There’s a scene in the movie Wild that stuck with me.
The protagonist is on the road. She’s exhausted. She has only taken the first few footsteps into her journey, but already she feels the weight of the road. Can I do this? Is this what I’m supposed to be doing? Have I gone crazy?
And then she stoops down, pulls some sagebrush from the road, rubs it in her fingers, closes her eyes and deeply inhales the scent.
The scent of the Earth. The scent of the journey. The scent of the world itself.
Then, she presses on.
This is Why I Travel
Everyone gets a rush from something.
Some feel it when they’re in the driver’s seat of a race car, going forward at full speed and bracing for the unknown. Others feel it when they’re running in a marathon, every limb of their body pulsating as they start to creep up to the finish line. Some get the rush in a meeting room, on the verge of a new company , idea or venture. There are even those that feel the pulse of life and meaning in the simple, everyday tasks such as gardening, cooking or even the first rays of sunshine in spring.
When I land in a new country and I’m walking from the boarding gate to the luggage carousel, I can feel my heart beating fast. No matter how many times I travel, no matter how tired I am upon arrival, I can always feel it in my bones.
The sensation of being somewhere new and launching myself into the unknown.
It’s better than any drug, than any substance:
It’s the adrenaline of adventure.
When I’m on the train, or in the cab, or riding the bus into the city or village of my long-planned itinerary, my mind is completely liberated of all worries. Of course the small details remain, such as how will I find my hotel, where will I pick up dinner and more importantly–what’s going to happen next?
Yet the worry starts to blend into excitement–the anticipation of discovery tugs at me. I long to taste, see and feel a new world. I want to grab it, rub it in my hands and inhale every moment of it.
In Travel, I see the Human Spirit
The more of the world I see, the more I realize: We all have a story, and every story is just as vital as the last.
The Buddhist priest in Japan that was forced to fight in World War II in Thailand, where he was taken prisoner and survived to tell the tale.
My Japanese host mother, who told me the story of her young love with a German man she’ll never forget.
The newlywed Vietnamese man on his honeymoon with his wife, looking to a new future as we sailed through the karsts of Halong Bay.
The Chinese photographer that wants to change China’s art world with his camera.
When you travel, every corner has a new encounter. Every encounter has a new story–and every new story adds to the wonderful journey that is life.
Not Everyone Can Live This Life
Taking everything you’ve built up in your life and smashing it to the ground:
That’s what becoming a traveler is.
It’s destroying your life to become a ghost between worlds.
It goes against human instinct; it’s a life of instability and danger, of risk and what some may see as little reward.
Yet for some, walking through the history of countries past and present is worth the sacrifice and loneliness. The overwhelming beauty of a landscape that can’t be captured with a camera or the smell of freshly boiled noodles or the scent of freshly baked bread wafting through the streets all make it worthwhile.
Most importantly, the unknown people that will meet you, greet you, and share their life with you will ultimately change yours.
“Mary, I was hoping that you would be a normal girl that settled down and had a family at a young age,” my father told me once.
“But you’re like me,” he smiled. “You want to see the world, and nothing will stop you. You are a wanderer.”
It’s been eight months since I returned to the United States, and the longer I stay here the harder I imagine myself to have the regular 9-5 job routine. Something will always be tugging at me, a voice will always be calling me, an unknown force will always be pulling me away to the open road.
And that’s why I travel: It’s my rush. It’s my adrenaline. It’s my high.
To inhale the world and breathe it into my body.
This is to many more years of travel. To being lost again in a new country. To finding a new place to call home, and going there together with my boyfriend, Fei.
To the road.