January 29, 2012

Why Do I Travel?

Most people that I meet say they like to travel. Why is that? Do we use it as a way to escape our lives? A way to reboot? Whether we load up the car for a lake weekend, relax on a beach in Mexico or trek the Inca Trail, travel is a unique part of the human experience. Every trip provides something.

I was fortunate to be exposed to travel from an early age. Both of my parents have a love for travel that was passed down to me and my sisters. My mother grew up and spent her early adulthood in England, traveled up the east coast of Africa in the 60s, worked for a year in Montreal, and hopped around the Mediterranean with her friends. My father's passion for travel came through his work. He was a salesman who got to experience many new places while on work trips. My parents passed this passion down to me and my sisters through exposing us to many different places in the United States and  in Europe (more about my family trips later). They both still travel as often as they can and I feel lucky they made travel a part of my life. More importantly, they encouraged me to travel with an open mind and to immerse myself into an experience as much as possible, even if it's uncomfortable at first. Because of this, my best experiences on a trip seem to come out of nowhere. They're almost always unexpected and come from the moments that I have completely let go of expectations and have decided to enjoy the moment, even if, at that moment, I'm sitting next to a chicken crate on a bumpy bus ride through Burma.

The summer after I graduated, I moved to Alaska with four good college friends. (The drive from Boston to Juneau was a roadtrip worthy of its own post, but I'm not sure those stories will ever make it to this blog.) After arriving and settling in, three of us decided to hike the Perseverance Trail in Juneau. While hiking the trail on a unseasonably warm day, a person coming the other direction asked if we were doing the hike to get a better view of the meteor shower that night. We didn't know anything about the meteor shower before they told us. Unexpectedly, an already amazing hike became one of the most gorgeous experiences of my life.

My friend, Terry
Perseverance Trail - Juneau, AK - 1999
I most enjoy traveling when I go into it with no parameters of what I want to "get out of it." It's a hard thing to do. If you go to Cabo looking for a cultural experience, you may be disappointed. What you'll get is a fat, mustachioed, Mexican man pouring rotgut tequila down your gullet. That may be it's own kind of cultural experience...

You might take a trip hoping to fill a void or find a piece of the puzzle that's missing in your life. But that's limiting. Sure, you may find what you're looking for, but you could be missing out on something even better. So I try to go into most trips with limited expectations and just enjoy what happens. With an open mind, I notice the similarities that I have with people instead of the differences in our lifestyles and cultures. This, more than anything brings me the most pleasure when travelling.

Visiting a place that initially feels so alien and different and coming away with a feeling of commonality makes travelling one of the great passions of my life.

So that's why I do it.

Commonality: Me and this guy both love sombreros!

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