Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What is travel?

In writing about travel every week for the past 5 months and I have failed to answer a simple question. What is travel?

In the most broad sense I like to see travel as what happens every time that I leave my home. I'm traveling when I go to the store, take a ride on the bus or embark on a multiple week journey to visit several countries. This definition can be a little broad for this blog so I've extended my "home" to include the city that I live in.

So once I leave Eugene, regardless of the method of transportation, everything is fair game for me to call travel based on my personal definition. Once again I'm at a very broad definition of what travel is.

Beyond the actual traveling part (ie: getting from one place to another) there are other aspects of travel that I have been thinking about lately.

To me traveling is made up of three core concepts: seeing new things/places, meeting new people and being open to new ideas.

Seeing New Things/Places
In addition to actually being somewhere new you actually have to see the differences in a new place; just being there doesn't count. For this reason I don't claim that I've visited a country if I've haven't left the airport (though airports can be interesting). Sure you can get a tiny taste of things but that's just not the same as visiting a country.

The definition of seeing a new place will be different for everyone but it could be the architecture, the food or something tiny that most people overlook. It could be the taste of the local water or the way that the light plays on buildings in a local square. Perhaps it's a local cookie that you can only get in your new destination. It's these little things as that tend to bring me the most joy in my travels.

Meeting New People

While traveling I generally don't rent a car so I use public transportation, I sit in coach when I fly and I eat almost all of my meals at restaurants. All of these activities put me in contact with a lot of people. Furthermore, all of this interaction with new people is in addition to the people that I work with while I'm traveling.

People are generally good and will generally talk to you at length about just about anything if given the chance. Of course, some people are more talkative than others, but once things get going you can learn quite a bit about someone in a very short amount of time. Some of the most interesting conversations I've had have been with random strangers on an airplane.

People have wonderful stories, lives and accents. I feel privileged to interact with such a wide variety of people; be it saying good morning to a hotel worker or training an astronaut.

Being Open to New Ideas
It's easy to get stuck in a rut living in a comfortable environment. Breaking out of the ordinary from time to time renews my outlook on all aspects of my life. Different people and cultures handle common situations differently, and being in the presence of these new ideas reminds me that new ways of doing things are to be explored and respected.

Now more than ever respect for other cultures is needed; both from individuals and governments. Travel gives me insight to ideas that I would otherwise not have access to and I am quite thankful for it.

These three concepts: place, people and ideas capture what travel means to me. Without these concepts the act of being somewhere else seems empty.

So now it is your turn. What does travel mean to you?

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1 comment:

  1. OK I had to think about this. I love to travel and yes to me travel is leaving my town or area of towns that surround mine. I love to meet people and learn about their area and culture. I usually ask to eat where the locals eat, not where the tourists eat. I like to pick up unique items from that place not just touristy things. Maybe a kitchen tool or stationary. I like to see new terrain. I live where there are lots of trees so going to Colorado and seeing rolling praries and grand mountains is cool. It makes me feel alive to travel and I can have an appreciation for my own country or city. I like to be open minded and see new cultures and creativity. I also think travel is an adventure, a bit of the unknown so I like to come home with my stories!