Why do we travel? Big question. It’s the one we ask ourselves in the quiet moments, when we feel the familiar pull to move, shift, escape, explore. Why do we feel that invisible string attached to our chest, gently tugging at something in our hearts that we can’t ignore, something pulling us towards the unknown? Some people give up their careers, homes, relationships, all in the pursuit of traveling. Others might not go to such extremes, but will work all the hours in a day just to save up enough money for a plane ticket, to somewhere they have never even set foot before. Maybe it’s a feeling of restlessness, or maybe it’s just a human desire to explore the world, but once you get that travel itch it’s hard to ignore.
To escape your comfort zone?
Ahh, the comfort zone. That feeling of security, predictability and quiet contentment. There’s nothing wrong with being in your comfort zone, in fact life in this bubble is often plain sailing, coasting along. But life that’s always lived in the comfort zone can become stagnant, stifled and, quite frankly, boring. Traveling forces you to leave all of your creature comforts behind and really put yourself out into the world. It can be uncomfortable, intimidating and often a struggle at first, but in the end you wonder how you could have experienced things any other way.
To break your routine?
When you leave for traveling or a trip abroad, your daily routines go out the window. Goodbye morning work alarm, 8am bus, set lunch hour, 5pm finish, and all of the little time stamps that punctuate our day-to-day lives. Sometimes I like routine – let’s be honest, without a little bit of structure we wouldn’t get anything done. It’s nice to look forward to the little things in life, and there’s a sense of comfort and ease that comes with life’s routines. But on the flip side, they can feel stifling, and when they’re too set in stone they can become boring. Traveling pulls us out of that daily routine and replaces it with the excitement of waking up to the unknown.
To feel free?
One thing I love most about traveling is the feeling of freedom it brings. Leaving all of your responsibilities, ties, work and day-to-day life behind is exhilarating, and you feel like anything is possible. There’s a blank page in front of you and it’s completely up to you how it’s written and what you do.
To live a different life?
Going abroad, whether it’s to live or travel, exposes you to a completely different environment. One of the most enriching parts of traveling is how it opens your eyes to the way you have been living your life. When you’re abroad, you wake up each day to a life that is so far removed from your ‘normal’ life that you are forced to put yourself under the microscope. Are you happy with the way you’ve been living your life, are you now even more grateful for the things you normally take for granted? Or do your traveling experiences make you want to change things in your life that you’ve put off for too long, now that you’ve seen exactly what you are capable of and what life can be life elsewhere?
“I can never read all the books I want; I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And why do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in my life. And I am horribly limited.” – Sylvia Plath.
To meet new people?
Traveling is the best way to meet new people, full stop. Even for an introvert, there’s something about being in a foreign country that makes you want to reach out and talk to people, hear their stories, learn about their journey and where they’ve come from. And also, share your own journey. The traveling community is an easy place to meet people, and some of the best friendships are made on the road.
To know yourself?
It sounds cliched, but traveling really does teach you about yourself. Think you’re no good in a crisis? Wait until you miss the last bus to the hostel you booked for the night, have to sleep overnight in an empty train station, and book the next bus the following morning on no sleep and zero understanding of the country’s language. You’ll be shocked by how quickly you can adapt, think on your feet, stay calm and get through it. You don’t realize how resilient you are until you’re on the road and really just have to get on and do the things you never thought you could. The feeling of personal growth and learning these things about yourself is empowering and addictive.
Traveling isn’t (and shouldn’t!) be all about pushing yourself and ‘getting through the tough stuff’. It’s also about finally having time to breathe in, breathe out and RELAX. Some people find relaxation lying on a beach in Thailand, some people find it strolling through the streets of Salzburg, some people find it drinking cocktails on a rooftop bar in New York City, some people find it jumping off the side of a bridge on a bungee cord in Queensland (to those people, you’re crazy but I salute you!).
To live in the moment?
Traveling is one of the few times in life that we don’t need to be reminded to live in the moment. It’s hard not to be present when you’re in a new city, meeting new people, visiting famous sights, or watching the sunset from the other side of the world. When we’re out of our comfort zone everything is new, and it feels like we see life through new eyes.
To feel the highs (and lows) of emotions?
Traveling is full of extreme highs. Everything is new, exciting, and sometimes it feels like your brain is in constant happy overdrive. People often brush over the fact that it can also be full of lows, though. Part of the trade off of being out of your comfort zone in a new place, without the burdens of your ‘normal’ life, is that when bad things happen you don’t have your usual security blanket around you – friends, family, home, people speaking your native language – so if things go pear shaped it can feel all the more daunting. But you get through it and come out stronger. It’s all character building. Plus, I’ve always found that the highs far outweigh the lows!