June 14, 2024

Why I Travel.

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I met a friend recently for coffee to catch up on life and our recent travels.

We met at the place that makes my favorite chai in Fort Collins, Colorado, and it always smells of freshly ground coffee beans. I paired my chai with a delicious slice of lemon poppy seed bread and we found a set of cozy, high-backed chairs in a corner of the bustling shop.

Since our last coffee catch-up, my friend had traveled with his family to a remote village off the Pacific Ocean side of Mexico, accessible only by boat. My husband and I had recently returned from Italy, wandering from Rome through Tuscany to Florence.

As we were sharing our travel stories, he asked a question: “So, why do you travel?” This question was simple but left me momentarily speechless. The only thing my brain could come up with at that moment was another question: “Why wouldn’t you travel?”

I am a Colorado native. I grew up going on family road trips, but we never traveled internationally. In college, I was minoring in Spanish, having found a love for the language in high school. The idea to study abroad was introduced by someone I dated briefly. The concept stuck even though the relationship didn’t, and with guidance from my Spanish program and support from my parents, I had the opportunity to travel to Spain the following summer.

Not knowing anyone on the trip, I boarded a plane—the third flight of my life—bound first for Heathrow Airport in London, then Madrid. Our group, comprised of college students from all over the United States, toured the country, exploring Madrid first, venturing south to Granada, west to Sevilla, and then north to Salamanca where we would be living with host families.

I hadn’t been to large cities like New York at this phase of my life, so taking in the history, architecture, and food in Madrid left my jaw hanging open in awe of all I was seeing—the grandeur of the royal palace, the gardens, the Prado Museum—my senses were delighted and my soul was joyful.

The following six weeks were full of meeting new friends, trying new food, expanding my Spanish speaking skills, navigating cities unlike any I’d ever experienced before, sipping wine, dancing until the wee hours of the morning, and gaining a deep understanding of the importance of the afternoon siesta.

I left Spain with dreams of returning, but a lot of life happened, and it was 24 years before I returned to Europe. My husband and I had a truly magical trip to Portugal in 2023 and most recently visited Italy in April 2024.

Upon arrival, we walked through the lively streets of Rome taking in the lasagna nature of their pre-Christian palaces and temples still being excavated from the layers below the city; drove through the beautiful hills of Tuscany and delighted at our time in Montepulciano with its delicious food, charming shops, and shop owners; and wandered the streets of Florence absorbing the museums and architecture.

I had learned a little Italian ahead of our trip. I found the ability to ask if the person I was about to communicate with spoke English in Italian to be empowering and opened doorways of connection. Apple Translate gave me words when I needed help and my Spanish education gave me the confidence to try to speak in Italian, albeit basic and a bit broken.

In the larger cities, most people spoke English, but in the smaller towns in Umbria and Tuscany, I loved being able to practice bits of Italian. At times, I found my Spanish was helpful too. On some of our tours, English was the unifying language of those who spoke other languages.

At one point during our trip, after hearing Italian, German, French, Spanish, English, and other languages I couldn’t quite decipher as we walked the Italian streets, an amazing thing happened. All assumptions about every person I was passing melted away. I felt a connection with the people around us. There were no divisions, no labels. It wasn’t “this person is from Italy” or “that person is from France.” I couldn’t look at a single person and assume their language, background, or story. We were all simply people absorbing the details of this beautiful country.

This realization was a moment of unification between my heart and those around me. It was also a great reminder: we really are all one. We were all watching in awe, all absorbing the rich details of a history that spans more than 2,000 years. It was also a reminder of how ingrained the habit is to create stories about those around us, to designate who is included in our definition of “us” versus “them.”

In witnessing the melting together of people, my lens saw only a unified people who were in this incredible place to absorb the beauty, food, history, and culture. This loss of identifiable division and instead the replacement of unification was an unexpected gift in our travels.

Our world chooses to create walls, to create “us,” to create “them.” I hope more people get to walk this path, where division and differences dissolve and we’re left with our unifying humanity. Even after returning to my everyday Colorado life, I celebrate these moments when I am reminded of our shared connection.

So, why do I travel? I travel to grow, expand, learn, experience, dream; to be reminded of how diverse and beautiful our planet is; to be reminded of our similarities, and to experience differences firsthand. I travel to fall in love with new languages. I travel to push myself out of my comfort zone, embrace the challenges that come with navigating new-to-me lands, create memories, expand my view, and walk in others’ shoes. I travel because my soul yearns for it. I am grateful for a partner who shares this yearning and that we have the means to answer this call.

So, why do you travel?

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