An obsession with the world at large, with culture, with geography, with the human condition, is in my blood. Well, maybe I wasn’t born with it, who really knows? What I do know is that as a toddler, my placemats were maps of the world and of the United States. I was an observant and curious child, and my parents loved to provide an “educational experience” wherever possible, so we talked a lot about different places: where we lived, where Nana lived, where my cousins lived, things like that. They pointed out places I saw on the news. I remember watching the Berlin Wall fall when I was 4 and my dad showing me where it was on the map. Now that I’m thinking about it, why did my parents let a 4 year old watch the news? No wonder I’m afraid of everything. I digress.
I loved “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego” – the show, the computer game, all of it. My favorite game was “geography” – one person would name a place, and the other person had to think of another place that started with the last letter of the previous place before the time ran out. I could play for hours before I was in third grade, with a seemingly endless list of places I had read about on my maps and in books. I was very popular in school, obviously.
I remember when my dad took a trip to the Amazon when I was in second grade. I was absolutely incensed that my mom would not let me go with him. Her argument was always “What would you eat? They don’t have peanut butter sandwiches in the Amazon.” That’s actually an extremely valid point since I basically ate three foods as a child, but I would have made it work. I was equally distraught when he went to Egypt and Israel to see the pyramids and the Holy Land and I couldn’t go. Again, my mother said I would have nothing to eat, but I think she was mostly worried about bombs.
I was lucky as a kid to have parents who were young and mostly retired, so we traveled around in an RV for about 2 months each summer when I was in middle school and high school. I’ve been fortunate to see almost every state and more national parks than I can count. As beautiful as America is, and as much amazing stuff as there is to see here, I still wanted more. There is a whole world outside of the U.S., despite what many people seem to think.
Travel, for me, is not about scenery. It’s not about finding the prettiest mountains or the clearest waters or the softest sand. All those things are bonuses, but they aren’t why I go. I go because I want to see how other people live, to know their stories and understand their opinions and learn about their culture. I want a mix of the touristy sites (because let’s be honest, some things are famous for a reason) with the gritty back roads of a foreign land. That’s the travel “sweet spot” for me. I think the most beautiful thing about the world is how all of our beliefs and traditions are different, but at the core, we’re all the same. I seek that sameness in others across the world because it invigorates me. Finding that you can be friends with someone who doesn’t speak the same language as you or celebrate the same holidays or have any idea where your state is is such an enriching experience. It makes the world feel smaller to me.
I’ll be the first to say I don’t understand people who say they don’t like to travel. I understand not liking the process of getting somewhere, sure. No one wants to sit on a plane cramped in like a sardine while paying through the nose to eat microwaved food. I get it. But to not enjoy meeting new people and seeing new places and learning more about this gigantic and tiny world we live in? That I do not understand. I want to go everywhere. The more different a place seems from where I live, the better, because that is when the sameness of people shines through with such stark contrast.
It has been eleven months since I last took an international trip, and while that might not seem very long to most people, it has been torture for me since about…ten months ago. Yes, you could say I’ve been bitten by the international travel bug. Traveling restores my faith in humanity when I feel like the world is an awful place. Terrible things happen everywhere, yes, but so do good things.
Once upon a time, I traveled to escape life. All the races and the states and the places served to help me forget the pain I was struggling with, but they only helped when I was gone. Now, I travel because, like the quote says, I don’t want life to escape me. I can’t help it, it’s in my blood.
LEAVE A COMMENT: Do you love travel? Why or why not? Where would you want to go if you could go anywhere?