I love to travel. It matters not whether I travel in state, out of state, across borders or over oceans. I long for the revelations, the deep insights and the life-altering encounters travel brings. I want the freedom and adventure that comes from surrendering to what a new place has to show me. I crave the romance of not knowing the flavors of food I will taste, the conversations I’ll have, the people I’ll meet. The anticipation of travel, the sheer idea of going somewhere far away, is always the first exciting thing for me. It’s part coping mechanism, part restlessness, and part soul seeking.
Then someone told me, “If you travel all the time, you’re running away from something.”
Is that true? Am I running away from something…If so, then what am I running from?
“Perhaps you have a restless soul trying to find happiness in external things like adventure and experiences. Perhaps you’re trying to escape from who you are right now,” said the someone.
Is that what I’m doing?
Over the years, I have traveled much. There is nothing like getting off a plane/train/bus and seeing the beauty of a new place for the first time. Sometimes, the outer beauty is overwhelming, and I have to stand still and let time stop to try to absorb it all at once. Sometimes, the beauty is less about the visual and more about that first conversation with a local when I am pleasantly overwhelmed by their openness and rich culture. I love walking several miles each day in a new place and thinking about who has walked there before me. The foreign dirt spread throughout the world of past and present civilizations holding secrets of languages, food, customs, history and religion excite and inspire me. Mysteries of cultures waiting and wanting to be unraveled and discovered by my curious mind.
I love witnessing the way different people and cultures move through the world – how they interact with each other, love each other, how they make art, how they define community, what they value, what they fight for, and what they believe in spiritually. With every new encounter, I experience a new part of myself. In a state of displacement, I am willing to try new things to push my boundaries. I experience wonder, discovery, awe, discomfort. I go with an open mind, and bring to light things about myself, about others and about the world I would not have learned otherwise.
And rather than discover who I am, I begin to question who I am. To question is a good thing because it breeds non-judgment and openness. It helps to grow and evolve and broaden our vision of the world; it softens our sometimes-hardened attitude about the “right” way to do and think things. It’s easy to have our status quo at home where we become too involved in our current environment and lives. To move out of our comfort zone, to step out and explore and experience makes us aware of how small the world really is …and how important it is to look around, to observe, and to participate in the world around us.
Travel gives me cherished memories, my greatest stories to be told, and countless irreplaceable learnings that I can choose to pay forward to others. It teaches me about myself, and often provides new lenses with which I can see and think about who I am, what I care about and what I am doing with my life. The person I am on a beach in Greece is not the person I am sitting in a café in the middle of winter in Boston. Neither am I the person on a road trip through Eastern Europe the same as the person I am at a family reunion in Beirut. And I start to question taking the new job which sounded like a great idea back home but sounds like a not-so-good idea when physically distanced, but then sounds like a great idea as soon as I get back. Just like a reset button, it forces me to refocus on what really matters. It rejuvenates and grounds me, educates and challenges me, and most of all, it humbles me.
Am I running away from something? No, but I am running toward living more openly in my non-traveling life. I am running toward being me, with a better perception of who I am — brave enough to abandon set agendas, exist with my own set of priorities, and let myself get lost from time to time, knowing my own internal compass will help guide me.