We’re All Explorers

I was about 72 percent sure I was on the right bus as we left San Jose and wound deeper into the Costa Rican countryside. But the uncertainty didn’t bother me; all that mattered was that I was going somewhere new.

“It will be an adventure,” I thought, while observing the other passengers who stared out the window or quietly conversed among themselves.

Fortunately, however, I was on the right bus and found my hostel easily. I went to sleep happily in an unfamiliar bed in a room of people who should have been strangers, but were already friends.

One of the things I like most about traveling alone is that you’re never really alone unless you want to be. You become immediately inducted into a transnational network of nomads — making new friends who come from a variety of backgrounds and are always glad to share their insights, tips and experiences.

The following morning, I found myself sitting across from a engineering teacher from Quebec at the breakfast table. We were making casual conversation, as he waited for his bus and I was making plans for the day. What are the odds that we, two of Earth’s seven billion human human inhabitants, would be having breakfast together?

When I asked him what he had done the day before, he said he had visited the coffee plantation. It was apparently a good tour and he had gotten to taste the beans at different stages of the roasting process. I asked what they tasted like.

His answer surprised me. He said he wouldn’t tell me, and that I would have to find out for myself. “Isn’t that the point of traveling? Everyone wants to feel as if they have discovered something for the first time.”

He was right. It didn’t matter how many accounts I listened to, descriptions I read, or documentaries I watched. Nothing would ever compare to the feeling of discovering something for yourself.

I travel because I crave new experiences — a break from the ordinary. I want new sensations, new landscapes, new cities, new cultures, new people and new ways of living. I want to be uncomfortable. I want the challenge of the different.

Maybe our curiosity is what makes humans different from other species. We want to know who lives on the other side of the sea and what it feels like to walk on the moon. We’ve taught ourselves to push beyond all limits and be guided by a single desire: to know.

And sharing this knowledge bonds us to other people, allowing us to evolve together. Our shared experiences create memories and stories more valuable than anything for sale in a souvenir shop.

So go.

Originally published at www.theodysseyonline.com on August 22, 2016.