In the travel blogging world, it can be easy to feel as if exposure and Instagram photo ops serve as validation for all that shifts and changes within us as we move about the world. It’s as if “likes” are somehow a telling response to moving moments and meaningful relationships. More than once have I shared a favorite memorable experience, only to feel like it was insignificant because of a lacking response, predetermined by an algorithm according to the time of day I posted it. In the end, we quantify the value of an experience based on how many people see and react to it. Silly, huh?
So why do we travel then? What makes it meaningful? Does it make us better?
Does it bring us together? I hope so. I believe if we’re intentional and pay attention, travel makes us more compassionate, resilient, grateful, and just in general, more joyful people.
One of my favorite quotes, as it pertains to travel, is by Maya Angelou when she said, “Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” When we’re able to see ourselves in the lives of another- we grow in compassion. When we see and experience people of different cultures, religions, and ways of life, we see although we’re different- we’re human. We’ve all had those experiences where you get hopelessly lost in a new city, or have no idea how to work a subway ticket machine because you can’t get it in your home language. And just when you feel like there’s only so many circles you can spin or times you can press a different combination of grimy buttons, a stranger steps in and saves your quickly downward spiraling day. We belong to each other and we see ourselves more rightly in relationship with each other. We learn about ways of being. We integrate ideas and ways of looking at the world that make us better. We slow down to appreciate and build bridges across lines of difference. And hopefully, we return home carrying an openness to connection, a willingness to step outside our comfort zones, and a desire to offer love to someone else.
Travel also makes us more resilient. Just think about it. You find your way to a place where they drive on the opposite side of the road, or sometimes there’s not even a “side of the road” (looking at you India and Vietnam). Oppositely, if you’re in New York, co-sharers of the narrow packed side walk will abruptly prompt you to “Pick a side!”. You’re literally illiterate with very few chances to communicate in a common language. And yet somehow- we still navigate this world through terrible late night bus rides, missed flight connections, awkward late night taxi conversations, and a terrifying tuktuk ride or two. When we cultivate resiliency within ourselves, we grow in self-efficacy, stress management, determination and grit, and the ability to fail and get back up. We’ve all had the days abroad where you have to fold your cards and watch a movie in the hotel. But then the next day- you get back up, put on your best walking shoes, a power accessory of choice, and walk towards the daunting subway system to try again.
Hopefully, when we return home from the moments of magic and mayhem, we see our
routine world with fresh eyes. We appreciate the simple commute to the grocery store trusting the route we’ve regularly worn. We see our bed and know it will greet us with as many blankets and cozy pillows as we please, knowing there will always be a top sheet. We see known faces and places with the embrace of familiarity, comfort, and trust. Gratitude. It increases within us the capacity to see the ordinary and extraordinary alike and think them to be equally magnificent. We thank the tropical flowers and appreciate our cozy house plants. We admire the colorful textures and embrace one’s minimalist wardrobe. We fall in love with foreign spices and get down with comfort food. When we cultivate gratitude, we wire our brain to see the good. We train our mind to be thankful. We develop a greater appreciation for our experiences, the good and the bad, trusting them to be our teacher.
As in anything, having eyes to see opportunities to be compassionate, resilient, and grateful
takes practice. But in the end, I believe putting in the work leads us to greater collective and individual joy. Traveling makes us more joyful people. So if anything- travel for your own joy. Travel to bring joy to others. Travel to spread joy. Travel to see the good. Travel to make connections. Travel to break through your comfort of routine and sameness. Travel for the sake of feeling and experiencing life. All of this will add to your joy.
Anyone can leave their home country, state, or city without ever leaving their comfort zone. But I’m not sure that’s the point. When we step outside what is familiar, we step into growth. For so many reasons, travel produces good things in us and around us. But if none other, we walk away more compassionate, resilient, and grateful, ultimately leading to our joy.
And if that’s not a reason to go somewhere- well, I don’t know what is.
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