A few days ago, as I was combing through my own Facebook fan page, something I do from time to time because I somehow tend to miss a few of the messages that readers leave on the page, I noticed a message that I had in fact not noticed before.
It was a very upbeat note, full of genuine curiosity and it also included a question. This reader wanted to know, “Why travel so much?” She just couldn’t understand why someone would be so attracted to travel and why someone would not want to live a simple, stable, more traditional life in one place.
While this might seem like a silly question to some of you, it’s important to realize that, as many of our high school teachers liked to say, ‘there is no such thing as a silly question’. For some people, the thought of travel is just not as exciting as it is to others. Some people don’t dream of faraway lands or have any desire to visit countries and cultures that are different from their own.
And that’s fine of course. I certainly don’t expect everyone on the planet to want the same things out of life and however anyone chooses to live, as long as they’re happy with that choice, I’m happy for them.
With that said, I naturally wanted to provide an answer to this reader’s question and so I quickly left a response on Facebook with a few lines about travel giving me an opportunity to see the world with my own eyes. Short and basic.
But over the next couple of days, I kept thinking about her question, over and over again. It’s not so much that I started to wonder why on earth I do travel so much, but instead, I began to wonder how I could even begin to explain the core reasons of why I’ve decided to live this traveling lifestyle for so long.
I guess I could talk about the beautiful islands, the mysterious cities, the unique cultures, the spectacular natural wonders and of course the people from all walks of life that have had a major impact on me over the years.
Those are all perfectly good reasons. But at the same time, they don’t seem sufficient.
It was while I was eating a bowl of pasta last night that I suddenly thought of a more suitable response. And it all has to do with a recent experience, a very simple experience, that essentially defines my desire to travel so much.
Two weeks ago, as I wrote about already, I went on a four-day trip to Bratislava, Slovakia. The purpose of this trip was to spend some time with three of my friends.
So, after flying from Bucharest to Vienna (the Vienna airport is only 40 minutes from Bratislava) there we were, the four of us – two Romanians, one Kazakh and one American – spending time together in Slovakia. We ate at local Slovakian restaurants, we drank Moldovan wines and Czech beers, we spent an evening searching for nebulas, star clusters and distant galaxies in an empty field just across the Hungarian border, we went to the cinema one afternoon and watched a film about India. We spoke about my friend’s desire to live in France, about all of our travels to Istanbul, about my time working on board cruise ships and about whether or not we should all participate in the Mongol Rally (a car ‘race’ from Prague to Mongolia) next year.
And during that same trip, I also had a Skype call with a friend of mine from Australia, I made plans with another friend from the US to meet up in Montenegro in July and I received an email from an Italian friend of mine whom I hadn’t heard from in over a year and who just moved to Brazil, as one does.
This is exactly why I travel so much.
My life has become a combination of destinations, interactions, concepts, opportunities, friendships, challenges and realities that were once so very foreign or unknown to me. After twelve years of travel, the entire world now feels like my home. And it’s the resulting diversity of experiences and people in my life that ultimately lead to an increased appreciation of all that I encounter during my adventures.
The more I learn about other people and places, and the greater variety of experiences I have, I understand that very little differentiates us as human beings. We are all made of the same material, we all have the same ups and downs, we all are trying to do our best during our time on Earth. The result is a strong realization that getting upset over small things, sowing negativity or acting out without really understanding a situation, is simply not useful.
Instead, I’ve learned to relax, take things as they come, understand the beauty that connects us all and try to proceed with as much positivity as possible.
While that Moldovan wine I drank in Bratislava might not have been the best wine I’ve ever tried, I fully appreciated and enjoyed the experience of drinking something I would never have tasted had I never traveled, while sitting in a backyard overlooking a city that I would never have known anything about, talking about plans I would never have believed to be possible and surrounded by good people I would never have met. How perfect is that?
And the fact that this is how I feel when in such situations provides all the motivation I need to continue living this lifestyle.
*Again, I’m not saying that everyone should want to live this lifestyle…not at all. I’m just answering the question that was asked, hopefully showing why this lifestyle is so appealing to me.
I wonder, why do you travel? Or, if you’re not traveling yet, why do you want to travel in the first place?
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i love this post. i traveled for nearly two years starting in 2015 and then for two months last year before the lockdown. in many ways i am still the same and in many ways i’ll never be the same again. one new year’s i was hearing from all these people around the world and i had this image of all these lights around the globe. to have that time with people was so special and such a worthwhile way to spend my life. i feel like i see the effects of it still in me—in how i am in everyday life, in how i interact with people. and a p.s., i also appreciate that you don’t judge people who choose not to travel. everyone gets to choose what makes them happy.
I have always felt that I had some wandering Celtic-Viking gene within my DNA that makes traveling almost a complusion. I have found it to be both a blessing and a curse. I gave open the open road about 15 years ago when I was 44. I miss it terribly but I know I’m not up to the vigors and the lonliness any more. At what point does Sinbad retire from wandering the Seven Seas? I guess we here a rare breed compared to our ‘stay at home shoes’ brothers & sisters.
[…] thought this was a great post by Wandering Earl detailing the reasons why he travels. I’ll let Earl take over below, but it’s always inspiring to hear from those out […]
Thanks, Earl. I appreciate the flavor you added with this expanded answer. I’m nowhere near the world traveler that you are…tied down for now by job and house…but I enjoy getting away as often as possible. I’ve been traveling abroad to places like Ecuador and Cambodia since I was a teenager but haven’t quite made it to “wandering” status yet. It’s interesting how deeply other cultures and peoples can influence your outlook. I always say that for me, the culture shock is returning stateside. Although the niceties of life are certainly available here, the realities of earning and maintaining these creature comforts can suffocate any joy you may hope to experience by obtaining them. Traveling creates joy through the experience of living…not acquiring. Don’t get me wrong, I like nice things and the peace of mind that a permanent roof over your head brings. But as with most things in life, there is a tradeoff. I admire that you have been able to find a way to balance both your material needs and your need for exploration. Thanks for sharing your life with us!
Too bad the Moldovan wine wasn’t that good.
They usually are very good! Come and try again!
[…] opportunity or perfect girl comes along. But, deep down, why do I really travel so much? I know from posts like this it’s a question every long term traveler ponders from time to […]
Great post! For me, this sums it up: “Whoever created the world went to a lot of trouble. It would be downright rude not to go out and see as much of it as possible.” -Edward Readicker-Henderson
Hey Callie – Excellent quote indeed!
I travel as much I can but having been a lecturer for 12 years I only travel in the hols! I have given myself 3 years till I leave the constraints of my job forever and seek the worlds adventures! (I’m finishing 2nd degree) Yet I am so desperate to go that sometimes I feel like I’m suffocating. I’m 33 and as my friends are getting desperately broody I have that same intense feeling but my baby is the world. I crave freedom and beauty so much, life experience is my dreams and hopes, I cannot wait to start! Thank you Earl for helping me keep that dream alive 🙂 x
Hey Vicky – If the dream is alive now, I’m sure it will become reality soon enough 🙂
I do it for what I term “The Human Experience”.
We are all of us One Planet. One People. The lines on a map which governments try to tell us separate us are nothing more than imaginary, marginal. I’m a global citizen, not an “American”. Just because I was born in one place doesn’t make me unique; I am the same as everyone else, and I want to explore and experience everything I can to expand my horizons.
I am still a college student and am not able to do much traveling but I’m always looking for opportunities to travel. I spent a year in europe as an exchange student and ended up going to 11 different countries in that year and not even a year later I’m back in europe for the summer.
The reason I love to travel is the fact that every day offers something new and nothing is concrete. A friend called me up earlier this week and now next week I’m headed to vienna. When I arrived I ended up turing a museum with a person from Turkey and another from Thailand. During my year as an exchange student I was spending a majority of my time with atleast two people from two different countries. Today as I write this I have a beautiful view of a nice little German town. The thing I love the most about traveling though is that every new person I meet, ever new experience I have, changes my life in some way. Plus it is always extremely interesting to gain an understanding of another culture, find my way around a new place, learn random words in some random language but mostly its the people you meet along the way that makes traveling worth while. Its always nice to say my best friend is from Chilie, my sister from Croatia, and my parents from Germany. For me its the things you learn and people you meet that makes me fall in love with traveling over and over again.
Hey Rachel – That’s a wonderful description of your travel experiences and I think a lot of people can relate to that. If you’ve already been to Europe two years in a row I have a feeling that there is a great deal of travel in your future as well! Enjoy these experiences and more importantly, continue making connections with the new people you meet from around the world.
I would like to travel because I have always wanted to learn and experience new cultures and new places. For me traveling is a way to connect to world around us. Ever since I could remember I was never happy staying in one place for to long. I felt that it just got boring and repetitive and I needed a change in scenery. So when I am able to travel, I will never stop.
Good on you to not try to push a travel lifestyle agenda on others. Your experiences with many friends from foreign countries remind me why I love to travel and why my travel lust grows even more. These are the typical experiences I get while couchsurfing. Not something many people who take their 1-2 week vacations have the luxury (or time) to do.
Hey Gerard – Couchsurfing does tend to lead to such experiences and you’re right, it takes time to be able to enjoy those interactions. If you only have 1 or 2 weeks of vacation, the first thing on your mind is most likely going to be finding a place to just plop down and relax.
I’ve tried to come up with an answer to this question and it’s hard. There’s almost no word for it. I just feel a pull. I feel like I’m still looking for something. I guess that’s my answer!
Hey Ava – Well, there’s no wrong answer so that seems perfectly reasonable to me!
it is quite ironic that you post this topic. your answer is definitely awesome! i was sitting in my friend’s home in beijing a couple of months ago. 5 of us were eating lunch.. all of us different nationalities. it occurred to me that i would never have awesome experiences like these if i did not follow my desire to see the world. and ali from above is correct. pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone certainly does great things for our confidence level. personally i feel that travel has made me a better person.
Hey Jake – I love it when I have those realizations while traveling and just like you, they usually happen when I’m sitting somewhere with a bunch of people from around the world. That is something I never want to give up!
The best answer to be provided!
Besides seeing the cultures and tasting those traditions in different countries, it is the locals you meet and the amazing friendships you make around the world that makes your travel so special. And that is why I guess people that do the 1 week resort traveling in a country would never get to understand this answer…I am not against their travel style, it is different, but I think it offers a lot less than what you’re speaking of
Great post! I’m at the point in my life where the majority of my friends are married and/or have children and the thought of travel doesn’t even cross their minds. When I mention my plan to travel long-term next year, they all look at me like I’m crazy. It makes me sad that they don’t see the amazing opportunities that can be had with travel. You summed it up perfectly here… And if you are taking votes – I vote to DO the Mongol Rally!!
I’ve been asked this question before and a more perfect answer has yet to developed. One answer that came to my mind a few years ago, while I was sitting on a roof top of a condemned building was this. I go to see what there is to see; in ways that none else see.
I love to travel for so many reasons, but if I try to distill it down to what appeals to me, it is the state of zen, that awareness of ‘now’, of living fully in the moment. Travel just naturally puts me in that state of mind. Of course it can be achieved anywhere, but I have to discipline myself to remember to do so. When I’m wandering a back alley of Florence, or trekking through a valley in Yosemite, I can’t help but be completely aware of all my senses, and to fully revel in them. Every moment is a celebration.
Hey Rachel – With that description of travel (which I loved!), I can’t imagine ever stopping! Who would want to give that state of mind up?
I was motivated to travel because of the book Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. It made me realize that I had to see India and reading about all these places I was interested in wasn’t going to be enough. After living and traveling for the better part of 7 years, I appreciate my hometown of Chicago more than I ever did before traveling. I don’t think I’ll travel forever and would eventually move back there, but I’ll never stop traveling for good.
Hey Alex – That book had a big influence on me as well. I try to read it once a year. Glad you’re another fellow long-term traveler out here trying to understand the world!
Well said. The draw for me is also seeking the unknown, not knowing what is around the corner, the people you will meet, how your perceptions and options will change – how you will grow and adapt. The people craving stability are those seeking ‘an answer’ which is great but for me I travel for the infinate answers and possibilities. Keep up the good work 🙂
Thanks Becki! The unknown is a great reason to travel. When we are open to discovering whatever may lie around that next corner, even if we have no idea what the possibilities could be, we tend to accept and learn from everything we encounter.
The cultures, the sights, the food, the experiences, and the people I meet along the way, all why I travel. It’s also about the challenges, how pushing myself a little further out of my comfort zone always does good things for my confidence no matter how hard it seems at the time. I love that crazy mix of friends I have scattered around the world now. I love how another blogger I’m friends with found Skippy peanut butter while in Armenia and bought me a jar because I can’t get that where I now live in Germany, and we were meeting up in Italy for a blogging conference. A Canadian traveler I met 6 months ago in Melbourne is now traveling through Europe, so she came to stay with me for a few days. There are just so many reasons why travel is a wonderful thing, and I’m addicted.
Hey Ali – The reasons are endless and the mix of friends is certainly near the top for me as well. Although, nobody has offered to bring me Skippy peanut butter yet 🙂
That was a great answer! Inspired me to jot down my own reasons here https://pagesofmywakinglife.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/why-i-want-to-travel/
Let’s hope there are many more journeys to go on.
Hey Faye – Writing your own reasons out is a great exercise for every traveler as it helps remind us why we started traveling in the first place and it ensures that we never lose our focus!
[…] reading this blog post by Earl on why he travels so much, along with a ting of jealousy, I began to think back to the time […]
I LOVE your answer… especially the part about the Mongul Rally; I immediately told me gear head, wanderlust, brother about that! It’s funny but just today I read what someone posted to my FB page about travel…. A quote from Henry Rollins: “I beg young people to travel. If you don’t have a passport, get one. Take a summer, get a backpack and go to Delhi, go to Saigon, go to Bangkok, go to Kenya. Have your mind blown, eat interesting food, dig some interesting people, have an adventure, be careful. Come back and you’re going to see your country differently, you’re going to see your president differently, no matter who it is. Music, culture, food, water. Your showers will become shorter. You’re going to get a sense of what globalization looks like. It’s not what Tom Friedman writes about, I’m sorry. You’re going to see that global climate change is very real. And that for some people, their day consists of walking 12 miles for four buckets of water. And so there are lessons that you can’t get out of a book that are waiting for you at the other end of that flight. A lot of people – Americans and Europeans – come back and go, “ohhhhh”. And the lightbulb goes on.”
I believe I agree. Besides all the delicious wonders I’ve encountered traveling I could see how spoiled I was living in America. One of the best things I did for my sons was to get them a passport early in life. Bravo to travel~!~
Hey Judy – The article where that quote came from is what I consider a must-read for all those interested in travel. I’ve read it several times myself and always refer to it in order to regain some clarity. Thanks for sharing that here!
I think that the desire for travel is in us because our very biology required it. I’m not going to even try to put it as poetic as Carl Sagan puts it, so I’ll just leave a link to a short video explaining this phenomenon.
Hey Miryr – I think you forgot the link 🙂
In my computer it shows the embedded video o_O. How odd!
I’ll add the link again, if it doesn’t work this time around I’ll try something different.
Most of my friends also asked the same question, why do you always travel? why did you waste money for go there and there?
I like to meet new people, new friends, new smiles, experiences.
Hey Uwan – And that’s a good enough reason to me!
I like traveling because I think it is the best way to learn about the world. You read things in books and you see things on t.v., but until you walk around that country, meet the locals, eat the food, and see the world through their eyes, you can’t ever really understand another place properly.
Hey Andrea – Travel does make it much easier to try and understand a particular destination. As an example, it’s difficult to understand people of another culture without shaking their hand, talking to them and learning exactly how they live.
Love the post! For me travel is about putting things in perspective and seeing things beyond your fences; perhaps a reminder of sorts that the world is much bigger than ourselves and that fact alone should keep us humble =)
Hey Jac – Travel certainly does keep things in perspective as we experience the diversity that exists on this planet, diversity of people, places, ideas, conditions, etc. One is forced to constantly evaluate everything they thought they knew about life while on the road.
You put it so eloquently Earl. When I tell people that I’ve been traveling for 8 years, people invariably ask “don’t you like New Zealand”. I love it but the whole world is my home, so why should I just explore one room in the house?
Hey Roy – Right, it’s not that we don’t enjoy or love our home countries/towns, it’s just that we have an urge to see what else is out there in the world.
Great post Earl – and great reply. I think it’s why a lot of us travel. It’s not always about the destination but about the people you meet and the experiences you have there and on the way.
Hey Katherine – And I think that the more you travel, the more that the idea of seeing interesting sights becomes far less important than all of those interactions with other people!
I get asked this question from time to time as well. And for me, it always always goes back to people and culture. I’ve met so many fascinating people abroad and experienced so many different cultures that have opened my eyes to the world around us.
Hey Drew – I’ll often think about random moments from my travels and almost always, the moments that pop up first involve meeting people. There’s no great feeling than connecting with other people that you would never have come across had you not traveled!
Lisa Sonora Beam posted this poem on FB today about travel, and I thought it answered your question beautifully. Here it is:
Every time you leave home,
Another road takes you
Into a world you were never in.
New strangers on other paths await.
New places that have never seen you
Will startle a little at your entry.
Old places that know you well
Will pretend nothing
Changed since your last visit.
When you travel, you find yourself
Alone in a different way,
More attentive now
To the self you bring along,
Your more subtle eye watching
You abroad; and how what meets you
Touches that part of the heart
That lies low at home:
How you unexpectedly attune
To the timbre in some voice,
Opening in conversation
You want to take in
To where your longing
Has pressed hard enough
Inward, on some unsaid dark,
To create a crystal of insight
You could not have known
When you travel,
A new silence
Goes with you,
And if you listen,
You will hear
What your heart would
Love to say.
A journey can become a sacred thing:
Make sure, before you go,
To take the time
To bless your going forth,
To free your heart of ballast
So that the compass of your soul
Might direct you toward
The territories of spirit
Where you will discover
More of your hidden life,
And the urgencies
That deserve to claim you.
May you travel in an awakened way,
Gathered wisely into your inner ground;
That you may not waste the invitations
Which wait along the way to transform you.
May you travel safely, arrive refreshed,
And live your time away to its fullest;
Return home more enriched, and free
To balance the gift of days which call you.
~ John O’Donohue
Hey Marg – Thank you for sharing that with us and it certainly does answer the questions much better than I could ever do! Great poem indeed.
Some people are just born to wander. Some aren’t. At my age, I don’t know that I travel to learn about myself anymore. More like re-learning about myself. You kinda get lost in the work-a-day world during mid life. I’m looking forward to that life on the road, being curious and inquisitive, the way I was when I first started traveling, when I was much younger. There are so many places to go, people to meet and things to see. I’ve done both, but my passion is being a traveler. Like Brett above, I’m also a citizen of the world.
Hey Steve – Like I’ve said before, I can always feel the eagerness to return to the road in your comments! It’s hard to lose that feeling when you consider the entire world to be your home.
I guess I want to travel for the same reasons… I want to be exposed to things I can’t even imagine now. I also want to see the variety of ways humans live on this planet. I can’t wait! only 2 more years of university then I’m hitting the road!
Also I love you’re blog I find it very inspirational and I love it even more because you update it frequently. And I read you’re ebook about living a life of travel, thank you for taking the time to write that, I found it extremely helpful.
Hey Musa – Seems like you’ll be off and running in two years! And I love how one of your goals is to be exposed to things you can’t even imagine now. Just understanding that there is so much more to the world than what we know from our own lives makes a huge difference in the quality of our travels.
[…] thought this was a great post by Wandering Earl detailing the reasons why he travels. I’ll let Earl take over below, but it’s always inspiring to hear from those out […]
“The entire world now feels like my home.” My thoughts exactly!!!
I love to travel but have mainly just been west coast so far. My granny loved to travel and I think that bug skipped my mom and went straight to me! I love exploring, seeing new places, doing new things. Times at home are nice but soon I itch for another road trip. It’s nice I can do my job from anywhere at the moment but when I travel I’d rather do things and not be working so it’s a catch 22 I guess.
Hey Stacie – It can be tough to find a good balance but I always look at it this way: Even if I have to work while traveling, I’d much rather have my days off or my breaks be in a new, exciting destination than in an office lunch room 🙂
This is truly a great post, Earl. I’m glad you realized that this is not only a silly question, but one that deserves more than a simple reply. I have long felt that I was not born as an “American” or a “Michigander,” but as a citizen of the world. I’ll be joining you soon enough.
Hey Brett – Let me know when you do begin your travels!
Love the blog! Do you ever do any podcasting? I would love to listen to a postcast and get an auditory sense of the places you travel. I’ve listened to the “Notes from Spain” podcasts and am addicted.
Keep up the good work!
Hey Sabrina – I haven’t done any podcasts yet but I do like the idea. I will be adding more videos very shortly so hopefully that will add a new dimension to my travels as well. Thanks for the comment!
To put it simply (and rather cheesy), to see everything the world has to offer. Although your post is making me remember to make some friends along the way, too!
Hey Rebecca – Luckily, making friends while traveling is very easy to do 🙂
I agree with your answers! This is why I am on my own journey. Traveling has been the best life teacher I have had so far. It’s opened my eyes and heart to new experiences and people all of which I have learned so much from.
Plus, learning about business and how to provide for yourself is the ONLY security I see these days. The recession (yes we’ve been in a recession since 2008), although unfortunate now, has opened my own eyes to the realities of life.
Your book, “How to Live a Life of Travel,” is highly recommended to everyone on this blog. I purchased it recently and it shows how creativity and open mind can help you to make a make a living and live a fulfilling life. (Disclaimer – I am not currently involved in any affiliate sales with Earl)
I respect what you’ve done because it is something I never had the courage or the mindset to do. However, I’m learning.
Keep it up Earl!
Hey Will – It’s that willingness to learn that will lead you to your goals. As long as you are able to sit down and face the challenges and to figure out how to get around or over or under them so that you can reach the other side, you’ll be fine. And with the communication we’ve had so far, you seem like you’re well on your way!
I love your answer.
I travel because I love newness, change, differences. New perspectives, new places, new challenges make me feel alive. And professionals say that change makes you more creative, which is important to me in both my career and personal projects.
Similarly, coming from a very conservative family who has never left the U.S., it’s very easy for me to make a positive connection with my travels. I started leaving the country at the age of 14. And my worldview is vastly different, vastly wider, as a result. In short: I think travel has made me a better person. I am more compassionate. More understanding. More loving. More involved in social justice and charity.
That’s not to say that you can’t be a perfectly lovely person in a small town with a traditional life, but, for me, travel has made me better, kinder, more of the person I want to be.
Hey Gigi – Now it’s my turn to say that I love your answer. Traveling does help make you a better person (at least those who are open to change and want to improve themselves) and I know that I would not be the same person I am today had I never left home.
I also love the feeling of internationalism you’re describing, but I think that can be had in many places in the world, even if you don’t travel. I travel to learn – about other cultures, other people and about myself.
@The Queer Nomad – For sure, such a setting can take place even if you don’t travel, but I know that in my case, I feel a much stronger connection to all of those international aspects because I have been to those places and have often met those people in their own countries. Also, if I didn’t travel, I wouldn’t be as interested in such international experiences, not because I would be close-minded but probably just because I wouldn’t have such an appreciation for them.
a perfect answer, Earl!