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Why do we travel?
Since the rear end of my 2-month global trip currently resides in an endless engagement with an airplane seat 6 miles in the sky, I have had a lot of time to reflect on what the odyssey was all about and what it was all for. Why did I pick up, leave my home and travel to the far ends of the earth away from friends, family and the things I know best for over 2 months?
I can honestly say that travel makes me a better person.
We delay things in our day-to-day life because the timing is never right. We search for a little more information/time/money to make that one decision because we know that it isn’t paramount that we make a decision this very second. However, travel springs forth the inevitable clamor of derailed intentions without checking to see if your seat belt was even fastened.
By traveling you are agreeing to roll around in uncertainty’s playpen. That’s the deal. Travel creates the necessity for you to be decisive. Reservations that you didn’t make will force you to choose. Visas that you forgot to get will implore you to act. No wifi will compel you to improvise.
And the thing is – other than severe injury – your friends won’t feel sorry for you for anything that doesn’t go as planned. Jealousy is the coat worn by all those you left behind. Such is the burden of the traveler, and rightfully so.
When you do find yourself amongst a horde of other foreigners in a hostel, you realize that you are but one traveler, in one city, at this one particular moment in time. Almost immediately, you meet people who are traveling longer than you are or farther than you are and who all have their own unique stories. You ascertain quite quickly that your amazing trip is just part of larger overlapping global quilt built on the back of curiosity.
Remove yourself from this moment, and everyone else’s journey goes on; your absence won’t even be noted. But give a travel tip or share a story with those around you and you might change your collective experience forever. Travel confirms your global insignificance but it reveals your local importance through a smile, a handshake or a conversation you chose to share in.
And in those dialogues, what you typically get is a new perspective on politics, on business, on family, on love, on life, on everything. And it’s those new jolts of input that change you for the better, each and every time; whether it’s the insight of a 69-year-old retired lawyer from New Zealand, or the family stories the Cambodian father of four told you on your tour of Angkor Wat.
You matter to those around you so long as you engage with them. In the end, we’re all looking for connection and purpose, even in the briefest of moments but the traveler only feels that magnetic pull of random relatedness when he decides to hit the open road, not before it.
So with all that being said, here is my:
Ode To The Traveler
Go. Explore. Wander. Try. Challenge. Change. Learn. Ask. Meet. Indulge. Inspect. Endure. Climb. Conquer. Connect. Give. Share. Translate. Iterate. Improvise. Venture.
Have a plan. Embrace the unforeseen. Get curious. Get a passport. Get lost.
Lean forward. Move forward. Be forward. Never regret. Always reminisce. Don’t wish you did; be grateful you’ve done.
You have but one chance to check out the planet that cradles you. So go out, go forth, go once more into the breach and do something your 75-year-old self will thank you for. Because when you’re old and gray, you’ll smile fondly about the stories you have to tell, and those around you will smile because you’re the one telling them.
Being interested is your duty. Being interesting is your choice. Choose to dare. Choose to be. Choose to travel. Have the audacity to live the life you’ve been dying to.
Yes, that is me jumping in that photo. It was taken on Conical Hill on the Routeburn Track in New Zealand. Please share the photo with all the travelers you think would enjoy it. Copy it. Save it. Facebook it. Tweet it.