Coming from a small, rural town, I often get the question “Why do you feel the need to travel?” Having lived in said small town for eighteen years – and a minor spell after college – I understand why people are curious. During my teenage years, I was content with never leaving my Kentucky bubble. Hot summers and cold winters, mountains and valleys – I thought the Bluegrass State had it all. I never wanted to leave.
The only travel experience I had before I turned eighteen were roadtrips to Florida with my family. I thought that driving twelve hours one way to spend a week with the sand and surf was all that there was to see. Yes, that’s a very closed-minded point-of-view but it was the world that I lived in. It got to the point that I didn’t even care to go to the beach – I was tired of doing the same thing and honestly, I just wanted to be home. Don’t get me wrong, I will be forever grateful to my family for sticking to tradition all those years; in doing so they made our family unit closer than most. And this isn’t to say that taking Floridian vacations isn’t for some. In the end, though, I knew that this type of travel just wasn’t for me.
Then it all changed – drastic, I know. I graduated from high school in May and right before college my dad decided to take me to The Big Apple as a gift for completing high school in one piece. New York City. What is a Kentucky girl going to do for a week in the city? Maybe she’d climb to the top of the Empire State Building, ride a pedicab through Central Park, eat massive amounts of New York-style pizza, stand in awe of Times Square, cruise on the Staten Island ferry, cry during a Broadway show, and cheese until her cheeks hurt while smiling for pictures with the Statue of Liberty. Yep, that’s exactly what I did. This seemingly unimportant trip changed my entire outlook on travel which, in time, changed my outlook on life. Since then, I’ve built up my travel resume to include over half of the states in the good ol’ US of A and ten countries. A pretty big change for a girl who hadn’t set foot on an airplane until adulthood.
So, why the change? Why was this trip so mind-blowing? How did it fill my travel void? I think it has to do with the fact that it opened my eyes to the copious chances to see places and people I had no idea existed. It made me think, “If this trip has been so cool, what else haven’t I experienced? What else is out there that can make me feel like this?”
Which leads back to the question at hand. Why travel? The truth is that there are so many aspects of traveling that keep me guessing, so many things that keep me itching to get on a plane headed into the unknown, so many reasons why I continue to do all I can to travel. And here are a few.
Traveling throws me out of my comfort zone
If someone had told me five years ago that I would have a bucket list full of adrenaline-pumping endeavors and visits to locations that I can’t pronounce I would have said you were crazy. Now, as I eat my own words, I count the number of ticks on my bucket list that have brought me out of my Kentucky contentment. From climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge to bungee jumping from 164 feet to snuba diving in Mexico, I live for a good adrenaline rush, and I love it even more if it’s destination-driven. A comfort zone is nice, but adventures are the best – get uncomfortable!
Traveling is challenging
Preparing for a trip and being somewhere unfamiliar is challenging. There are overweight bags, delayed flights, small hotel rooms, clashing cultures, and unfamiliar languages. Travel isn’t always a walk in the park. It truly is a challenge. But challenges can be good. The best feeling is knowing that you successfully took the trip that you’ve been waiting for. I’m pretty darn proud of the trips I’ve taken and all that’s gone into making them great.
Immersing into other cultures, though challenging, is even more rewarding than preparing a good trip. You pick up tid-bits of languages, bring home customary habits, and learn that the world is more than yourself and your beliefs.
Traveling supplies abundant opportunities to learn
One of the most profound things about travel is that it opens your mind. You can learn so much from delving into a culture that you’re unfamiliar with or by visiting a historical location that you’ve only read about. History and culture become a reality, not just something you skimmed over in a college textbook.
Travel gives a bit of a different take on learning, too. I have changed my outlook on governmental policies, social matters, human perspective, and so much more because I have seen these things from multiple angles. I have learned to be open-minded, to consider things beyond how they affect me, and to think before I speak (I still find that one a little hard – making a mental note to keep working on it). I’m not saying this new perspective is perfect but I’m working on it, and to me that’s invaluable.
Traveling is fun
Possibly the most obvious thing that I love about travel is that it’s fun! You get to experience new places and people and food and sights that you’ll remember for the rest of your life. I had the time of my life running – and falling – on a water obstacle course with my friends in Costa Maya, Mexico. Sticking Dubble Bubble to the Gum Wall in Seattle was sticky and gross and fun all at the same time. Drinking grenades on Bourbon Street in New Orleans (not sure if that's worth remembering). Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef is one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. Ever. These are things I’ll never forget. I can honestly say that while I’ve had bad experiences traveling, I’ve never had a trip that was a complete dud. There’s an element of fun in any journey.
Traveling makes me the best me
Warning: this one’s going to get cheesy. Here goes. When I travel, I am the truest version of myself. Every time I travel a little more of that me lands back in Kentucky. It’s hard to develop a sense of self in a culture that is constantly trying to mold you into what its vision of you is. Getting outside of that culture and inspecting it from another point-of-view moves your thoughts through a different context. I’ll be the first to admit that I was a cultural mold until very recently. I wanted the haircut, the shoes, the life that everyone else seemed to have but I lost myself in the shuffle of wanting to be other things. During the past couple of years, though, and through more travel, I have found my true interests and ambitions. Travel first and foremost, adrenaline-fueled adventures, coffee with French vanilla cream, writing, a glass of cheap Cabernet, tasty food, good (and bad) literature, human rights, snuggling my pup.
Through travel I found me, and that’s something to be thankful for.
The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experiences. - Eleanor Roosevelt
Hi, I'm Madeline
Blogger, teacher, writer, traveler, reader. Welcome to Mad's Muses!
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