There are two levels of answers to the question of why people travel. The first is the obvious one, and probably the reason we give ourselves and quote to others. We travel so that we can see sights, experience other cultures, attend events and learn more about the world.
These are exciting reasons. But there are deeper reasons for traveling that have less to do with what we do when we travel, and more to do with what traveling does to us. These five sets of changes to ourselves are at the heart of what makes travel so compelling.
Travel Enriches You, Before, During & After
The anticipation of a trip is almost as stimulating as the trip itself and the memories afterwards. Knowing what you have ahead, and imagining it in detail, lends excitement to life, and relieves the tendency to fall into a workaday rut. The more detailed the image of the trip, the more a future trip will excite you in advance.
During the trip itself, daily life can be intense. Living in these moments fully, and noting everything around you, makes for heightened living. Clearly, this kind of intensified experience is a quality of a style of travel that takes you beyond the bus and out into the streets and squares, landscapes and waterways, of the places you are visiting. Independent travel is a world apart from "contained" travel.
Travel Broadens Your View of the World
Through travel you gain a framework for the history and significant touchstones that brought you to your current life and point in time. Now you are standing in the evil Borgia pope's office, surrounded by the very walls that contained the man with sufficient power to write a Papal Bull-a mandate-that claimed all the wealth of the Western Hemisphere for Spain and Portugal, and secured it for the next 200 years. As you pause in the spot where that happened, the events and significance come alive with new meaning.
Now you are looking down at the stairs that lead to a tunnel connecting the home of Leonardo da Vinci with the royal palace across street. It was through this tunnel that King Françoise traveled to sit and talk with his genius friend. And now you are in Bayeux, where the French William the Conqueror built his naval vessels to cross the English Channel and claim the throne of England.
Each of these experiences broadens your view of the world and your firsthand sense of time and place.
Travel Makes You More Vibrant and Interesting
Travel gives you something to look forward to... to prepare for... to study for... and later to share. You will bring home stories. Life can get somewhat monotonous if you let it, particularly after you retire and your work life ends. Anticipation is worth at least as much as the trip itself and the memories that follow the trip.
How much better to have travel stories and observations to share then to have your conversation limited to your latest doctor visits and your frustrations with the weeds in your lawn.
Travel Re-Energizes You
Travel, and the anticipation of travel, recaptures your enthusiasm. You look ahead with excitement instead of experiencing the dulled-over feeling that comes from repetition and routine.
Travel challenges you to be at your most effective and focused level. Comfort zones may be comfortable. But it is good for you to be taken out of your comfort zones regularly. Otherwise, your social skills can begin to atrophy, and your ability to think on your feet and solve problems may decrease due to disuse.
Travel Improves Your Health and Well-Being
Travel gives you a reason to stay healthy. And it keeps you sharp longer! The challenges of travel test your acuity on a daily basis. Travel can be demanding, especially if you are not being "led around by the nose" on a group trip. You know you will need to be on your toes - to be situationally aware - to pay close attention. You will need to walk extensively, including up and down hills and stairs.
Generally by the time you return home from a trip, you will be in better shape than you have been for months, or even years. And if you begin immediately to anticipate another trip ahead, you will have a genuine incentive to keep up these improvements and be ready for the next time.
Changes and Benefits
These changes and benefits to you from travel can become permanent ones. Your life will become punctuated with enrichment, you will think more broadly. You will find yourself incorporating deliberate lifestyle changes learned during travel. You will be more vibrant and interesting as you are periodically re-energized. And you will experience enhanced health and well-being.
All things considered, this makes travel a bargain.
Carolee Duckworth is an avid traveler, an experienced trip designer, and co-author (with Brian Lane) of the book "Your Great Trip to France: Loire Chateaux, Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy & Paris," now available on Amazon. For more tips, and to view videos about making travel more fun, visit http://www.YourGreatTrip.com. Join our list as a Great Trip Travel Insider to receive a complimentary copy of "How to Pack Like a Pro" and periodic emails with helpful travel ideas, tips and updates.