By Anne Harman
Why travel? Seems like a simple question. And to many of us, “why not travel” is the real question. But in today’s 24/7 world of news and information, we are bombarded with seemingly sound reasons to stay in our cozy homes in our familiar neighborhoods or at least to venture only within a limited range around our communities. Life-threatening diseases, bombings, street attacks, Montezuma’s revenge, identity theft, kidnappings, and hurricanes. It’s enough to make you think twice about applying for a passport.
But, from the earliest writings of man, the desire to see, feel and do more has been evident in our psyches. St. Augustine wrote “[t]he world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” Mark Twain chimed in with “[t]ravel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” Jack Kerouac echoed the wanderlust of the ‘60s with “[o]ur battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.” And a current traveler chronicler, Bill Bryson, describes the point of traveling as being “able to experience everyday things as if for the first time….in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.”
Personally, I prefer the travel quotes from my own family members: “You want me to get on that plane in this wind!” “Will the pilot at least close the door”? “Is that a moray eel behind you”? “Goat stew for Thanksgiving – nice change.” “Honk again and maybe that cow will move out of the road!” “Better just drink beer and skip the water.” I prefer my family’s quotes because they reflect and memorialize shared experiences among family and friends. Some good and some bad. Some with complete strangers and most with chosen traveling companions. Really, a lot like life itself.
Take a moment and reflect on your own experiences. Maybe you traveled every summer with your family in the station wagon to the same beach, with the same people, stayed at the same place, and ate at the same restaurants. I doubt you now look back at those trips as “boring” vacations. Instead, the memories of those travels are a source of energy for you. Despite the sameness, there were always new experiences, new people, new moments and importantly, the creation of new memories each time you traveled. The sameness provided both the comfort and the foundation on which to add experiences with each trip.
Maybe you had an adventurous family who had thick, well-worn passports and kept their international certificates of vaccination in their back pockets. If your travel made you witness to the fairly recent dramatic changes to the world’s map with the addition of new countries, the tearing down of barriers between old countries (and thus between human beings), and the development of common linguistic phrases that work in Pittsburgh as well as in Berlin or Mumbai, then you are not surprised by the perspective and understanding gained from that travel and how those memories energize you to seek other travel opportunities.
My column for Weelunk will be devoted to why we travel, how we travel, where we travel, and opportunities for memorable travel with those chosen travel companions and with some strangers, too. We’ll explore tried and true destinations, some exotic and unique spots, adventure and learning travel, all with the goal of discerning which travel opportunities are for you.