Why Do We Travel? My Reflections
By Emily Black
While hiking the rim of The Grand Canyon recently, I overheard a couple talking. The woman asked her partner, “why do you think people travel?” Without hesitation, the man retorted, “to escape their shitty lives.”
His blunt, yet honest reply threw my mind into overdrive. Do we travel to escape? What exactly are we escaping from? I have been traveling for months, what exactly am I running from?
Who would have thought harmless eavesdropping would ignite an existential fire in my belly. Over the next several days, I began reflecting more and more on this question, and this is what I came up with…
My reason for traveling is not to withdraw from life. I travel so that life does not withdraw from me. This led me to ponder my post-nomadic life-- losing my job, the heartbreak, the loneliness, the confusion.
The structure of my once-solid life crumbled before my eyes during the COVID-19 pandemic. But the deconstruction was a beautiful and painful reminder of the freedom that I possessed, and how control is simply an illusion. It gave me insight into the fragility of life, the time I possess on Earth, and my potential.
I remembered one of my favorite quotes from Janis Joplin, “freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.” Recognizing that the security I’d clung to so dearly was no longer there, I thought to myself “what did I have to lose?” That’s when I decided to change my life. I renovated a 1971 Travel Trailer and took off to the U.S. Southwest with my best friend. My mission was simple. It was one of enlightenment, growth, self-discovery, expansion of consciousness, and adventure. It was not one of fear or escapism. I wanted to embrace the fruit of life fully and squeeze every last drop from it.
I write this now from a coffee shop in my home city of Pittsburgh where I’ve been staying the last couple of weeks. I look back on my recent travels with gratitude for all of the memories, lessons, and life experiences. Dreaming was the easy part. Sitting down, creating a strategy, putting in the work and effort, and following through was the hard part.
Some travel for business, pleasure, to study, or to attend to family. We all have one thing in common. We are all explorers at heart yearning to see beautiful places, explore new cultures, and dip our toes into the pool of this world’s pleasures. I’ve reaped the benefits of nomadism, and I plan to continue doing so.
What Are the Benefits of Travel?
You can spend years studying in a classroom and still never learn what this planet truly has to offer. You realize the difference between theory and practice. When you travel you understand how small you are. You realize that most of the things you see on social media and television are just what others allow you to see. You realize that people are so different, yet so similar-- that we all have the same struggles, vices, and pleasures. You realize that life is a wonderful gift.
When you veer away from the norm and your daily routine, you challenge yourself greatly. To step out of your comfort zone is the ultimate act of bravery. You learn how resourceful you are, and how great it feels to overcome obstacles.
Every unique experience is a learning opportunity, even if it is painful. By experiencing the unfamiliar, you expand upon your skills and inner knowledge. You learn about yourself, and your purpose. You learn about the world around you. You learn to relax. You learn how to adventure.
When we spend time away from home, we appreciate the luxuries of our daily, cushy lives. We appreciate clean water, electricity, and our homes. We appreciate ourselves and our bravery. We appreciate the beauty of nature and the magical things that life has to offer.
So Why Do You Travel? Tell us in the comment section below