent, the living can be fed by purpose. Our steps can be intentional. Our eyes open. Our hearts expectant. And the possibilities can be endless.
Because not all travel is running away. Sometimes it’s running towards.
Here’s where I want to give you all the reasons you should travel. I want to fill this space with words to convince, persuade, and provide you with the bullets needed to take care of the ‘why travel’ question once and for all. But I won’t cheat you out of the struggle. You need to wrestle. You need to figure out your own purpose. You need to leave home with a direction, even when the destination is unknown.
Instead, I’ll ask you to be honest.
It’s okay if travel starts with you. Maybe it’s necessary that it does. But I believe the reasons we travel have more to do with shaping us into a people who are more loving, more compassionate, more understanding, more tolerant, more forgiving, more concerned with justice, more awestruck, and more joyful so that we can better offer ourselves as gifts to the world. Offerings, not hidden in some remote corner of the globe, but proclaimed from the hilltops we couldn’t have climbed unless we had gone in the first place.
This brings us to my second proposal.
For many vagabonds, home is the dragon to be extinguished. But our residency isn’t an inheritance to waste. Those four letters aren’t the enemy, no matter what they represent for us. If we’re honest with ourselves, the ‘why travel’ question guides us back home where we can now live differently because we’ve gone and seen and done. We settle somewhere – even if it’s somewhere foreign – and make a home shaped by those answers. Let’s not be afraid when the time comes to settle down again. Instead, may we embrace it as changed people and recognize it as a necessary step in continuing our journey.
Don’t worry. I have a feeling the values, importance, and practice of travel will not so quickly abandon you.
As for me, I have my own reasons for travel and, yes, they did start with discontent. Don’t get me wrong – I wouldn’t change a thing. A year plus into my journey though, I’ve learned that the mess and hurt and pain of life are formative companions, not enemies. And while the road has the capacity to heal, she also has the uncanny ability to take you places which confront those past wounds.
Because travel isn’t really about you at all. It’s about you, better. You, for the sake of everyone else.
Knowing our answer to that overarching ‘why travel’ question will keep us from running for running’s sake. We will be fed and fueled by whatever it is we are headed towards. That goal will inspire others who look at our lives, even if they don’t fully understand why we leave or why we stay gone. And that goal will keep us going during the difficult times innate to the human experience, no matter what our resident status.
Maybe you know. Maybe you have known for a long time. Maybe it’s in your blood.
Why you travel.
Or maybe it’s the byline on your ticket out of here. A question sufficed by the shrug of your shoulders. Fair enough.
Just don’t let it stay there. Sit with ‘why’. Hold it close. Swirl it around in your mouth and see how it tastes.
I say: Go, certainly. But go with purpose, with direction, with intention.
Whatever that may be.