September 23, 2015

How I Travel: Why Bother?

And finally, the fifth and last installation in the "How I Travel" series! (Sorry, I was too busy traveling to finish it for a while....)

Travel has been continuously transforming my life since I was six months old. That's how old I was when my mom took me on my first airplane from Ohio to California while my dad drove the moving truck across the country. In more real memories, we flew to Texas and Oklahoma from California every summer from the time I was five. We moved houses a lot, and a few times to different cities and schools.
We were extremely mobile, and adaptability was key.

I don't think my parents' ultimate objective was to have a daughter who would move to a different hemisphere, but they definitely prepared me for it!

But even if I hadn't had an "in-motion" childhood, this choice of mine to travel through adulthood stands on four main points.

1) People
I love asking lots of questions and listening to long answers. I love chatting and laughing with strangers and new friends. Travel brings foreigners together in a beautifully temporary way. You meet people from all walks of life; children, old people, families, couples, drifters, workers, immigrants, people who love where they live, people who hate where they live, and everything else you can imagine. These people are the ones who tell you where to get the best pizza, what kind of coffee to order, and provide a composite view of life wherever you are. The people paint the picture of a place in a deeper way.

2) Education
I am a junkie for learning. I devoured books as soon as my mom taught me how to read, and the library was one of my favorite childhood places. I may have dove headlong into technology and social networks during college, but moving to Europe has charmed me into discovering the stories of the past by traveling. I feel like the last five years have been overlapping courses in French, European history, geography, Spanish, German, navigation, cooking, international relations, cultural intelligence, and engineering (from tutoring English at a science university). I love that I can set the pace of learning for myself, and all it takes is for me to step outside wherever I'm living. My expat journey has been another sort of college experience, and one that I'm extremely fond of continuing.

3) Food
For me, traveling has a lot to do with the local cuisine. I love to eat. I want to try dessert, or some variety of ice cream or chocolate, in every country I go to. The food I eat on trips has almost everything to do with whether or not I will return to a place. Marc and I will return to Madrid for Christmas again this year because - OMG - the food is AMAZING. We all know that crêpes are best in France, pasta (and gelato and pizza and olive oil and so on) is best in Italy, sausage is best in Germany, and tapas are best in Spain. Nothing beats an original.

4) Experiences
Of course, experiences! This is THE reason to travel for anyone and everyone. We all crave the ability to make and keep memories during our lifetimes. The most powerful and lasting experiences are usually the ones that take us out of our comfort zones and to a completely new place in every way: physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, whatever. There is high value in solo experiences, partner experiences, and group experiences. I find that I end up sharing my travels with everyone, regardless of whether I'm traveling alone or in a group of ten. My travels are my stories and my stories are my life.

The great thing about "travel" is that it is not defined by an airplane. By another continent. By a different time zone. By speaking two languages. No! Travel is anything you make it. I traveled constantly when I lived in California/America. To the National Parks. To historical markers along the freeway. To the lake. I'd get in my rickety old Buick, or Tanya's Camaro, or Amanda's Saturn, or Jenn's Toyota, and we'd go places. Anytime we went somewhere, we learned something, even if it was just something about ourselves.

Why bother with travel? Because we should never stop growing - which means we should never stop going.

Why do you travel? Where are you going next?