A friend recently said to me, “Why do you travel so much? Isn’t Toronto good enough for you?”
Toronto is a phenomenal city, one with world class food, sports, entertainment, and more craft breweries than you can shake a hockey stick at. Have you had a burger at Burger’s Priest? If that alone isn’t enough to convince you of Toronto’s awesomeness, I don’t know what is. If I were choosing from any city in the world in which to live, Toronto would certainly make the top five. But while it’s a great city, it isn’t enough on its own.
The reason is simple – I don’t want to be stuck anywhere. I love to move, to explore, to meet new people. I love seeing something for the first time and feeling that sense of wonder that only a new experience can deliver. I also enjoy taking on the challenge of trying to capture that experience through my camera, to get it just right, to recreate it on the screen in the same way that I saw it in my mind.
The first time I peered over the edge of the Grand Canyon was an awe-inspiring moment. I’ll never forget the bright lights of Tokyo, navigating the chaotic streets of Ho Chi Minh City, or floating in the Gulf of Mexico with pelicans flying a few feet overhead, their massive wingspans making me feel like I lived in an age when dinosaurs roamed.
At the risk of sounding cheesy (it wouldn’t be the first time), travel is so much more to me than just a passport stamp. Travel has changed me. With each country I visit I learn something new (like, never – ever – trust a monkey), and with the people I meet I gain a deeper understanding of their culture. I’ve become a more rounded person because of it, a better writer, photographer, and humanitarian – all thanks to travel.
And I won’t lie – I like being excited by things, awakened by stimuli that makes my blood pump. The first time I saw Southeast Asia I never wanted to leave. In the words of Anthony Bourdain (because he’s more eloquent than I am, despite his penchant for entrails):
I remember living my whole life in black and white; it was like discovering a colour I never knew existed before. A whole new crayon box full of colours. That was it for me – from then on there was no putting the pieces back together, no going home. Things were different now – Asia had ruined me for my old life.
I felt the same way, and am always slightly bored when not on the road. I miss the colours, the foods, the scents, the noise, the sense of wonder.
Having said all of that though, the most important element, when it comes to the benefits of travel, is the people. I’m not super gregarious on a day to day basis – which surprises people, as I’m really outgoing when I’m speaking on a stage or hosting an event – but I do love meeting others. So many people on the road have left an impression on me, from the girl in Phuket who narrowly dodged drowning because she skipped work on the morning of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami that swept her business out to sea; the guesthouse owner in Chiang Mai who made my breakfast every morning for a week, and took pity on me when I got sick; or the good friends we made in Scotland who treated us like family despite my insults to their football club.
And let’s not forget that travel lives on well after it’s over. It lives on in the photographs, in the exaggerated stories (and let’s face it – stories are a BIG reason why many travel!), and the memories.
The biggest downside to travel, for me, is its addictive nature. Once I get home and catch my breath from a trip I’m already itching to get up and get out there again; it’s like I can never quite get enough, and I always have my next trip on the brain when I should be focusing on other things. She’s a seductive mistress. Oh well. If you have to have an addiction, I’ll happily take this one – wherever it takes me.
How about you? Why do you travel, and what benefits have you gained from exploring this great big world?