I originally intended to write another interview-based post on sex and travel- which is totally still happening!- but after going through people’s responses, I decided this topic needed a post of its own. I asked nine people, all of whom have spent a considerable amount of time backpacking or living abroad or both, why they travel and three major themes emerged:
1. I travel as an escape.
Some people traveled because they were dissatisfied with their hometown or 9-to-5 lifestyle; they wanted to seek out other options. Only one interviewee mentioned this reason alone as his reason for traveling, but he was less escaping from something and more escaping to something else: the mountains, the snow, a life in the wilderness.
“Why am I setting off on my next trip? I think about sitting in a lonely cove for a couple of days, just throwing my fishing line in the water. I think about riding trails and seeing no one for days. I think about sleeping under the stars. I know I will stop at some great climbing destinations over on the east coast, too.”
“I initially traveled because I was curious and I was dissatisfied with my hometown. My world felt small and I wanted to see what was outside of it.”
“I was searching for something other than the mundane life I saw everyone around me living. I felt restless and anxious for more. We have the power to fight for the life we want and I think most people forget that and get sucked into the mindset of just trudging through and getting through life. I don’t want to just trudge through it, I want to skip, and laugh, and love through it.”
2. I travel as an opportunity to satisfy my curiosity about the world.
A few interviewees mentioned a certain desire to see what was out there in the world. They didn’t just want to watch it on TV or read about it, but wanted to see and interpret the world for themselves. One participant brought up the fact that she learned that “sometimes you have more in common with an orange bearded Hindu selling chai on the streets than you do with your own family“, alluding to the great realization that despite all of our cultural differences, we are all more similar than we think.
“I do it because I’m curious, because the world and its people are amazing, and because I think about how we all connect in the big picture.”
“Travel is important because you see more. You see more lifestyle choices. You see more nature outside of the city. When you see more suddenly it seems like there are more possibilities. And you become more curious. And life is more interesting.”
“I travel because I was always curious how other people lived. I grew tired of my own way of doing things, and was eager to explore first hand how others went about their daily business. I could’ve read, or watched movies, but that wasn’t enough for me. It felt amazing to find out the truth about the world through my eyes.”
3. I travel because it’s a path to self-discovery.
By far the most popular answer, nearly all interviewees mentioned how travel contributed to self-discovery for them. Many discussed the role of having new experiences, and how it makes you “richer”, more mindful and aware, more flexible, humbler and more appreciative of what you have, and less afraid of the unknown. Some mentioned learning about themselves by trying on different “selves” while traveling. One traveler pointed out that travel is empowering because you overcome personal obstacles.
“I travel because it sets my mind free — free from the shackles of a set of all-too-familiar contexts, comforts and conveniences. Simply being in a foreign place forces you, in a sense, to discover your limits and to learn by doing…We tend to tell ourselves a lot of stories in everyday life, like ‘I could never climb do this, or that thing,’ until you travel and actually do.”
“You can live dozens of lives in a day, learn who you really are at the core, what you want, what you don’t want and that it’s always changing…And just when you think you’ve figured it out, you haven’t.”
“At some point in the middle of traveling, I realized that actually the reason why I travel is because of connection – mostly with people, but with places too, and of course with places through people.”
“Filling my life with as much experience as I possibly can makes me feel more alive and travel hands you that on a silver platter; it’s the embodiment of experience…The more experience you collect, the richer your life is.”
“I feel and experience things deeper now, whether it’s from relationships, to sitting in front of the ocean and feeling its presence, to the flavor of plain old rice. Traveling has ultimately enhanced my senses as a human being”
“I don’t see the purpose of life without creating as many experiences as I can…I have come to appreciate the small and big things on such a deeper level now that I have seen more of the world and more of myself. Because of traveling I truly feel that every day I wake up is an opportunity to experience and create something that is meaningful to me instead of being afraid of the future or the unknown.”
Well, what do you think- Why travel? Did we miss anything here?