Travel can scare me. At my core, I’m not a super adventurous person and I seem to be a rule follower (although I hate being called that). I’m embarrassed to admit that once, long ago, I traveled to Loire Valley in France and it took three days before I wasn’t completely miserable from my discomfort. Now, if you do a quick Internet search of Loire Valley, you’ll see lush greens, velvet reflective water, and architecture that is breathtaking even if you hate that sort of thing.
So, what was my problem? It just wasn’t home and I could only focus on the things that weren’t pleasing. Bugs freely came and went through screenless windows, the owl décor in my room haunted me as the orange glow from the lights flickered on their beaks, the toilet’s flush threatened to swallow more than I discarded, and my hair dryer caught on fire – even with the plug converter. It just threw my senses for a loop.
But with time to settle, walks down pebble covered paths, shy morning greetings stumbled in French, and the discovery of chocolate croissants, I finally started to hear the birds chirping and was able to breathe in the beauty around me. Thank goodness for those flakey chocolate bites of heaven because that trip ended up proving that discomfort is only uncomfortable until it becomes comfortable.
For me, comfort came with time, patience, grace, a bit of a go-with-the-flow attitude, and honestly just letting myself be uncomfortable and suck it up.
Since that experience nearly two decades ago, I made the declaration to put myself in more uncomfortable situations that may even scare me. Of course, I still don’t delight in fear and discomfort, but I sure do enjoy what travel has brought me as I’ve journeyed to five continents.
I’ve traveled for education, to run away, to impress people (I didn’t realize that until after a lot of self-reflection), to search for mental clarity, to become a mother, to capture photographs, and most recently to enhance my children’s curiosity and wonder.
I travel because what I gain far outweighs the discomfort. Whether my journey takes me to an unfamiliar city just yonder or another country a world away, I have always walked away a better version of myself.
Pulling from personal experiences, if I had to make a tried a true list of ah-ha moments and reasons why I travel this world (beyond to escape my reality in search of relaxation, fun, and stress relief), this is what it might look like.
- Challenge Discomfort:
When I moved to Guatemala to become a mom and I had no idea how long I’d be staying, I challenged my discomforts and fears of the unknown. Most of the time the unknown became familiar, but sometimes it didn’t. I think both are OK.
- Universal Truths of Humanity:
When I helped a scared child be ushered under the streets in Seoul due to a potential bomb threat from North Korea, I connected with a stranger over the universal truths of humanity.
- Magazine Only Experiences:
When I gleefully danced in the clouds atop Mt. Fuji with a can of Coke, Pringles, and a Hershey’s bar, I experienced for myself what I thought I may only see in a magazine.
- New Routines:
When I sat waiting hours for a car service in Addis Ababa – without water or electricity – to take me to an appointment, I acclimated to new routines and conditions that forced me to view things differently.
- Artful Creativity:
When I studied calligraphy in Hikone, Japan, and learned backstrap weaving in Antigua, I expanded my creativity in colorful and bold expressions of art.
- Scary and Exhilarating:
After a 12-hour road trip, I found myself in an open field with a paint-chipped shack staring me in the face – calling me for an adventure. Throwing caution to the wind (and a few prayers to the sky), I strapped myself to a man’s back and jumped out of an airplane in the middle of nowhere, I tried something new that was scary and exhilarating.
- We Don’t Have the Same:
When I walked the streets of Jocotenango and passed by the juxtaposition of countless children with dirty, cut, flattened, bare feet, with poor hygiene, dirty faces, and tattered clothing, alongside Land Rovers and gold chains, I witnessed what I have that other people don’t, and vice versa.
- Living in Abundance:
When I raised a child in a developing country for the first year of his life with nothing more than supplies that fit into one suitcase, I discovered that there is very little I need and realized I often live in abundance.
- Presence is Greater than Photos:
When I saw the Blue Mosque from a distance I was determined to capture the perfect picture up close. It wasn’t until I traveled broken cement streets, wove in and out of chaos, kept my head down from curious eyes, and finally entered the historic architecture in Istanbul that I discovered my camera wasn’t working properly. I had to take it all in with not just my eyes but all of my senses. In return for my total and complete presence, I created memories that will live in me forever without capturing it on film.
- Natural and Manmade Creations:
Hiking through the rainforest in Tikal with a baby strapped to my chest and a diaper bag slung over my shoulder, I observed natural and manmade creations – including limestone architecture and a canopy of greens making me wonder if I could hop from tree top to tree top – that left me in awe and with so much gratitude.
Full disclosure, 5 continents and dozens of countries later, I still get scared. More often than not, it takes me a minute to get adjusted to my new surroundings. I’m still a rule follower and I still hate being called that. At the same time, I keep becoming a better version of myself and I live a colorful life with a bold appreciation for a heck of a lot. I’ll take that.
Do you have something to add to the list?