As a travel gossip, I really enjoy talking with others about the places they have been, what they have loved, and what they are dreaming of doing next. For some, childhood dreams are being satisfied. For others, destinations are more impulsive. There are plenty who travel to indulge in the outdoor adventures they love, perhaps diving in a coveted spot or climbing a particular peak or trekking among countries. Some friends take trips to indulge a passion about weaving, or pottery making, sculpture, gems, rare coins, architectural wonders…
We travel to feel more alive. No matter the reason, I believe that we all travel to become more alive, to experience life in a different setting, among people we do not know, in a place that is new and unfamiliar, often with a language we must learn in order to function. On these trips, we are “right there,” fully alert and aware in our bodies, feeling alive and charged to the core. In a novel setting, we find which developed skills and patterns serve us and we develop new ones, expanding who we can be.
So often we get caught up in a routine, spending most of our days with the same people, in the same settings, with the same purposes, eating the same foods, walking the same sidewalks, driving the same car on the same roadways, shopping in the same stores for the same foods time and time again. We become numb to life, like cogs in a machine. Perhaps we can tell what someone is going to say because we have heard it over and over.
When we are not expanding and creating, fully charged and alive, some say we are withdrawing, essentially dying. To cope, some drink, some use drugs, some overeat, some cheat, all used to break up the monotony. When we do not add life to our days, we are not adding years to our lives. Ever met a bored, unfilled person who lives a long and vibrant life?
Full-immersion travel. Travel offers that “come alive” component to the lives of many. Put us down in a new country with a language we barely know and destinations we hope to get to and we are living again. We are thinking, talking, planning, experiencing, learning. As we walk around an ancient city, for example, we may imagine living there. When we order food in a restaurant with a menu we don’t quite understand and confer with a server we do not quite understand, this is fun! We learn, we expand our awareness, we thrive.
Never been on a high mountaintop, nearly touching the stars? You may have to learn about altitude adjustment, hydration, and functioning in the cold. Never been near the equator where the temperature and humidity nearly match? You will likely learn that sweating is great, water intake essential, and the siesta suddenly seems indispensible.
Full immersion travel is not for everyone and that is why some people prefer tours, staying in safe Western hotels, eating food identical to what they would have eaten at home, and conversing only with those who speak the same language. We have met people for whom even this kind of travel is too much; they spend the trip locked in their hotel room, having meals delivered. Perhaps it was enough to dip a toe in the waters of travel. Others dive in headfirst, swimming beyond the markers. What a blessing that there are many kinds of travel for many kinds of people.
We learn about us. No matter why you go, you learn as much about yourself as you do about the cultures you visit. You find strengths and weaknesses, develop new traits and skills, stretch your abilities, expand your reality. As you expand your reality, it is said, all reality expands. And that, I believe, is why we embark. Again and again.
See you somewhere, some time!