Why I Travel
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.
10 thoughts on “Why I Travel”
I just started reading your blog, and I love this post. It echoes a lot of the sentiments I too have about travelling, and living abroad. I’m also really curious about this Wild movie, now. Hope to watch it soon, and I’m looking forward to reading more of your blog posts in the future! I’m sure you’ll be off on another adventure soon 🙂
I’m so happy to get your comment (and discover your blog)! It’s always great to meet a fellow JET 🙂
I hope I’ll be on another adventure soon! Haha, after JET and China it’s really been a rough adjustment being back home in the United States.
I’m glad you can sympathize with my feelings of travel and living abroad–there’s just something about it, it’s so infectious and exciting!
Thanks again for your comment and I’ll be sure to dig through your blog soon 😀
It was great finding your blog too, especially since we seem to share the same love for both Japan and China! I only wish my language skills were up there with yours ;_; haha. I’ll be wrapping up my time on JET after 2 years this August, so it’s pretty interesting and helpful for me to read how you’re doing back in your home country, although you’ve been away much longer. I’m preparing myself for the same kind of feelings!
Oh wow you’re finishing up JET this year!? That’s so scary (and exciting at the same time!).
What are your plans post JET?
Sorry for such a late reply, I only just saw that you replied to me! It is definitely scary, but I recently went to the after JET conference, which gave me a lot of ideas and helped me lean a little more towards excited.
I’ve got so many ideas of what to do post JET at the moment! Part of me wants to move on to China to improve my Chinese, part of me wants to go to the UK, and another part of me just wants to go home to NZ and stay there for a while! Right now I’m mostly looking at China, but it changes every day.
No problem annabelle 🙂
Wow that’s awesome you went to the after JET conference and got some great ideas (I should have went to that, haha). It sounds like you have a lot of options and it’s really exciting to think about your next step in ife.
If you have any questions about China, let me know. That’s essentially what I did after JET and I wouldn’t exchange the experience for anything. Whether you want to study or work there, I can provide some assistance gladly! Let me know 🙂
This was a really good read. Nicely written and to quote someone “it really spoke to me”. Travelling sure is the greatest adventure, one of the best “drugs” one could taste. (The other is talking to friends. xD Or maybe the happiness that comes from small things.)
Uh, I’d like to travel too. But sometimes, I’m simply tied back to my chair and realize I can’t. Or, I can’t at the moment. Though, someday, I hope I’ll be able to see the world. To meet new people from different cultures. That’s one of the memories worth having. Your first travel alone.
How was your first travel on your own like?
Hi Cosette! Thanks for the really sweet comment, it made my day 😀 I think travel is one of the best ways to really enjoy life. I never feel more alive than when I’m on the road and discovering something new.
Travel is a lot easier than people make it out to be, but I know how it feels to be “tied down.” Since moving back to America (and having little to no vacation time), I can see how it’s so hard for many of us to just take off and go somewhere. Sometimes, it’s not even about the money, but about leaving your job and finding a way to take a long holiday without upsetting your employer. It’s a very delicate balance.
Still, I highly encourage travel. Sometimes I get quite depressed with my monotonous routine of 9-5, but after going on holiday I feel re-energized!
I somewhat prefer traveling alone because I 1. meet more people 2. have more flexibility 3. do/see things that *I* want to do/see. When you travel with others it can be constricting–you may want to hike up a mountain, but maybe your friend wants to see a museum. Either way, someone is going to get disappointed. Also, when you’re alone, you focus on everything a lot more. Every experience, every moment, every glance. It’s all very spiritual (to me, at least).
I was scared shitless the first time I traveled alone. I believe I was 23/24 and I went to China and Vietnam alone. I was really afraid because I didn’t speak the language, plus I had never been on my own before. I grew so much from that journey, and every moment of it is burned into my brain. I found out how to not only survive on my own, but force myself to socialize and meet others.
I hope you can travel soon!! Let me know if you need any help budgeting or planning for a vacation 🙂
OMG! You replied! Woohoo!
Yeah, that’s true. When you go somewhere with someone, you don’t really get to do a lot of stuff you’d like to…
Mhm, I believe so too. I mean, such an experience would certainly help you grow.
Thanks for the wishes! I hope so too. Sure thing. 😀
Haha of course I try to reply to everyone! Especially someone like you that writes such nice things 🙂
Hope you had a good day, and you’re planning a vacation soon 😉