“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” – Anonymous
I’ve always been a big fan of this quote.
I think back to an ex-boyfriend who told me of his “running away” to Southeast Asia after some rough times. His mom, however, had a different take. She told him he was not running away from things, but that he was running towards himself. He was running toward finding his true self. I like that and find that travel can often lead us toward discovery, both discovery of the world around us and the world within us.
We all travel for different reasons though. It doesn’t have to be some major life event that compels us on that major journey of self-discovery. Sometimes we travel just for a change of scenery.
So I thought I’d get a little philosophical here and delve into reasons why we travel — from the basics of simply needing a vacation to those more in-depth reasons of self-reflection.
Here are some reasons I came up with:
We want to reconnect with our loved ones
For me, this brings to mind the family vacation. I think of having that quality time together as a family, away from the normal routine, and doing something fun. It might be going to an amusement park, playing on the beach or exploring a new city. But it’s not so much of the “where” we are, it’s more of the “who” we are with. We’re with our spouse, our children, our parents, our grandchildren. It’s that time of not being interrupted by work or errands or school or soccer practice so that we can truly reconnect with each other. Memories…I bet they’re flooding back in your mind right now.
We want to visit family or friends
Many of us travel to visit family or friends that live elsewhere. Some are simply a few hours away by car or train and some are much further. We travel to spend time with people we love, who are important to us. Maybe it’s a sibling who relocated for a job or an old college friend who decided to move to Europe. Again, it’s not about the “where” we are, but the “who” we are with. We are making a point to spend time with these people, to reconnect in person, face-to-face.
We need a break from the every day
Probably one of the biggest reasons we travel is simply to take that much-needed break from our daily routines. To get away from work, de-stress, relax, and do something different. Even if that something different is simply sleeping in and reading a book on the beach. We all have different ways of de-stressing. For some it might be taking in museums and having nice dinners on a city vacation. For others it’s hiking in a national park and sleeping under the stars. And for some it’s sitting on the beach reading a book. Whatever it is, it’s yours.
We’re celebrating something
This is one of my favorite reasons to travel: to celebrate a life event. I remember celebrating my 40th birthday in Argentina. On a 20 hour bus ride! One of the best birthdays ever!
We travel to celebrate marriages, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations. We travel to celebrate being cancer-free. We travel to celebrate being single again. To me, there’s always a reason to celebrate, and therefore, to travel. Hell, celebrating being alive each day is enough reason for me to travel. Then again, I’m a born wanderer. Seriously though, milestones are great reasons to travel.
We want to try something new
Learning something new is a wonderful reason to travel. And many of us want to learn to do something new in a new environment. So we travel to Mexico to learn Spanish. We go to Colorado to learn to ski or snowboard. We fly half way across the world to learn to cook Thai food in Thailand. For those of us who are incredibly curious, combining travel with a class to learn something we’ve always wanted to learn is the ticket.
We want to get better at something or deepen our knowledge about something
I think of Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love for this one. She went to India to deepen her yoga and meditation practice. She traveled far away from her home in New York to do this.
Some of us want to improve our pottery skills so we travel to Ireland to take a pottery course. Some us might be American history buffs so we travel to the Boston area and tour some of the sites of the American Revolution with a really good guide leading the way. Traveling to a new environment to help us gain a deeper understanding of something we enjoy is a fabulous reason to jump on a plane.
We want to give back
Lots of us are taking volunteer vacations. We want to give back to this world in some way. So we pack up our bags and go build houses in Cambodia. We travel to Kenya to assist with HIV/Aids education. We fly to Costa Rica to help with sea turtle research. It’s a way to see a new place AND do some good.
We want a change of scenery
We live in the suburbs of Kansas City or we live in the big sprawling city of Los Angeles or we live in rural Texas. So we travel somewhere that is different from where we live. The beach, the mountains, the desert, a huge city or a small town. We simply long to be somewhere that is not the slightest bit like our home.
We’re interested in other cultures
Similar to a change of scenery is a change of culture. Often we want to know more about other people. What do people in Peru eat for breakfast? What’s it like to attend a wedding in India? What kinds of Christmas traditions are there in Sweden? We are curious about how other people live. What foods they eat. What they wear. What they do for fun. What they do for work. What traditions they embrace. What holidays they celebrate and how they celebrate them.
I posed the question “why do you travel”…
To the members of a couple of Facebook groups I belong to. Here are some of the responses (which I absolutely love):
- I guess you will have as many reasons as there are travelers. I travel to broaden my mind, to see new horizons, to ease my restless soul, to learn about the past and the present – and just out of curiosity. If you are even able to enjoy yourself while traveling, strike friendship with people you never thought you would meet, drink from mountain springs and take home fresh food packed in palm leaves, I think you live life to the fullest.
- Because I can. Very simple reason. (I think this is my favorite!)
- To experience the beauty & inspiration of God’s creation.
- I travel to gain empathy and perspective. I also find it to be humbling and eye-opening to see the vastness and beauty of the world.
- To experience different places and different cultures, make new friends all over the world.
- Honestly? Mainly to run from reality back home.
- As a woman from a very strict country, I travel to taste life and its simplest pleasures.
- To see the world from different perspectives!
And someone shared this quote:
“We travel because we need to, because distance and difference are the secret tonic to creativity. When we get home, home is still the same. But something in our mind has been changed, and that changes everything.” – Jonah Lehrer
Why do I travel?
I travel for so many reasons. Let’s face it, I have itchy feet and can’t stand to be in one place for too long. I’m also intensely curious. And I get bored — very easily. So for me it’s all about following my curiosity. It’s about exploring new places, meeting new people, learning new things. I need constant newness in my life to stimulate me. Having my senses all going crazy at once is bliss!
I travel for adventure. Now, I’m not one of those crazy risk takers, but I do like pushing my boundaries a bit. I like to travel alone as a result. It’s up to me to figure it all out.
I travel to see the differences in this big, wild world. And I travel to see the sameness. Yes, we humans are all different in many ways. But we are all also very much the same.
I travel to be reminded of the goodness and kindness of my fellow human beings. I travel to be reminded of how beautiful this earth is. I travel to remember that I too am a kind-hearted person. I travel to breathe in new scents. I travel to see new sights. I travel to hear new languages. I travel to taste interesting food. I travel to feel alive.
Why do you travel? I’d love to know, so please leave a comment below.