As I travel more and more, both locally and abroad, I come to a few certain realizations. A combination of my constant aging, lol, the places I have visited and the relationships I have established, either very personal or just in passing, have allowed me to dwell on thoughts of what it all means…at least to me.
Before I go there, I want to at least say that I do understand the nature of most travelers ventures. The once a year vacation to a place, maybe just comfortable enough, safe enough, yet distant enough to release the daily pressures of work, of the mundane. Most want the wait staff to speak in a language they understand, the beaches to be glistening and the food to taste, well, mostly like home, but just a little better.
The thought of having to try to communicate differently, eat something foreign, or drive down a sketchy road doesn’t sound like much of a holiday for most. I get it. I do.
But, for me, the true nature of travel, is exactly that…discovery. The truth in the discovery.
I travel to find truth. Truth in real places, with real people, with real culture. Searching for these truths as I travel allows me to search for the truth in myself. The more challenging the place is I visit, whether traversing a sticky situation, having dinner with guests that speak in a language that I don’t understand, or getting lost in the middle of nowhere, the more I realize how important and sweet life is and more importantly, how we live it.
The big house, the new car, brand name tennis shoes…all of the material items that we are brought up to know, and trained to love by the big Marketing firms, mean nothing. We, especially in the United States, live too large. We consume and consume and in doing so we forget the important things.
We have forgotten that in death, none of those material things matter, but our experiences will. Our memories will last. Our travel stories will be shared.
My memories of shopping in a mall for new clothes are no match for the experience and incredible joy of popping out of a jungle path into a Laotian families yard to be encouraged to join in their BBQ.
I could care less about the latest car with the most recent technology even if offered to me, but dinner with a nomadic Mongolian family in the Gobi desert under a sparkling Milky Way will live in my soul forever.
This is what I live for, what I yearn for.
To glimpse just a little into the lives of others on this planet, into the way they live and the places they live, makes us grow as human beings. We learn that there are other ways, that people are just people, that the beauty of this world needs protection and we learn real tolerance.
Travel is enlightenment.
So…go be uncomfortable somewhere, freeze your ass off or sweat like you never have, feel strange, eat food you’ve never heard of, get lost…but then go find yourself.