Faithful reader, you know that I love to travel. Did you know that people sometimes ask me why? I could give them the (yawn) cookie-cutter internet-search answer that vacations reduce stress, leave us rested and rejuvenated, with improved productivity when we get back to work. But that is not the question. The question is about traveling outside our comfort zone. Why would I want to go to such-and-such place? To Djibouti? To Kyrgyzstan? To Timbuktu? I tell them the truth. Just because I can. Just because it exists.
This is a supremely unsatisfying answer for most people, because the question isn’t really about why I would want to go there. It actually is, why should they want to go there? What exactly is so amazing about this place that they would want to put up with the annoyances of airport security, cramped seats, uncomfortable hotel beds, having to communicate exclusively in sign language, and possible diarrhea?
Even when they are put off by places that seem “too foreign”, most people still have an urge to travel — to put distance between us and our day-to-day lives. Why? Because home is boring and work is stressful and blood pressures are high and we found a good deal on a travel package. I read an article recently about whether this collective urge to travel is still a worthwhile compulsion. It turns out the answer is yes, it is worthwhile. Not so much because we get to “see the wonders of the world”. No — these days, we could see all of that from the comfort of our electronic screens. But the always annoying, often difficult, and sometimes dangerous act of putting the miles between us and home — that is worthwhile.
” The same details that make foreign travel so confusing – Do I tip the waiter? Where is this train taking me? – turn out to have a lasting impact… We’re reminded of all that we don’t know, which is nearly everything; we’re surprised by the constant stream of surprises. Even in this globalised age, slouching toward similarity, we can still marvel at all the earthly things that weren’t included in the Lonely Planet guidebook and that certainly don’t exist back home…
We travel because we need to, because distance and difference are the secret… When we get home, home is still the same. But something in our mind has been changed, and that changes everything.”
If traveling to strange places is not for you, you could try an alternate way to get out of your own comfort zone. Reading string theory can do that. Learning a sport. Music. Going to a party. So… don’t ask me. Ask Google. (Good luck sorting through the zillion hits to find the one that speaks to you.) Or better yet, ask your own soul.