Guest writer Nate Stein unveils his take on the joys of travel.
Mystique and wonder surround the idea of travel. It is a worldwide goal for many reasons, not the least of which being a sense of wonder and adventure in mingling with foreign peoples in foreign lands. People cannot often tell you exactly why they want to see the world, save for a vague idea that it will be greener than the grass on their side of the fence but beyond that they become unsure. Many people agree that it is a wonderful pursuit, but many other people may blindly agree without realizing why. Truthfully, the joy of traveling is two parts, with one being the more obvious.
To travel is to be free to do what one pleases. Instead of working, or living in a routine, or being told what to do, a traveler may set her own schedule and go where she pleases at her own pace, or even do nothing at all by the hotel pool. This is the obvious pleasure of travel–feeling emancipated and stress free. A vacation is a break from the ordinary and, with some consideration, is obviously independent of the destination as long as it “isn’t here.” A budget-conscious person could even take an excursion to her backyard and camp out amongst the weeds for a few days, avoiding work and not answering phone calls. She could spend time alone, making her own decisions, avoiding the routine of daily life.
A more subtle joy, though, arises quietly out of a few overt features of visiting someplace new. When vacationing, people go out and look at monuments, learn about culture in museums and observe it walking on the streets. Photos are taken and memories are preserved. Just strolling along the roads, ordering at restaurants, and riding on buses becomes exciting and perhaps challenging. To a certain extent, another city, state, or country is not inherently better than one’s own. A visitor from Chicago seeing Atlanta for the first time will find as much fun as a visitor going in the other direction, from Atlanta to Chicago. The same goes for a person going from America to France, and the opposite. If one place is not actually more interesting than another, it is something about going there that makes the difference.
Traveling, then, must bring out a sense of adventure, of wonder, of curiosity, in its adherents. It reminds people to open their eyes and notice the things around them. To appreciate the big and small things that others can’t see at home. When merely the knowledge of being somewhere is enough in itself to be exciting, when just seeing people conversing and living in their cultures is noteworthy again, it is the taste of something bigger. Traveling is a reminder that the world, no matter where, is thrilling. It is a reminder to appreciate life and the things going on. It is a reminder to enjoy oneself, a reminder to be alive.
Returning home, then, is never a let-down. The added feelings of connectedness and enthusiasm for the outside world, and for one’s own society, linger on after the trip ends. In the post-travel state of mind a person returning home finds more time to reacquaint with friends or to notice the simple pleasures of her own town again. It is clear to see what was once taken for granted.
It is easy, sometimes, to sleep through life. To walk around in a haze and not appreciate the bits and pieces of the world to notice all around. Traveling is the alarm clock, the wake up call to really be alive and believe in all it entails: to use all five senses, all of one’s emotions, and to not day-dream the hours away. Traveling, then, can be said to be the innate feeling of being alive. Novelty and adventure can be found anywhere in the world as long as people take the time to open their eyes and look, even in the backyard amongst the weeds.
Nate Stein currently lives in China after graduation from the University of Florida. He has written for the Orlando Sentinel, and he regularly blogs at natestein.wordpress.com.