Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Why Travel?

As I write this, I’m nursing a major travel hangover. Symptoms of a travel hangover include fatigue, dehydration, a suitcase that needs unpacking, an angry liver, dirty laundry, an empty wallet, a dead camera battery, a distended gut from regrettable but delicious food choices, and a lack of desire to move from the couch.

Several times, I have been asked why I travel. After all, it’s expensive, requires a lot of planning, physically and mentally taxing, and I always return fat and broke. Yet, I live to see new places. My pink suitcase is perpetually on our bedroom floor and as soon as I return from one trip, I’m dreaming of the next.

To me, asking “Why travel?” is like asking, why breathe? Why think? Why exist? We are blessed to live in a big, beautiful world rich in diverse customs, beliefs and ways of living. To deny yourself exposure to other places is to deny yourself an essential part of life. So much can be learned simply from seeing how others live.

Life is about experiences. Of course, you can have plenty of great experiences in your own town. But remaining in the same place means the same experiences day after day, year after year. This results in boredom, monotony, and my least favorite thing of all: closed-mindedness. Ever met people who have lived in- and remained in- one place their entire lives? Scary, isn’t it? They tend think the way they view the world is the only way. It’s a giant example of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. I can honestly say I have never met a closed- minded traveler, but I have seen plenty of people who have never left their own backyards.

I live in the Northwest. Therefore, I’m fortunate enough to know what four real seasons feel like. I know how fresh snowflakes feel against my cheeks and how exhausting the dry heat of summer is. I have smelled clean mountain air, swam in fresh water lakes, and endured mosquito bites and bee stings. I have tasted fresh-caught salmon and freshly picked huckleberries. The Northwest is a beautiful and amazing place to live and I am grateful for all of these experiences… except, of course, the ones involving insects.

But because I am a traveler, I have also seen the breathtaking sunsets from both coasts of Mexico. I’ve been to the top of the Empire State Building as well as the Eiffel Tower. I have seen the glittering lights of the Las Vegas Strip at night, climbed the Mayan Ruins of Chichen Itza, and eaten clam chowder at the Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. I have seen the real Mona Lisa at the Louvre in Paris, Big Ben in London, and the beautiful castles in Germany. I’ve enjoyed the beautiful fireworks displays at two Disney parks and ridden Splash Mountain. I’ve seen a real Broadway play in Manhattan and been moved to tears by the incredible beauty of Isla Mujeres, Mexico. I have felt hot, white sand beneath my feet and cool ocean breezes against my cheeks. I’ve met happy people, sad people, rich people and poor people from all over the world who have touched my life and made me aspire to better myself as well as grateful for the things I already have.

Last September, my husband and I were in Riviera Maya, Mexico for his birthday when we decided to spend a day on Isla Mujeres. Rather than go through a tour company, we decided to take the bus like the locals. We’ve been in that area so much, we practically are locals. While waiting at the bus stop, a cab driver pulled up and offered us a very competitive rate (one of the many awesome things about Mexico).
The cab driver took us through the actual city of Cancun on our way to catch the ferry to the island. We saw where the locals ate, lived, played and raised their families. We even drove past a small Catholic school. All the children were out playing in adorable matching uniforms. They all stared at the gringos in the taxi as we passed them. I remember thinking how amazing it was that we were seeing so many sights that tourists never see. You can’t have that kind of adventure in your own backyard.

Would I have still had a good life so far had I not had those experiences? Of course. Would I be the same person I am today? Definitely not. I travel because it fulfills me, completes me and amazes me at the same time. It’s more than a hobby. To me, it’s an essential part of life.


Writergrrl said...

A beautiful woman, inside and out, who speaks the same language I do! When my fam and I move back down to Oz you'll have to use that as an excuse to travel all over my fantastic adopted country!! Love this piece...

JessicaLee said...

Thank you darling! I would absolutely love to visit Australia. Spending time with your family would be a wonderful bonus! Thank you for your kind words.

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