Today I’d like to share a couple lessons from traveling in general, and specifically my own travels. Now, many of us travel to escape. We may not like our jobs or our life, we work too hard, so we may just go and collapse on some beach, or sip beer every night. I have done this, and while this can be fun to some degree, this is not the type of travel I am referring to.
When I was 21 years old, I was having a tough time with life. So I took off in an old Chevy van, traveling all over the US for a couple years, picking up jobs along the way. So I did escape, what some refer to as a geographical, that is, running away from oneself. But there is a positive side to this geographical thing. I was not only escaping, I was also seeking. I found that by putting myself in new places and meeting new people, some beautiful things happened.
First, I broke out of my head a bit. I was out, engaged with the world, seeing new places, meeting people from different areas. Second, it gave me some courage. I had to stretch my comfort zone, figure out my travel plans, feed myself, and even look for work. So, even though I was running away, I was also running towards something I was not sure of. I was seeking something, and this can be helpful.
When I was 30 I again escaped, you might say, but this time overseas, traveling all over Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, then biking all over Europe, and then taking trains across Turkey, Russia and China. This provided the same benefits as I mentioned, but even more. I got to experience different cultures, and see our own American culture from outside, which I feel everyone might benefit from.
I found that our culture is pretty much fear based. I began to see that when at home, I contracted. Even though I was in the supposedly greatest, most free country on Earth, there was something here that squeezed the life out of me and maybe all of us. We hear how dangerous the world is. But every time I traveled, I found that there were beautiful, kind, helpful people everywhere. The vast majority of the people I met were gracious and friendly. In over 5 years of travel, I had less problems and things taken from me than back home, where I have had a long list of cars and bikes and various things stolen from me.
I agree with Rick Steves that travel changes you. You connect more, with others and yourself. It makes you more happy and confident. It breaks down walls. It provides a sense of freedom, a step outside our fears, in a way that only travelers know. And when I say travelers, I think you know what I mean, not the person who stays in American hotels and eats only American foods, and hangs out only with Americans.
Of course, wherever we go, there we are. We don’t really need to travel, which does leave a big carbon footprint. We can wander locally, do staycations, or we can find ourself and our joy in local community, or even sitting in quiet meditation. We are that which we seek. But if you feel stuck, you might try taking a courageous step outside your comfort zone and outside our cultural patterns and pace, and taste the freedom of authentic travel. You might find that the world is not as scary as some want to convince us.