What motivates the traveler to open the door and step into the unknown? When my electric lifestyle starts to feel a little stale I get sleepy. In this dream state I inevitably remember Frank Herbert who said that “without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken.” Stop hittin’ snooze boy it’s time to roll.
But once I’m really out there, time without family and friends starts to ware and the question creeps up: why do we travel? The quick and dirty answer is to expand our minds’ eye. Some people feed the third eye by simply existing in foreign environments. The sights, sounds and smells of a new culture are enough for this class of traveler, but for many others this sensory shock is only the beginning of the experience. This type of traveler has to dig deeper to answer the question, “why travel?”. My top 3 reasons for traveling are to work, to learn and to live the adventure.
I suppose working and traveling is a no-brainer because you can’t be on the move and expect to eat unless you’re a skilled hunter/gatherer. On the up-side there’s an endless number of jobs you can take while traveling. Log on to any expat community’s website and you’ll see quite an array. Some of the most popular, low-experience travel jobs are in IT, nursing, international trading, teaching English, hospitality/tourism and agriculture. Various careers have many open doors to travel, but of course these take time to establish rapport.
One of the best aspects of working abroad is that it offers a high degree of autonomy and the potential to learn about foreign customs, cultures and languages. In the process your mental horizons will broaden to distances you never thought possible. One of my best learning opportunities while traveling so far was the humble experience of living (for only two weeks, mind you) in a village in the Ecuadorian Andes without any power or running water. Our project’s volunteer work brought clean drinking water to the village for the first time ever and I can tell you it was a powerful moment to turn on that tap for the first time. I finally learned first-hand that a daily hot shower isn’t only unnecessary but also a luxury many people can’t afford.
The flip-side to learning of course is teaching, and being an active traveler means you have to assume the responsibilities of cultural ambassador. A good traveler always represents themselves and their home country in a positive light. Never be that guy who hates a country and its people because “they have terrible beer” or “they don’t even speak English.” I’m reminded of Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, “though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” If you can’t share the positive vibration while traveling you probably don’t have any business doing so.
What a thrill to catch an adrenaline rush in a foreign land. The recent widespread interest in adventure travel has turned this genre into a huge commercial success for outfitters who now number in the thousands, if not tens of thousands. The best part about these “adventure” travel activities is that they aren’t all dangerous and aren’t all about adrenaline. Have you ever wondered what it’s like to see a shark up close in his natural habitat or fly across a valley in the high Andes on a rickety steel cable? Maybe cross the Sahara on a camel or share a soak in natural hot springs with monkeys in Japan? These ideas and many more can easily be turned into reality without much effort at all…the world really is yours in the age of modern travel.
Whatever your motivations or means of traveling, be sure to keep your head on straight while you’re doing it. If you want to make the most of your journey, keep your mind at peace and your expectations low. If you fail this, the simultaneously uneventful, overwhelming and meandering nature of travel’s gonna jam a stick in your spokes and you’ll go end over end. No matter what you do on the road or how you do it, make sure to always share your warm company and stories when you stop to rest.