Why travel? Why spend the money and the time? Why go through the hassles at the airport and trying to get around places you have never been and all that?
Well, it is not required. You can live your whole life and never cross the border of the state in which you were born, and I know many people who have done just that. Amazingly (to me), only about one in five Americans own a passport, which these days means you cannot skip across the border to Canada or Mexico. And just about a quarter of Americans have been on a cruise ship.
The first reason to travel is it is just fun. Yeah, even a trip to New York City can be daunting for someone who has never ridden in a cab (which I had not until I was out of college); there is so much to figure out, so much to forget, so much that can be just plain screwed-up, that it can just be easier to stay home or go to the lake or go fishing.
Let’s face it: the logistics can be a little overwhelming sometimes, especially if you are taking a three-city vacation over fifteen days in three of the Great Cities of Europe. So, much to Google and so hard to make informed decisions—which hotel is really a bargain a block off Champs Elysees and which are just plain dumps? So, unless you take with you a very good sense of humor (which is a requirement) and can laugh at yourself while checking into a hotel that looked so much better in the pictures on the internet than it does in person (maybe they forgot to tell you that out of the thirty rooms they have, all the pictures are of one?)—in other words, it may be worth the slight additional cost to have a tour group guide you through the trip.
This ain’t cheating—when I finally get to the trip of the Baltic Capitals, I may want a tour guide so I know what’s up and what to avoid and what not to miss. While I am a somewhat seasoned traveler, most of my time on the road is in my country, and I will want some help.
So, in addition to fun, travel can be frustrating and sometimes tiring, and mistakes are often made, but it is often the mistakes you will remember most, it is the mistakes you made that will cement the place in your soul forever.
The next reason is that it broadens you and will strip away fear of the other. You will become less afraid of the foreigner and more aware of how that country and the people are like you and different from you. Stereotypes will fall away as you meet more people from a different place. You may find—as did I—that French people and New Yorkers are not particularly rude.
The next reason is that it breaks routines and helps put into perspective your life. In addition to getting away from the grind, you see what is special about what you have at home.
You get to try new things you never would have had the chance to had you stayed home. Maybe this is snorkeling in the Caribbean or experiencing holy places in Israel or Rome, or feeling the majesty of creation at Niagara Falls or the Great Barrier Reef or the Tuscan Hills. Or maybe it is eating foods you never would have tried before or eating in places you only dream about.
Maybe in your regular life, a trip to Wendy’s is a big night out, and then on a trip to Paris, you splurge by going to Les Tablettes (there are guide to major cities title things like “eat Your way through ______, might be worth a try once in awhile).
Or do a pub crawl in New Orleans during the Carnivale.
Or visit the voodoo cemetaries at midnight outside Charelston.
Or you take the high speed train from London to Paris and ride first class or go whole playing chemin de fer and take the Orient Express from Paris to Constantinople.
You are somewhere different, don’t do exactly what you would at home. Explore, stretch, learn about what makes the place special to those who live there.
Any of these will change you forever. You will watch the news differently if you have been to the place the story takes place.
You will experience the world in new and different ways, and mostly gain an appreciation for new and different places.
I have traveled widely in this country, but there are gaps. I consider I have been to a state if, as an adult, I ate a meal outside of an airport or spent the night there. The gaps are Oregon, North Dakota (I think I have been there, but cannot place the trip), Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Rhode Island. Six left.
Outside the US, there is Canada, Mexico, Great Britian, France, Caymen Islands, Jamaica, and the Bahamas. So, no matter how you slice it, there is a lot of the world (and this country) left for me to see.
I would love to travel to foreign lands and become as familiar with themas I am NYC, where, when I go, I have no plan at all and plan nothing before the trip, just trusting that something will turn up. It always has and I suspect it always will. I wish I knew Paris or London like this.
picture is of Les Tablettes from here