The 8 reasons I travel
Back in 2007, I got on a flight to Japan for the first time. I was 19 and it was my first legitimate solo travel experience. I didn’t know the first thing about how and what to pack and my Japanese language skills were only a year in the making (rudimentary at best.) If I had to answer the questions of why exactly I was going to Japan, I would have given some answer about having wanted to travel there since I was young and fascination with the culture, but pressed for details, I admit I wasn’t entirely sure.
I had a vague idea of what I wanted to do, a 3 week Japan Rail Pass to get me anywhere in the country, and a couple of friends to call on while I was there.
Starting out in the center of Tokyo, I wandered outward into Shinjuku, and Shibuya, walked the alleyways of Ikebukuro and listened to a shamisen player in Ueno park. This was before everyone had an iPhone — I relied on a paper map and friendly strangers to make my way forward. I may have gotten lost a bit — perhaps a lot.
6 Years later, I flew into Istanbul during the period of time when the Taksim riots were taking place. Once again, my plans were rather loose, with a lot of room for improvisation. One night as I stood at a bar balcony, looking down upon the square while a police officer aimed a water canon with tear gas at a crowd of protestors and a reporter to my left aimed his Nikon D60 at the situation 10 feet below us, I felt a sense of separation from the action beneath me. Time stopped for a brief moment and only Garcia Marquez can really describe the feeling.
“…he was the only one who had enough lucidity to sense the truth of the fact that time also stumbled and had accidents and could therefore splinter and leave an eternalized fragment in a room.”
-100 Years of Solitude
I felt at that moment the need to write down what brought me to that balcony and to distill it into clear reasons other than my general thrill seeking personality. I wanted to understand why I traveled. And so I attempted to.
1) To induce serendipity in a world rife with routine
You can’t force luck, but you can absolutely improve the odds. Traveling has a certain magical way of improving the odds that you’ll see and do things you never dreamed of.
2) To understand the limitations of my knowledge
I have met many travelers who have been on the road for a year, two years, or even three, and have learned more in their time traveling than in a decade at home, wherever home may be.
3) To meet incredible people
I made a foolish mistake back in 2007 and chose not to use hostels much. I realized quickly that the fastest way to meet fellow travelers was to find a hostel for $10 a night, throw yourself down at a table, and see who walked in the front door. You would be surprised who you’ll meet and where the two of you will travel together.
4) To try new foods
There’s an incredible Georgian restaurant hidden in Istanbul that operates out of someone’s living room and offers a spicy beef stew that is to die for. In a little town outside of Nagano there exists a tiny sushi bar where no one speaks english. Ask for Omakase (chef’s choice) and see what happens. The world is full of foods that you can’t even imagine.
5) To reinvent myself
Every trip is another chance to iterate upon yourself. Are you going to go on that two day mountain hike and see if termites really are palatable? Are you going to go to a mountainside temple and meditate for multiple days without speaking. Which version of you is coming back?
6) To get inspired
I first learned about acro-yoga while in Israel. I had never seen the practice before and yet there I was, a friend balancing on my feet while the sun blazed above. Some years later I would look back to this moment while on a rooftop in Bangkok.
7) To remove apathy
There’s nothing like travel to knock one out of apathy and into the realization that with a click you have booked a flight and a couple hours later you’re somewhere else where anything is possible. Travel has no rules.
8) To test my limits
I went scuba diving for the first in Aruba back in my teens in a pool. It wasn’t until years later that I got certified, but I knew from the moment I got in the water that this was going to be a bit of an addiction. 100 feet beneath the water while exchanging breathing apparatuses with a buddy, I discovered addiction or not, this was a new level of control, a new peak, to relax while doing this and not torpedoing up to the surface. Each trip is a chance to see what new peaks you can climb.