Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Essence of Travel

Why do people travel?

Since the beginning of people there has been the urge to explore, to find out what is on the other side of the mountain or beyond the horizon. Catching the "travel bug" is a common phrase among my friends, and I hope that I, in some way, inspire others to seek out the unknown. My first real trip alone was to Greece where I spent a summer living on the small island of Tinos teaching English to two young children. It was the experience that prompted me to become a traveler and not a tourist. There's a big difference (but that's another blog post).

After that trip I continued to seek out the unknown in various situations, many of which are detailed in this very blog. When I first started out I thought it was all about the location. I sought out the best beaches and some of the most exciting destinations in the world. I did volunteer work, tour leading, conference presenting, teaching, and much more. All of my travel experiences provided an opportunity to add to my growing list of "places I've been." For some that's enough, to check a box and move on with life. For me, it has never been enough. I frequently find myself planning my next trip before my current one has ended. I like finding places that are off the beaten path, and as I get more adventurous in my choices, the path continues to veer.

But these are just places. What makes one trip more memorable than another, and what makes a trip fade into just a collection of vague memories? I have recently discovered that the answer is very simple. It is the people. People make memories, places do not. The trips that were most life altering for me have resulted in life long friends. Meeting friends along the way, having challenging moments and working through them, this is the essence of travel.

So how do you get the most bang for your travel buck? Talk to the locals, travel alone and put yourself into situations that push the limits of your day to day life. Travel will then become part of life and not just something that you do to get away from the grind.

"Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience." -Paulo Coelho