After some considerable thought and some planning to come, I’ve decided to head south after this semester and backpack through Mexico and Central/ South America for four or five months. I’m still debating whether to start a completely new blog or to continue on from this existing blog. The question arises of how much time I will find (or want to find while traveling) to add to these posts. Surely, when I return I will commit myself to writing about the adventures. As always, it will be on a shoe-string budge, and I’ll be bringing nothing much but the bare necessities and a small acoustic travel guitar.
I thought it would be appropriate to reflect on my own top ten reasons for choosing to travel, rather than pursuing other endeavors. (Remember, this is a matter of opinion, not ultimatums)
1) It’s a better way to meet people. Not to say that you can’t meet people in your home town or city (of course you can), but it’s the way you go about meeting these people while you travel, I think. The question of “what do you do?” and of status become irrelevant, and the question of “where have you been?” become more relevant when you travel. I think this is a much more honest, genuine way of meeting people. That’s just speaking of meeting other travelers– of course, meeting the locals is even better because you are forced to move out of your own culture and listen.
2) You’ll have more memorable experiences than you would if you stayed home. Bicycling across North America on two separate trips and bicycling and hitchhiking through Western Europe for three months brought me more memorable experiences and life lessons than one year staying in one spot could ever offer. There is, of course, a difference between travel and vacation. Budget traveling is the type of travel that I do, and prefer, and it requires creative solutions to problems more often than vacationing does, since you are paying the extra amount to essentially have no problems, right? For example, having my shoes stolen while sleeping on a park bench in Rome one night forced me to figure out how I was going to put shoes on my feet without actually buying shoes. That brought me to a Catholic Church that one of the locals told me about, which brought me to listen to two guitarists practicing in the cathedral, which led me to the pastor, who offered a pair of shoes too small, of which I cut holes in the back side to transform in makeshift sandals.
3) An average day abroad is never an average day. Even the experiences of buying milk at the grocery store or buying food is an experience. Things, places, people you’ve never seen before and may never see again– you can’t help but have your eyes wide open in a situation like that.
4) Education. You’ll get edu-ma-cated. Seriously though, my travel experiences are more valuable to me than the five plus years I’ve spent at college universities. Not that these things aren’t also beneficial (of course they are), but school doesn’t give you as much life experience. Spending one session listening to a German professor lecture on engineering for one and a half hours was possibly more eye-opening than a whole semester spent at an American college learning on the subject of “cultural diversity.”
5) For a breath of fresh air. Humans were nomads for thousands of years. We have become stationary only in recent human history. I would therefore theorize that it’s in our blood to crave movement, and the desire for a house, two-car garage, and white picket fence is overrated. Sometimes a breath of fresh air is what people need to get them moving again. The movement of travel allows for a change of pace from your dreary office job, your stagnant life, the things that we all take for granted. Spending a night in the mountains of Toledo, Spain by myself truly let me breath in an air I otherwise never would have inhaled had I stayed home and remained stagnant.
6) Exploring yourself. This one sounds cliche and maybe a bit overused, but there is a lot of truth in it. If you do the same things, day in, day out, you’re not challenging yourself, only merely forming and enforcing habits. Same job, same place, same people, same language, same church, same opinions– the list goes on and on. Traveling makes you question the bias and engrained opinions and dogmas that we ALL hold, whether we choose to admit it or not. With patience, just maybe, travel can make you a better-rounded person.
7) Inspiration. Riding all alone on my bicycle, through the dry deserts of Texas with my favorite music on my Ipod, and open land of possibilities. Cycling through the rolling hills and vineyards of France and California, breathing in the open air. Nothing matters but where you are, right then, and the senses, perception and experience you are having at that moment. You feel your blood pressure rise, in a good kind of way. Waking up after camping behind a building you thought was abandoned in France, to a man in a forklift calling his boss on a cell phone (presumably) and speaking fast French. The many people you meet on the road, and the stories they share. This is inspiration that you find from experiences through traveling, and taking risks.
8) You don’t need that much money to do it. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be a millionaire or own a Fortune 500 company to travel. By working for a while, and living minimalistically, one can easily save up enough money in a year for a lengthy period of travel. How much travel, however, is entirely up to the particular person, and how much comfort they are willing to give up. Essentially, the more comforts you can put to the side, the longer you can travel on limited funds. In my experience, great travel adventures have never happened in a sanitized, Corporate-cloned hotel room; they’ve happened on the dirty, dusty, and sometimes unforgiving road. The road less traveled only costs that you spend your imagination.
9) This world keeps spinning, and your time is running out. (To put it bluntly) If you go with the premise that every reason not to travel is an excuse, this alone is a great reason to travel. Everyone I’ve met has confirmed that the older you get, the faster time seems to move. This means that your forties will seem to speed by faster than your thirties, your sixties faster than your fifties, etc. etc.– and there are no guarantees that you’ll have a chance to do so once you have other commitments. Through travel and experiences, you might learn that there is more to this life than ideologies and the pursuit of acquiring material things and stuff. You won’t bring your “classiness” with you when your time is up.
10) Just cause. Travel because you don’t need to justify why you are doing so. Travel because you know that is what you need to do after recognizing that you have the option to do so. Travel because people said that you shouldn’t. Travel because you know that you should. Travel because you WANT to get lost, because you want to have that feeling of isolation and being forced to ask for directions to somewhere in a foreign language. Travel because there is a part of you that is afraid to travel– of getting robbed in some far off place, of being judged for not fitting into the normal modes of where you’re from by leaving it. Travel because your spirit is worth more than a nine to five, and you are underpaid and undervalued. Travel because you want to get the hell out of dodge, and dammit, you deserve to!
* If you would like to read more about the travels of the author, you can find the book “Travel By Two Wheels” here: