The Because Travel Blog is about searching for the answer to a simple question.
The question was planted in my brain one day while I was at work having a “water cooler” chat with some colleagues about the possibility of my taking a group of students to Thailand for a semester. There we were, literally standing around the water cooler, when one of my colleagues asked, “Why do people travel? What do they get out of it?”
This question wasn’t combative. I don’t think he was suggesting people shouldn’t travel, or that there is nothing that we can get out of travel. He is a deep thinker and he was doing a little searching.
Why? Why do we travel? I have spent a significant amount of money in the pursuit of travel, and more than once I have found myself in a rather uncomfortable situation wondering why I sacrifice my quality of life at home to save money so that I can be tortured by corrupt cops, crumbling transportation infrastructure, and my all too frequent travel companion e. coli. How many nice dinners out with my wife have I sacrificed all so that I could end up with food poisoning in a small, dark room in Hanoi?
Is it worth it? I live in Hawaii so it is not like I need to get away to find beautiful scenery, great food, and adventurous recreation.
So then why do I keep traveling?
I am not sure I know. All the usual answers seem to fall short. People say travel opens you up and makes you more receptive to trying new things. That was certainly true when I was younger, but I am not sure that I will get any more open than I currently am. People say travel teaches you that despite geographical, cultural, economic, and linguistic differences, people are basically the same. But I already believe this. Again, perhaps I learned this from travel when I was younger, but now it is already one of my core beliefs. If I never traveled outside my country ever again, this belief would continue to be a part of me.
Travel has taught me to be flexible, tolerant, and happy with very few material possessions, but I know lots of people who have those qualities who have never left the country. And I know lots of people who have visited many different places and learned none of those lessons.
To bust out a little logic, that would suggest travel is neither necessary, not sufficient for teaching those lessons.
So WHY do I keep traveling?
Right now, I don’t think I know a truly satisfying answer to this question. And maybe there isn’t one answer for everyone. Travel can be a party, a religious journey, an artistic expression, an adrenaline soaked rage, a relaxing break, an escape, a search, a school, a dream, a nightmare . . .
But I need to find my answer. This blog, ultimately, is my narcissistic attempt to find my answer.
What do I get out of traveling?
Why do I travel?
Right now, my only answer is simply “because travel.” I will look for a better one. I hope it takes me a lifetime to find it.