A serious question: Why do you travel?


I have a serious question this week. It centers around our motivations for travel. I’ve been asking this question a lot lately and am really intently listening for answers.

Why do you travel? 

No really, not the surface, “I need a break, I wanna see something different,” answers.

WHY do you travel?

What does it do for you? 

For those of you who’ve been at it for years, why do you keep going back to it?

For those who are just planning your first journeys, what is drawing you?

Why would someone leave comfort, safety, and ease for discomfort, risk and constant challenge?

“The wish to travel seems to me characteristically human: the desire to move, to satisfy your curiosity or ease your fears, to change the circumstances of your life, to be a stranger, to make a friend, to experience an exotic landscape, to risk the unknown..”

― Paul Theroux, The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments from Lives on the Road

Incidentally, I agree with Theroux in this, that the desire is characteristically human, it’s the layers of why that bear examining, for me. I’ve got a great interest in uncovering my own reasons, but I’ve also got an insatiable interest in your reasons.

What is it that drives us as a subset of humanity, as travelers to keep walking? 

Tell me. I’m listening.

Posted by | Comments (9)  | July 23, 2013
Category: General

9 Responses to “A serious question: Why do you travel?”

  1. Tye Rogerson Says:

    “The need to extend the self in time and space—the need to create in order to live, to breathe, and to be—precedes, indeed, of necessity exceeds, the need for self-reproduction as a personal survival function.”
    -Edith Cobb

    It’s never been too mysterious, really. The long answer is we wanted to see what the people down here were up to, to make the abstract real and dive into the map, to read amazing books during an extended stay outside of routine and enjoy incredible food. We wanted to spend our money in the best way we could imagine while young, to see what it was like to travel with a friend, to cross a continent overland and to grow our capacity as human beings. In the spirit of Rolf Potts, we wanted to vagabond.

    Travel, in the broadest sense of the word, has always been the most effective means of discovering the size of the world and our limited place on it. More than that, however, travel uncovers the vastnesses within ourselves, teaching us how to extend these immensities towards the remote corners of the world we thought no one could feel at home in. And when we find ourselves at home in another’s home, we find we feel like a child of the universe, which we are. Even as we forget names and numbers, this is something to remember. As I’ve said before and will say again:

    Matter doesn’t matter much
    in fact, not much matters
    but what matters matters much

    I travel to remember what matters.

  2. rubin pham Says:

    i travel to learn about different cultures and history.

  3. Tom Andrus Says:

    I travel to move forward, to stretch the body, to expand the mind and to refresh the soul. Travel blends the difficult with the novel and although it is often frenetic it also gives me time to reflect and focus on what is important. I travel to understand how not alone we all are, and even though we may be different on the surface it helps me understand how we are all connected. I travel because this tiny blue dot in space is so large, varied and amazing. And I travel because it reminds me I am alive.

    “Forever forward, forever alive” Walt Whitman.

  4. Erron Says:

    Maybe I’m just an ideological person, but to me, ‘vagabonding’ is very ideological. The book “Vagabonding” was the tipping point for me that I needed to mentally break through, and I haven’t been the same since (7 years). I had always been trying to somehow ‘break free’, but I ultimately didn’t have the confidence and wisdom until I read the book. I know Rolf repeatedly reminds the reader that the direction he takes isn’t ideological, but I’ve always sort of disagreed. He reminds the reader “anybody can do it”, and that may be technically true, but it does take a certain kind of person to save the money, quit everything, and take off across the world by themselves (and actually enjoy it). I’ve come to think that I travel just to prove to myself that I have complete control of my life, and that I’m not afraid of anything, and that I have the power to quit everything and just walk away into obscurity whenever I feel I need to.

  5. @21stadventure Says:

    I travel because I am young, single, healthy, and have the resources to do so. I guess I can sum up the reason why I travel as…Why not?

    I travel because I want to see what the world has to offer. In the 5th grade I did a country report on Brazil and realized how big the world is, and I decided I had to see as much of it as I could. 13 years later was my first time living/studying abroad in beautiful Costa Rica. I worked hard to put myself in that situation, and I knew that I could do anything if I put my mind to it.

    Traveling also presents exciting challenges. In 3 days I will be leaving for my next adventure in Chile with a new challenge; teaching english. This will be one of the hardest tests of my skills, but as I said before, I can do anything when I put my mind to it.

    I also travel because it is an education. I have learned so much about myself, and the world. I even have a greater enthusiasm to learn traveling than I do learning in a classroom.

    Lastly, I travel because it is so much fun! There are of course responsibilities associated with traveling, but I love to travel because it is fun and exciting. I am a firm believer that you must have fun in whatever you do in life. If you can’t laugh, smile, and have fun in life, then what is the point?

  6. Khatovhar Says:

    I travel for the simplist and most selfish reasons; there is a place I wish to visit, a friend I wish to see, or life has gotten far to boring and I need an escape. Current job will keep me busy for another two years, but after I think all three reasons will require backpacking through Europe for a year or so. Anticipation just makes it sweeter.

  7. BenBridge Says:

    That matter doesn’t matter phrase was genius! Anyway the reason for travelling is to have badass adventures! I’ve traveled before throughout my life, but my first vagabonding journey starts in less than a month, but I Know its the lifestyle for me already. Having experiences is the whole point of existing. I’m young and not tied down by anything, most things aren’t even worth caring about. I’m really doing this for fun even though challenges and suffering might come my way, which I hope some of it does. it forces me to become strong and feel even more like a badass in the end

  8. Jennifer Miller Says:

    Tye… love the Edith Cobb quote
    Rubin… indeed. Keep it simple, right?
    Tom… Whitman… a classic… I hadn’t heard that one.
    Erron… I’m ideological too a lot of the time… traveling to demonstrate you have control… interesting, I’ll ponder that.
    21stAdventure… Why not indeed. Education. That’s a big one for me, bot the internal and the external sort of learning.
    Khatovar… Thanks for being big enough to admit the selfish. At the end of the day, there’s an element of that for everyone.
    Ben… to have badass adventures!!! ME TOO!!! Keep going!

  9. chris bailey Says:

    To feel alive.

    I haven’t travelled for about three years and I have been feeling increasingly dead inside. Travel reminds me that there are many many many different perspectives on life and it helps to jolt me out of which ever one I have gotten stuck in.

    I am very glad to say that in another five months I will be travelling again.

    That’s one hell of a photo by the way.