This post is about travel, but it starts by noting that I am the child of two amazing people. My mother grew up in the Philippines, and it was a very long time before I realized that not everyone’s mother knew how to wield a machete. (It is an excellent gardening tool, and there is nothing better for taking the top off a coconut, which she demonstrated with grace on a family vacation to Hawaii.) My father grew up in a very small town in the Midwest and joined the Peace Corps. He coached athletes for international competition, traveled through Africa, Asia, and Europe, and read me Kipling and the Olympic creed when I was young.
So you will now understand that I grew up hearing stories about how seeing the world and meeting people from other cultures changes your life, opens your heart and mind, and is incredibly rewarding.
This has been true for me.
My travels have brought me around my home country (the US), as well as abroad: Europe, South America, Asia, Africa, Australia.
The experience of travel can be brilliant, amazing — and also tiring, mundane, and frustrating.
Which is also how life is at home.
We can experience adventure, beauty, and also tedium every place we go.
There IS something heart and mind-expanding about exploring the world. Or, in other words, exploring beyond what is familiar to you.
I grew up in the Bay Area, and even though I saw much of the world as a kid I hadn’t seen much of my own country. So after college I got a job at the Olympic Games in Atlanta and gave myself about 2 weeks to drive cross-country with my best friend.
It was simply amazing: to see the Southwest, to drive through Texas, to visit the Deep South. It blew my mind to experience the variety of land, people, food, literature, music, even language!
A few years later, in my early 20s, I decided to take a sabbatical. I planned, negotiated, and made it happen with work and finances. I went to France for 10 weeks. I found a language school in Paris, a place to live, and I studied French for a month before hitting the rails and traveling around the country. I was also running away from a bad relationship and a broken heart. And when I landed in Paris and got to my housing, I had this disappointed feeling. Like, “Huh. I came all this way and I’m still ME.” I thought I would be different — I didn’t like myself very much at the time — but I was still me with my broken heart. In Paris.
Still: that time traveling alone was very beautiful, and contemplative for me.
Perhaps one of the best things about travel is that it lets you experience yourself in a new context. And you may learn to see yourself, and your world, in a new light.
These same things can also be experienced at home. It’s the same, but different. Traveling reminds you how to see with new eyes. If you can remember to do that at home, then you have gained something very valuable.