3 Reasons Why We Travel the World
Do you have an intense case of wanderlust but can’t hit the road yet? Here are three reminders why travel is worth it no matter your circumstances—and inspiration that keeps this traveler dreaming and planning her next trip.
The itch to travel feels most acute in the hardest of times. When our travels are grounded by life circumstances or international emergencies that close borders, it’s hard to satisfy your hunger to see the world. However, even when we are stuck at home, we can let our imaginations wander with dreaming and planning our next adventures.
When I feel overwhelmed by wanderlust and a desire to see the world, I look to travel books I might have missed, I research itineraries, and search for travel journal apps to record my next adventure. After all, as Lao Tzu said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”—and step one is honing in on where we want to go and why.
Here are three reasons why traveling the world is important—and how we can satisfy our natural curiosity for elsewhere before our next departure.
1. Travel is About Freedom and Hope
“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” – Susan Sontag
The desire to travel is second nature to many people. We long to stretch our legs and have tales of inspiring adventures. We want to have the freedom to escape the monotony of our everyday life and perhaps hope to find more interesting weather, customs, and landscapes on the other side of the world.
Some people do not have the freedom, the means, or the time to travel, but long for it. In his memoir Travels with Charley: In Search of America, John Steinbeck wrote that “nearly every American hungers to move.” On a cross-country road trip with his French poodle Charley in the early 1960s, Steinbeck met people living in difficult circumstances who “spoke quietly of how they wanted to go someday, to move about, free and unanchored, not toward something but away from something."
2. Travel is about loss of control and finding your way
“I met a lot of people in Europe. I even encountered myself.” – James Baldwin
In travel, we free ourselves to possibility, but we are also leaving behind the safety of our daily routines and as a result, rediscover ourselves. When you arrive in a new place, you are forced to think differently and anew.
The act of orienting yourself to your destination—learning new street names and phrases in a different language, or trying to find your way back to your hotel at night without GPS—can remind you of your own strength. Or, perhaps you are ambitious and are seeking transformational change. In the case of writer David Sedaris, he traveled to Japan to quit smoking.
I was less ambitious when I spent a semester of college studying political science in London. Though I was trying to “find myself,” my most pressing concerns were how to pack for living abroad for four months, and how to navigate the famous and overwhelming Tube map. I soon learned my way, and am glad I brought a backpack for weekend trips around Europe and a body bag and money belt to protect my passport if I fell asleep on a train, or when I stayed in a crowded hostel.
3. Travel is ultimately about education, formalized or not
“A great way to learn about your country is to leave it.” – Henry Rollins
Over 330,000 American college students studied abroad in 2018, and the U.S. State Department says that “International education makes us stronger as a country.” Yet experiential learning outside a school’s curriculum is often a greater teacher than a textbook. Spending a day off from class observing the Prime Minister’s question time in person in London was my most memorable lesson about the British Parliament and how it differs from American government—and my solo adventures around Europe meant the world to me.
Until it’s time to hit the road again, I’ll keep daydreaming and planning my next adventure. Have your own strategy for satisfying your wanderlust between trips? Tag us with your best tip on Instagram or Twitter!
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By Katy Nelson on June 15, 2020
Katy Nelson is a writer living in New York City. Her writing has appeared in Forbes Travel Guide, Transitions Abroad, and Western North Carolina Magazine. Read more about her adventures at katynelsonwrites.com.