Monday, July 16, 2007

The Reasons Why We Travel - Read Before You Go

Before I travel, I always get advice that I "have to" do so and so or I "have to" see this or that place. This advice is well-meaning, but people travel for many reasons.

If you don't know your reasons for traveling, you're going to end up going places and doing things that you don't really enjoy. Which is a waste of the precious money and time that you've budgeted.

Before you go off on a vacation, you should check this list of reasons for why people travel. Then plan what you're going to do around what you really want to do, and not around what you're supposed to do.

To learn history, arts, and sciences

Books cannot substitute for direct exposure to art, history, and experiments with real items. Seeing an item up close concretizes the lesson a thousand-fold. Whether you're studying the sculptures and paintings of a national gallery, studying a building's design, learning the history of a castle in a guided tour, or taking samples of the Earth's core, there is no substitute for a hand's on, up close experience.

If you are not "studying" these things, you may simply be interested in "viewing" them up close. To expand your own mind as to how the disciplines work, to be able to talk about them, or simply to appreciate them.

After studying or viewing places and items in person, you make them a part of your world. Then you usually find reading about them all the more fascinating.

To resonate with the history or media you have learned

The opposite direction holds true, as well. When I was last in London, my wife wanted to "walk in Hyde Park" because that's what Mrs Dalloway did. Perhaps it was to give her a fresher understanding of the novel, or simply to experience the joy of recognition. Or the thrill of taking a rare opportunity.

Either way, being in the places and seeing the items that you have learned about rekindles the joy which you felt when you first learned or read about them.

To see beauty, hear beauty, experience beauty

Sometimes, you just need to see or hear something beautiful once in a while to restore your sense of peace. A beautiful mountain, stream, or forest might do.

You might see beauty in the crowd of a festival or in the quiet of a lake. In buildings or in nature. Know what beauty means to you. You can also be open to new experiences, but don't force yourself into having to do something, just because everyone else does it.

To get away from our psychological tethers

In a familiar place we are hooked about with the responsibilities others have place on us, or we have place upon ourselves. Whether it's work, family, organizations, or the need to clean up the house, rebuild the car, or check your email, these are all little burrs that weigh us down. Some we carry with love, and some we carry resentfully.

It does a body good to shower these burrs off ourselves once in a while, if only so that we can pick them back up with renewed strength. It may also make us realize which of these responsibilities we don't really need to shoulder all the time.

To escape from an uncomfortable existence

Sometimes, travel is more of a permanent need. You may be a criminal, a battered spouse, have a bad reputation, or need to move away from somewhere you've come to despise.

In which case, travel is more about where you're coming from than where you're going to, so long as the new place is not just like the old one. If it is, that may be because you brought the problem along with you.

To satisfy wanderlust

Some people just need the "new" all the time. This may be expressed in new clothes, new games, new technology, or new views out the windshield. Or new people to talk to.

To experience something in particular

Many people travel to attend a particular event: a convention, a festival, a religious experience, or an eclipse. Or, they may feel that life cannot be complete until they have ridden that roller coaster, prayed in that temple, or dived off that cliff.

To see friends and relatives, or to trace roots

We visit. Sometimes, as an afterthought after picking where we're going. (Sometimes, we pick where we're going to avoid visiting.)

Reconnecting with out present friends and family gives us both the immediate joy we find with these friends and family, as well as a reflection and reconnection as to who we are and where we came from. The same can be said about tracing our origins.

To shop, to find, and to eat

Or maybe better, "to consume". There are things that simply don't make it to our part of the world. If we want to escape from the drab sameness that is foisted upon us by our local marketing agencies, we have to get out into another culture.

People travel the world looking for better clothes, better knick-knacks, and better cuisine. In some instances, we may even find unique and precious items stuck in the back alley of some city or lost in a far-away cave.

These found treasures van be a great joy.

To splurge without guilt

You could take the money you put into a vacation and eat out every night of the week at your favorite local restaurants for much cheaper. And you'd still have most of the money left over for shopping.

For some reason, many of us can't enjoy luxury guilt-free unless it's "out", on vacation. Then we can stay in a hotel and eat at a fancy restaurant, because, after all, we're on vacation, and the object of a vacation is to enjoy oneself as much as possible.

To live simpler

As a contrast, other people reject all the busy materialistic items that surround us and head off into the natural world, no computers, no clocks, no electricity. Different people have different lines as to how far they want to take this - no toilets, no heat, and no coffee may be too much for some.

To find excitement, to be challenged

Thrill seekers hope that something will happen to them. Nothing ever happens at home. They travel to the busiest events and places, or seek out dangerous or wild adventure trips. Travel might also be a form of exercise.

Just planning and executing a trip can be an ordeal, which, if it runs smoothly, is a triumph.

To conduct business

Either because you need to meet your clients face to face, fix their equipment, or seek out quality or cheap goods to import. Or to go to war, or to keep the peace.

To help and to report

People join the Peace Corps to help other people in need. People travel to learn about and report back what they find.

To learn about other people and cultures, and our own

Many people don't know much about other people, or even about themselves, until they've met them face to face. So much mistrust and hatred arises out of a simple lack of placing a human face onto others. And the mixing of ideas are vital to the way we live as humans.

When traveling, learning about another people could not be easier. You simply navigate around their country, shop in their markets, eat their food, and sleep in their cities. A single day of this might leave you confused, but a week or two while engaging strangers in conversation will give you a good sense of what goes on in that culture.

To expand your mind about the world

Traveling makes the world smaller. The more dots you've visited, the more the world, as a whole, begins to form into a complete picture.

For some people, it is not enough to think of themselves as residents of a particular town or country. They are citizens of the world, and they feel that they owe it to themselves to see it.

To travel

And some people just like traveling: moving, flying, watching the world go by, being rootless, or what have you. They're just as happy, or happier, moving from place to place as being in any one place.

Before you travel, understand the reasons that you travel. If you enjoy learning about history, that will color the places you should visit and the things you will want to see. If you can't stand history lessons, that too will affect your decisions.

Don't let someone tell you that you have to see so-and-so unless it fits in with what you need/want to do. Pack in to your travel itinerary the experiences that will meet your travel needs.

If you are traveling with family or companions, it should be a given that no two people like to do all the same things all of the time. Separate sometimes; this will give you things to talk about back at the dinner table. Or compromise on some experiences in return for doing some of the things that you want to do. You may end up enjoying some of these experiences, despite yourself.


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