I’ll never forget how nervous I was on January 7th, 2012. My stomach was doing more flips than the pancakes I had eaten that morning. My mind wouldn’t stop racing.
And there was no chance I was getting any sleep.
The next day, I would be heading to Barcelona, where I’d stay with a host family for the next few months while I spent a college term studying abroad.
It’d also be the first time I’d live somewhere that wasn’t within 15 minutes of a family member.
Fast forward almost 10 years, and I’m living in Thailand. And I can’t wait to travel more.
Over the last five years, four of them have been spent in places where my family wasn’t even a short plane ride away.
And that will probably continue into the foreseeable future (sorry, Mom!).
During that time, I’ve visited over 15 countries and had countless experiences. These moments will flash before my eyes when I die in a tragic hot air balloon accident involving two donkeys, a screwdriver, and a fake platypus.
So what happened? What changed?
Well, travel happened.
There are really two periods of my life that stand out: pre-travel and post-travel. That trip to Spain tapped into a part of me that hadn’t been awakened yet. And it’s never let go.
I don’t think it ever will.
Travel changes you in many ways. It opens the door to new possibilities. Most of which you had no idea existed before.
You enter somewhere new, with no idea what you’re going to experience.
And it’s difficult. It’s supposed to be that way.
To take yourself into a completely foreign land, navigate the intricacies of its culture and laws, and to square those with your own beliefs and ideas, then come out having learned something.
Not only about the people and the culture—but yourself as well.
Those moments where you’re standing at a busy intersection, in delirium from jet lag, and you’re just observing the world that you’ve landed in.
Fifteen hours ago, you were in a place where everything felt normal. So ordinary, in fact, that you overlook what makes it unique.
Now, people are selling whole chickens—dangling in front of you from a hook—from a small cart attached to a motorbike.
And a man just drove by you on a motorbike that had, wait a minute…were there four people on that Honda Click? And, did he realize he was driving on the sidewalk?
Your days become action-packed, every tiny detail becoming a moment of intrigue. Those moments build into something larger until they’re implanted eternally as memories.
And that’s just the experiences. I didn’t even mention the people.
The people are what genuinely make travel shine.
How proud people are to represent their country and to show what makes it unique.
How eager they are to show you their culture, food, and, more than anything, their families. People love showing off their families.
Or it could be the people you met who are also traveling to your destination. You visit Mexico, and you meet a guy from Japan one night. You go around the city together, checking out different landmarks and partying at night.
That short trip starts a friendship that, even though you’re in separate parts of the world, is one you hold until the day you die.
Or you never speak again, and it’s only the memories and conversations that you have to hold on to.
But that’s what makes travel so important.
The connections we have with people are temporary. Some are more temporary than others. But, eventually, that connection will end. And all you have are those memories and conversations.
These moments shape you. They contribute a small piece to who you are and who you will be. You become more empathetic. And you gain perspective.
They make you more human.
And isn’t that the point of travel? To learn about the world, humanity, and yourself.
I say these things, and I sound like I’m saying a bunch of new-age bullshit. I get strange looks from people back home. Although, strange looks are nothing new for me.
My idea of life has never squared with the American idea. I’ve never wanted the 9 to 5. Nor the big house. I’ve never wanted the 2.5 kids. And definitely not the white picket fence.
I’d rather paint that fence neon green, adding a bit of life and color to a stagnant scene.
Some could say I’m running away.
Maybe this is what drew me to travel. I saw an explosion of color in an otherwise black-and-white world. Excitement and variety, where I had only seen blandness and monotony. And I saw a long, event-filled life, where I had only seen a slow, boring road to death.
Now all of this may sound dramatic and over-the-top, but I think if you talk to any traveler, they’ll understand what I’m saying. Maybe they won’t feel this way themselves—everyone is different—but they’ll understand regardless.
I genuinely believe that travel is beneficial for everyone if you couldn’t tell by this entire post.
Ultimately, my message for everyone is this—just travel more.
- Looking to travel more this year? Well my post, Ways to save to travel more in 2021 and beyond, can help you save up more money so you can achieve that goal.
- Looking for a quiet getaway in Thailand? Khao Sok National Park is an excellent option for you! Be sure to read about it’s lush forests and beautiful lake in my post, Khao Sok National Park: The Hidden Gem of Southern Thailand.
- Have trouble packing? Want to travel lighter? Then check out my post, What I pack when I travel: A packing list for world travel. I’ll explain how you can slim down your packing so you can take less and enjoy your trip more.
- Do you enjoy reading? Then you may like my post, My Favorite Books from 2021. I give my favorite books from 2021 and explain why I enjoy them so much. I’d love to hear your recommendations as well.
- New to The Travel Runner and want to get an idea of what the site is all about? Then look no further than The Best of The Travel Runner in 2021 for a quick dose.