It’s been called a passion. An obsession. A compulsion. It’s been applauded and criticized, held up as an enviable way of life and cautioned against as life threatening. The love of it is commonly compared to an insect bite.
So what is it about the idea of traveling, of seeing the world, that is as controversial as it is compelling? It seems like the most natural thing in the world (to me, anyway) to want to explore every corner of this planet. As a wise man once said, “It’s a big world, let’s go see some of it.” (I’m paraphrasing, but I’d like to thank Season 1 MacGyver for that gem of travel wisdom.)
As travelers, we’re confronted with State Department warnings and security concerns each step of the way. We can’t just blindly hop on a plane to any destination. Depending on where you want to go, there are visas and inoculations and Things To Consider. But still, we go. Or we listen, enthralled, as others talk about their treks in far-off places, wondering if/when it will be our turn.
There’s a kind of rivalry within travel that I’ve never quite understood: the myth of the “real” traveler. It’s the view that unless you’re off the grid, exploring a hitherto unknown spot on the globe, you’re not really traveling. The more obscure the better. Words like “authentic” and “immersion” get thrown around, with the implication being that staying in a decent hotel in a city like London doesn’t really count as “traveling.” It’s the whole traveler vs. tourist debate. Somewhere in the middle are the backpackers. For some reason, bumming around sketchy hostels without a plan or itinerary is slightly more acceptable (believe me, I’ve stayed in some questionable places and other than having a few good stories to tell now, the “realest” thing about them was the threat of communicable disease).
Travel (where you go and how you do it) is an intensely personal thing, and everyone should do what’s comfortable for them. Just because someone doesn’t want to hike to a remote mountain village doesn’t mean their experiences are any less valuable or life changing for them. It’s a pretty powerful thing to finally see a place you’ve dreamed about, whether that place is the Grand Canyon, the Eiffel Tower, or the foot of Mount Everest.
Just like how and where you travel is a personal decision, so is the reason behind it. Some people take off to find themselves, and some are trying to get lost. I travel to see for myself what the rest of the world looks like. I don’t want to rely on photographs other people have taken; I want to see the world through my own eyes.
I want to watch the sun disappear behind the Pacific Ocean. I want to smell the pastries in Paris and taste the handcrafted Belgian chocolates made fresh that day and on display in a shop window. I want to twirl around an Alpine meadow like the Von Trapp kids and run my fingertips along the ancient walls of the Colosseum. I want to compare the neon lights of Tokyo with the energy of Times Square. I want to experience as much as I can of this world, first hand.
That’s why I travel. How about you?