Nothing teaches us as much in a short period of time as travel. New places, outside our everyday routine, foreign experiences in the everyday needs of human life – eating, sleeping, social interactions, shelter, work, family, and spiritual food that gives our life meaning such as religion, music, and art – all can infuse our lives with new questions to ask and boundless knowledge about the world, humanity, and ourselves.
It is this path of learning about ourselves as individuals and our place within our own society and the larger world community that excites me so much about travel. It is also why I prefer epic journeys of several weeks, rather than a few days, when I go on vacation. This may be highly unusual for an American – we have on average the fewest vacation days of most developed First World nations – but I learn and experience so much more when I have the time necessary to leave behind my routine American life and readjust myself to the rhythms of the community I am traveling within. My own transformation of mind and heart are more profound the longer I have to observe and participate in cultures different from my own.
For the next few months, I plan to revisit some of these moments within my journeys, moments of self-discovery and personal transformation, moments when my world-view was challenged and I questioned my assumptions and beliefs, moments when I either affirmed my conclusions and values or altered them when presented with new information and ways of doing and seeing things. After all, travel at its core is about self-discovery of ourselves in the context of the larger world. Isn’t this why we love to jump into the car for a road-trip across the States or hop a plane to a new city? As human beings, we long for the freedom and time to explore our place in the world and the larger meaning of life. That is the gift of travel.