Having just returned from the UK and on the verge of swinging back to Europe in a few weeks, my heart is full, my wanderlust, satisfied. But what is the magic of travel? Why is it so deeply satisfying, making me scorn Allegiant travel deals that flood my inbox when there’s no trip in sight and feel most contented when I’m wandering the streets of an unfamiliar town or feel the rush of taking off in an airplane? Is this just a disposition that the frequent flyer percentage of the population is born with?
I don’t need to convince myself or anyone that traveling is worthwhile. But these first few days back home have shown me the contrast between being abroad and at home, answering these elusive questions to some extent I hope.
Traveling forces us to be humble and flexible.
Even our best efforts at crafting the perfect itinerary are at the mercy of ever-changing train timetables and exhaustion that forces us to nap in hostels instead of exploring another museum. Unfamiliar traffic patterns leave us dashing across streets. Foreign currency forces us to ask clerks for help picking correct change. We’re more often than not painfully obvious tourists no matter how well we want to blend in with the culture. But being unsure about something as simple as navigating the environment is actually a beautiful thing. We become aware of our dependence upon others.
Traveling is the absolute best way to bond with friends.
Sure, you can have great friendships by hanging out anywhere, but there’s some x factor that makes traveling the best way to cultivate friendships with a depth that the familiarity of home just doesn’t do.
Traveling frees us from being slaves to the clock.
Aside from catching transportation at specific times, we become less aware of what the exact hour is when we’re swept up in a new city’s charm and fresh new corners. The days become more of a lovely, splotchy collage of indistinct chunks rather than blocks of time where you must accomplish x, y, and z (i.e. the American workplace).
Traveling opens our eyes to our true position in the world.
Yes, we matter as individuals and no, our humanity is no less incredible and beautiful because we’re one of a million people who cross the streets of London any given day. But traveling offers the critical wake-up call that we’re just a drop in the ocean. Edinburgh’s pubs will still serve the finest ales and the fiddler’s tune will brighten the street whether or not I’m there to enjoy it. Maybe this fact is obvious, but it’s important nonetheless to come to grips with.
It’s impossible to totally express how much I love traveling and how important I believe it is for Westerners especially to experience to help us see beyond the rugged individualistic ideal our culture prizes. So here are some pictures from the trip if that wasn’t enough of an appeal. 😉