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Adventure Blog

Why Do You Travel?

Buzz Poole
03/29/2011 - 00:00

The value of seeing a place different from where you live and meeting the people that live in that different place cannot be underestimated. I believe this, strongly. You don’t have to hit museums or dutifully follow a guidebook’s litany of important historical sites. You can sit on a beach by day and eat and drink the nights away. Either way, just by virtue of being somewhere other than home, you are experiencing a different part of the world, even if it is just a few states south.

 

But what happens when you go to a new place and return thinking it’s just like home? Caitlin Rolls offered up her opinion in this Thought Catalog piece, “Traveling to Europe Didn’t Change My Life.” After trying to make herself feel good by volunteering in Guatemala and later spending a month in Europe thinking it justified not having a job, Rolls concluded: “People are pretty much the same everywhere. Yeah this guy grew up without any shoes and his roommates are goats, but he still just wants to get a girlfriend and make enough money to buy himself a popsicle every so often.”

 

I’ll concede that on some level, especially in the purview of our hyper-media global culture, people are people. Yes, most of us seek companionship and our definition of happiness. But the environmental, political and cultural contexts that help shape our desires are incredibly varied and that’s what you realize the more places you go.

 

 

 

Back before images of the world were a mouse-click away, travel did change lives, exposing people to different religions, landscapes and cuisines. If you hailed from a desolate plain and then headed toward the ocean or a mountain range, just imagine how so many of your assumptions about the world and your place in it would be altered radically. Today, there might not be quite as many surprises, but visiting a new place can almost always expose you to something you’ve never experienced.

 

It seems that Rolls decided to take her two trips abroad because she understood them as rites of passage. But after getting sick in Guatemala and being bored by people in Spain, she decided the trips did not change her life, though it is clear she did learn a few things about herself: “I learned that I don’t like one night stands. That spending the day munching on tapas and reading Patti Smith’s memoir in a local café can be just as crucial as spending the day photographing every inch of the Sagrada Familia . . . I learned that not every moment is going to be awesome. You will get on the wrong train. You will want to take a nap instead of going sightseeing.”

 

Exactly! I think Rolls is being contrarian to stir up internet interest (which worked I suppose), and while the shortsightedness of her stance irks me, she does raise a worthwhile question: Why do you travel?

 

Do you travel for fun, self-betterment, to learn, to eat differently, for spiritual purposes, to volunteer, to be able to have something to talk about at parties? What is at the heart of the decision to book a trip? The answer is not as important as the fact that you travel, but it is an interesting question.

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