Thoughts On Travel

A collection of old passports. Oh, the 80s!

This morning we’re heading to the Post Office to renew our US Passports. We’ve got a break in our international travel schedules and figured this is a perfect time to renew without having to expedite the process. Updated photos, new addresses, the need for new blank pages, this clerical renewal gives me a moment to reflect on past and future travels.

I haven’t a clue where the decade went. It was 10 years ago that I was updating this passport in preparation for a trip to Spain. Even though I know my little old blue book will be returned, I can’t help but feel sentimental as I flip through pages of stamps from different countries, some legible, some not. We’ve been many places, this little book and me.

I’ve dreamt of travel my whole life, of transporting myself to locations and cultures quite different than my own. Growing up with grandparents that moved from Mexico to the United States at the beginning of the century may have something to do with my fascination for travel. I was always aware that there was another side to them, a magical window one could pass through where everything was different. I knew where they came from and it wasn’t where we were.

Our family travels never took us to far away places; family vacations consisted of regular trips out west to California from Texas and an occasional visit to Mexico. But what I discovered about California at age 7 left an indelible mark on my brain. It was the land of fun in the sun, of television and music, of food that tasted different and an energy and lifestyle that I knew I had to be a part of. Living in California has always been a part of my plan. I love this place with all my heart.

To me, traveling is magic. And it’s a type of magic that engages every single part of my human being. It reaches and overloads all my senses. Yea, I know it’s expensive and it’s exhausting sometimes, but it satisfies me like almost nothing else. But apart from what it does to my wallet and waistline, I think the most important thing travel does is helps me become a better human being. I think traveling helps everyone become a better human being. We learn that cultural differences are nothing more than a set of ways about doing and believing something–underneath that we are all human. We share the same quest for love and happiness, we all want the best for ourselves and our families. We’re much more alike than we are different. Traveling constantly reminds me of this.

And yes, going places and connecting with people is even enough to make the hassles of travel worthwhile, at least to me. Delays, frustration, tedious checkpoints and long lines will never diminish my experiences and memories of travel. There’s no way it possibly could.

So now I ask the travelers out there: why do you travel?




Comments

  1. says

    What a great post, Matt!

    “I think the most important thing travel does is helps me become a better human being. I think traveling helps everyone become a better human being. “–

    I agree totally!!

    Traveling takes me out of my comfort zone, forces me to have a roll with the punches attitude, all the while exposing me to new things, beautiful sights and sounds, diversity. I love to travel for so many reasons!

    And would have LOVED to be in Mexico at blogger camp!!

  2. says

    I love traveling to Ancient cities like Rome, Athens, Istanbul. I love walking around in the historic neighborhoods and try to imagine what life was like back then. Of course I’m more interested in the food history and the culture! My all time favorite city is Istanbul, when you walk the streets of SultanAhmet neighborhood, you feel an uplifting feeling of walking through time! I love that feeling! My travel high! :)

    Love your passport pic btw! I have same one like your with the funky hair back in 1987! :)

  3. says

    having just gotten back from a solo trip to belize, i can tell you many reasons why i travel…

    1. to recharge my batteries
    2. to add to my hidden exposures-type photography collection
    3. to learn more about the people in this world
    4. to remind myself how much i really have and how much of it i take for granted
    5. to smell new smells (not always a good thing – ha ha)
    6. to expand my comfort zone (always done when i travel solo)
    7. to make new friends
    8. to break stereotypes about american travelers
    9. to learn world history in a way i never could out of a textbook
    10. to give me some great memories for when i’m sitting in a nursing home having an uncaring underpaid overworked nursing assistant change by diapers

  4. says

    Great post Matt!
    I travel to discover new and places, make memories and rediscover myself in every new frontier.
    From your post its perfectly clear that you need another stamp to collect in your little travel book: Guatemala.
    It’s in the world’s best travel destinations 2011 by CNN.
    So whenever you wan’t to come down, let me know.
    All the best for you’re busy traveling in 2011 :)

  5. says

    I don’t travel nearly as much as I used to. For a spell I was a travel editor, which in fact mostly meant sitting at a desk reading about other people’s travels. But it was always inspiring and romantic to fantasize about places I hadn’t been, places I didn’t yet know I wanted to go to.

    DPaul and I have taken a few fairly extended trips — two three-week sojourns in Italy in ’98 and ’99 and a monthlong trek through Spain in 2001. I prefer to be someplace long enough to settle into the pace of life, to see the rhythms of the local population and make it my own. At the end of our month in Spain, we had forgotten how to be Americans.

    On return, we always eventually get back into our home patterns, but not entirely. We try to incorporate elements from the other countries’ lifestyles that we like and admire into our own. Since Italy, we start every morning with a shot of espresso and a light breakfast. Spain turned us into ham addicts.

    I’ve come to treat domestic destinations with the same respect and open mind as international ones. Each new place is like a foreign land to me, even if they do speak my language and use my currency. Often, that’s as much as we have in common.

  6. says

    Traveling really opens a person up to being a more well rounded person.It allows you to explore some things that may be completely out of your norm,it helps you become more tolerant and its so much fun.

  7. says

    I absolutely love to travel! It’s a bit of an obsession I think, but I seem to have a bit of a gypsy heart. I don’t travel nearly as much as I’d like, but when I do I am over the moon. It’s all about the seeing new things…literally. People, architecture, scenery, landscape, and the food. Oh the food!!

    I feel more “me” when I travel. If that’s even possible!

  8. says

    “We learn that cultural differences are nothing more than a set of ways about doing and believing something–underneath that we are all human.”

    That sentence you wrote pretty much sums up why we travel. We spent 6 weeks or so traveling down the coast of Mexico a few years ago, camping and staying in small mom’n’pop motels along the way (even some no-tell hotels) and learned so much about ourselves and the way Americans view the world. We get wrapped up in our own lives so easily, it’s a good reminder that other people have good (and even better) ideas about how to do things and what’s important in life.

  9. says

    I think that real travel (versus laying on a beach, as a holiday built around relaxation) knocks free the provincial mud from our boots. We return home rounder, more complex beings, and less modeled and rendered solely by the places we live. We become less Italian, less American, less Australian, less national and just plain more ‘human’, an identity trait that quietly benefits everyone.

    At our school, I never ask how much our students travel outside of their home countries because it’s always obvious by how they see the world and how they react to it. Those that do behave very differently than those that don’t.

    And it’s a process, how travel affects you. Those new to travel want to be understood by the places they visit. ‘Now, in America, we think this….’, whether a local asked or not.

    Contrast that with experienced travellers, further along in the process, who seek to actually UNDERSTAND the places they visit. Not for bragging rights, they aim to tap into the rest of the world, aiming for something that is silent, personal and an order of magnitude deeper.

  10. says

    What a great post, Matt! We travel permanently . . . that is, we quit our jobs about a year and a half ago and have been traveling non-stop since then. We’ve been through Australia, New Zealand, Southeast Asia, East Asia, and southern Africa. We’re roadtripping through the United States now and then heading to Europe to drive through most of western Europe over 15 months. When we left, we expected that it would be a one year trip but it has turned into something so much more because we love seeing and being a part of this world in a way that staying in one place has never let us.

    There are so many reasons we travel but it all boils down to one thing. Everywhere we go, every person we meet, every morsel of food we place in our mouth, every adventure we have, we are confirmed in a singular truth: the world is a good place and there are good people here.

    [And, though I don’t like to market my stuff on other people’s sites, this link is actually relevant to this post . . . 99 Lessons Learned Traveling: http://theroadforks.com/offtheroad/lessons_learned_one_year_travel

  11. says

    If I’m lucky, I travel because I might be with you! (Spending time with you in Mexico might have been some of my favorite moments of the whole trip).

    When I’m not by your side soaking up the gorgeousness that is you, I travel to get out of my comfort zone, see the world outside myself, and discover what the possibilities are. I love meeting new people, seeing new places, and discovering a “new home” in the world. Where are my touchstones? What are the comforts of this new place? Sometimes by leaving home and getting into a new place you get a better look at who you are and what you can be. Finding home in an unknown place is something truly magical.

    Thanks for asking!

  12. says

    I travel not only to see new things and experience different ways of the world, but to feel the appreciation for my routine & life at home. To be back in my kitchen cooking, is like warm apple pie.

  13. says

    i love to travel. it’s harder for me than it used to be – i have disabilities now, which totally puts a crimp into where i can go. we also have an 8yr old, which expands our world – it’s amazing to see things through her eyes. why do we travel? to experience difference. meet locals, try new food, shop in great new grocery stores, swim, take photos, learn a LOT, and truly, be joyful.

    great post!

  14. says

    I travel to remind myself of the diversity of human beings, and the commonalities of the human experience. I learn about my world. Also, I’m a tour guide and I get paid for it. Yay!

  15. says

    I most appreciate how travel opens my understanding of other people and their values. After a 5-week trip to S. Korea, I can see that part of the world now with new eyes. What I gained could never be had from travel books or movies. Only by being there — interacting with the people, visiting the places most important to them, eating Korean food at every meal (I loved that part!) — gives me this new outlook that is so special. Travel is expensive and we don’t do it very often anymore, but I’m ready to go almost anywhere at the drop of a hat to have that special experience again.

    Kathleen

  16. says

    I love what you write about California. I came out here for school and stayed. For a little bit I felt stuck….to do what I want to do I felt I needed to be in California, but I missed the East Coast so much. Now, I can barely imagine residing in chilly New England, and I can’t help but give into the nostalgia of the land of television and sun. =)

  17. says

    I’m 15 and I’ve been to about 6 different states. But I dream of traveling all over the world one day. I want to try food from all over, meet different people, and maybe learn a thing or two about myself along the way. Afterall, there’s no wrong direction to go when you’re following your dreams.

  18. Diana says

    I travel because I am!

    There is no choice because I don´t need to choose it!

    I think they wrote in my code when programming my behaviours!

  19. says

    For all the reasons you mentioned. The images and information we have about different parts of the world are always polarised. When you get to a country and meet the people, in the main you will see the similarities not the differences – although the differences are fascinating.
    I like the fact that you’ve left all your chores, jobs, to-do list and day to day respeonsibilities behind too. The Middle East is a fantastic place to travel with Jordan, Syria and Lebanon top of the list.

  20. Steven Ortega says

    Travel is always important. It’s food for the soul. Reading what you have to say makes me want to travel. Nothing beat the thrill of flying cross country, sitting next to strangers and making friendly conversation. The anticipation of reaching the destination to open arms of the sometimes waiting family and friends. <3 Damn.. I need travel in my life.

  21. says

    to have perspective. to be inspired and to be open to the world around me because as an American, i do NOT believe we are all that and a bag of chips nor do i believe that we have it all figured out. i’m fascinated at how food and culture intersect, how art is influenced by what we’re consuming at the time. traveling stretches me where i’m uncomfortable but the rewards are exponential. this May will be the first time The Professor has ever traveled out of the US and we’re heading to Germany – will be one of the highlights of our year, i am sure!

  22. says

    I have terrible wanderlust. (But I hate to fly!) I think to immerse yourself in another culture makes you realize that the world is really quite a small place and the impact that each person has and their potential is limitless. Humans, for the most part, all want the same things.. love, family, friends and happiness.

  23. says

    Matt, wise move to renew the passport before you need to have it expedited (as we both know, that was not fun). Love the travel musings. I love gaining new perspective, and the appreciation I have for home when I return.

  24. says

    I love this post so much. You echoed my exact sentiments on why my husband and I love to travel. I always thought to myself that traveling makes me a better person and I’m so glad to read that you think so too.

    I travel to experience something that I would otherwise never be able to experience where I come from. It makes me a more open-minded and liberal person. It makes me realize that my own culture and beliefs are only one tiny fragment of the other different cultures and beliefs out there. The world offers us so much.

  25. says

    What a wonderful post! Reading it gives me goosebumps-just thinking of where I want to go next. Visiting other cultures allows me to learn and appreciate differences, as well as show me how alike we all are, at least in some way. Happy trails to you in 2011.

  26. Joanne says

    I often don’t enjoy the actual trip – scared stiff and anxious and tired and cranky 80% of the time – but…that other 20% is such a powerful hit of personal growth and goodness and fun that I can’t wait to schedule another one. And the food…mmm…mussels and cream in a small pub in Scotland and your life is changed forever!

    Great post and great blog.

  27. says

    I love to cook and think that your photographs are Amazing with a capital A. If you could find time to glance at my blog I would appreciate it a ton.

  28. says

    Beautiful post that I enjoyed reading and can totally relate to. I like to travel to broaden my horizons and relate better to people. Everytime I travel to a new country I find that I can relate to and understand its people better and consequently understand myself better. We are so much more alike than we are different. We are all motivated by the same needs. Travel helps us fully realize that.

    Nisrine

  29. says

    Matt,

    You have stated it far better and far more eloquently than I ever could! I travel because it makes me feel truly alive – I love everything about it – meeting new people, trying new cuisines and seeing things that until that point I had only read about. I love the challenge of it (ok, well, most of the time!) and believe, like you, that travel does make me a better or perhaps a more complete human being. It provides a perspective that I cannot get here in my little corner of the planet. Traveling with my children has been one of the true highlights of my life and some of my best and favorite memories are of the trips we’ve taken together as a family.

  30. Deb says

    I have been told the I was born with a case of the “Go’s”. I will “GO” anywhere, just to see what’ around the corner or different and get very antsy when I have been home for long periods of time.
    For me traveling forces you to deal with the moment (smells, sounds, flavors, etc). It gives one a different perspective on the world and different cultures. But more importantly, I come home having a better appreciation of what I have (and take for granted, sometimes) in California as well as the U.S.

  31. says

    I travel because I ache for family. In the winter we go to Hawaii to be with my husband’s family and in the summer we go to Brazil to be with my family. Then we’re home saving up our money to do it all over again. I have been blessed with the opportunity to see other cool places in the US like Yosemite. As someone who grew up in Sao Paulo, I NEVER imagined a place like Yosemite on this earth. I also like camping, Big Sur is my fave.

    I love the idea of traveling. I love meeting new people most of all. One day I will travel the world, with the kids in tow I will travel the world!

  32. says

    To connect with people and celebrate our differences/similarities. Travelling brings out both the best (sitting on a beach, white sand between the toes…..experiencing the open hospitality of a great meal being served) and the worst (sitting in passport control and being told your visa is not valid!!) in us. It transforms us into something bigger and better and feeds the soul through the many senses. Thank you for sharing your experiences through this amazing blog. Love it!!!

  33. says

    Travel pushes my envelope and takes planning. If I know it is a once in a lifetime visit to a faraway place, I don’t want to miss anything and I welcome advice!
    Off to Prague for my half-century birthday and beginning to look for restaurants, bars and excursions that take the trip over the top!

    Thanks for your great blogging, passion and photos!
    Debbie

  34. says

    Hi Matt,
    Love your blog Love your food
    I also love to travel! Why do I love it?
    1) It seems to allow me to re-invent myself, to find out aspects of myself that are not visible in everyday life at home.
    2) Relaxation!
    3) Curiosity – always want to know what’s over that next hill.
    4) Expanding my perspectives, learning that my way is not the only way.
    5) Meeting new friends, connecting with different lifestlyes.
    6) Family bonding! We are all stuck together in the same plane, hotel room, boat, car, or swimming pool. It brings our soemtimes separate lives together again!
    Now that I have a family travel has its own challenges that have been fun to solve.

  35. says

    I travel because I stay in a tiny island and getting out of it is the way to expose myself to many more great stuff out there in the big big world.

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