Monday, November 30, 2015

Overcome with Wanderlust: Why I Travel

"Not all those who wander are lost." - JRR Tolkien

Wanderlust is defined as having a strong, innate desire to rove or travel about. Often people who are overcome with wanderlust are said to have caught the traveling bug and are considered lost souls searching. In my opinion, being in search of something is a positive characteristic. In order to continually grow, you need to be open to learning and experience can be the best teacher.

For me traveling is an opportunity to step outside the comfort and familiarity of my world and into someone else’s. I thoroughly immerse myself in another culture by traveling somewhere I haven’t been, meeting the people, tasting the food, drinking the wine, seeing the sights and learning the local customs. I treat each trip as an opportunity to learn, and there are a few attributes in myself I seek to strengthen with each coming adventure:

Perspective. "Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world." - Gustave Flaubert

You've heard it before and it's true: there is a whole world out there. Empower yourself to explore it. Traveling provides you with the perspective to contrast your lifestyle. Traveling may even cause you to question your beliefs or behaviors as you begin to understand how others live. Perspective is critical in understanding the bigger picture so that you can better distinguish your role and the impact you can have in the world.

Tolerance.  "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness." - Mark Twain

Through my travels the most compelling conclusion I've made is about people. Regardless of one's age, race, religion, ethnicity or home,  most everyone has the same needs and desires. They need to feel safe and loved. They desire to provide for their families and have a sense of purpose, and want to feel valued and respected. Understanding that most people share the same basic needs, you can then look to other factors like history, belief systems and obstacles to better understand what makes certain cultures unique. The more you can relate to other people on a fundamental level, the more open you'll be to differences and likely to make the effort to find common ground.

Empathy. "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes." - Marcel Proust

While exhilarating, traveling can also be humbling. Meeting people whose lives may be more challenging and whose circumstances may be more difficult than yours can teach you a great deal about empathy. Your ability to travel the world puts you in the small percentage of people who have been afforded this privilege and it shouldn't be taken lightly. Use this gift to lift those you encounter and help those in need, and be thankful for what you've been provided.

Appreciation. "Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
This world is an amazing place and much in part due to the diversity within it. Travel wouldn't be as exciting if every person were alike and each country were the same. Instead of comparing your experiences to what's familiar and letting bias be your guide, open yourself up and appreciate everything you encounter. Celebrate the differences and see the world through fresh eyes.
Education. "The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing." - Albert Einstein
Every new experience is an opportunity to learn and to come away with a greater understanding than when you started. Listen. Ask questions. While your travel adventure may just be a moment in time, don't let the learning stop there. When you go home, share your stories with others. Help to eliminate fear and uncertainty by gifting others with your experiences.

"Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer." - Unknown

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