Ever since I was a little kid, I've always dreamed about traveling to faraway places. My mind has constantly wandered to lands I've never been to. There is nothing more intoxicating than being immersed in the unfamiliar, and there is something inexplicably calming about being on the move.
It's as if the farther you go, the more in sync you are with the rhythms of the universe. Perhaps this desire to explore is simply a quality unique to those with a nomadic spirit, or maybe it's just a product of youth. Whatever it is, I know that there are others like me out there.
I've met these kindred spirits in a hodgepodge of places. Sometimes, you happen upon them in the strangest of circumstances.
Once, before beginning a 4-day hike through the Scottish highlands, a friend and I ran into a solo hiker from Italy on the way to the start of the trail. It was a serendipitous encounter.
After a five minute conversation on arbitrary topics, it became clear that we had reached a silent agreement to complete the hike together.
For the next four days we were inseparable, and shared food, supplies and shelter. Together, we marveled at the mythical beauty of the highlands, sang songs amongst the trees and drank whisky under the Scottish stars.
When the hike concluded, we went our separate ways, and my friend and I have not seen our hiking Italian comrade since.
After a certain time away from home, it becomes almost effortless to recognize those who have also been bitten by the wanderlust bug. They are friends you didn't know you had -- your brothers and sisters of the road.
Many of these people are often complete strangers, but immediately feel like old friends. In a world that teaches you to be wary of the unfamiliar, these individuals automatically gain your trust and companionship.
This is what travel does to people, it opens your spirit to the world. When you open yourself up to a place, it opens itself up to you. The world would be decidedly more peaceful if more people traveled.
Travel While You're Still Young And Free, One Day You Won't Be Able To
Unfortunately, traveling is not an option for many of us, as it's expensive and time-consuming. For younger people, the former is more of a problem, but there are ways to work around this. For people who are more established in the world, travel may conflict with jobs, families and other responsibilities.
There is a small gap in life where unadulterated travel is truly possible. This is a time when your only responsibility is to embrace the spontaneity of the world, and indulge everything it has to offer and teach you. Every young person has an inexplicable desire for unfettered adventure -- don't ignore it.
If you have not taken the chance to explore this dynamic and exceptionally beautiful planet, and have the ability to, I urge you to leave the comforts of your current surroundings as soon as possible.
Borders Are An Illusion
In this globalized and interconnected world, the importance of traveling has become increasingly important. As a global community, our fates are more intrinsically linked than ever before. It's crucial that we find more ways to foster solidarity between the people's of the world, or we will undoubtedly be the catalyst of our own demise.
We have to realize that borders on a map are a reflection of history, and primarily a consequence of war and struggle. They may be a useful reference point, but they don't even begin to explain the complexities of humanity.
Your relationship with the globe changes with each passing year, as does your experience with traveling. A 5-year-old will likely not appreciate the history and beauty behind the Sistine Chapel for example. Yet, an adult will also not be able to marvel at the simplistic wonder of the planet quite like a child.
No matter where people are, whatever language they may speak, and however other people might perceive them, all human beings simply want to live free and happy lives.
Cultural relativism is an indispensable concept in a world dictated by borders and nationalism.
With that said, it's true that one does not necessarily have to move or travel to another country in order to gain this perspective. Yet, there is definitely something to be said for intimately understanding that there are millions of people around the world who live differently than you.
Just because your culture does something differently than another, doesn't mean that it's the right way. Perceptions of right and wrong are subjective, and largely a product of history and geography.
For people from the United States, I believe it's beyond important to understand this. Our nation has more power and influence than any other country in the world. If our people don't understand the outside world, then we risk messing it up beyond repair. In many ways, we are already guilty of this.
Travel Breeds Empathy And Tolerance
Travel opens your eyes to the way in which other people carry about their daily lives. It reveals the beautiful intricacies of other cultures, and fosters within you a deep appreciation for diversity.
Likewise, if more Americans traveled, it would help ensure that they cared more deeply about the rest of the world, which would likely lead to greater public involvement in US foreign policy. Simply put, Americans would be less likely to support stupid policies if they had a greater understanding of the globe.
It's also important that we are honest about the global image of the United States. Due to our nation's activities abroad, many people around the world are not very fond of our country. In my experience, most are insightful enough to blame it on the government rather than the people.
Travel as widely as possible, and be an ambassador of goodwill for this country. Make the world see the true nature of America -- a land full of amicable and optimistic individuals. We have many flaws, as do all nations, but travel can help us remedy them.
And while you are abroad, make a sincere effort to learn about other cultures. Don't just be a tourist, be a traveler. Become a cultural sponge. When you come back, teach others what you have learned.
Travel To Understand Where You Come From, We All Need A Little Self-Reflection
The United States faces a number of trying domestic problems at present. Due to the bipartisan nature of our political system, the nation is nearly as ideologically polarized as it was during the Civil War. We are in deep need of self-reflection in order to move beyond these dark days.
It's impossible to truly understand yourself, or your country, without something else to compare it to. Travel opens your eyes to alternative means of living.
By traveling to other countries, you are able to gather what you appreciate most about home, while also gaining a clearer picture of that which you desire to change.
With the US economy linked to the financial wellbeing of much of the world, it's imperative that we get our house in order. Much of our inability to move forward is due to obstinance on both sides of the political spectrum.
As a consequence of history, geography, culture and upbringing, people in different regions simply see different realities. This is not only true between different nations, but also within countries.
The United States is a vast land, diverse in both people and geography. We have to learn to appreciate that people view the world in different ways, and that does not necessarily mean that our opinions and perspectives are superior to theirs.
Accordingly, progress necessitates compromise. Compromise is much easier when you can empathize with those you disagree with -- travel breeds this kind of understanding.
Moreover, travel should not just occur across borders, but also within them. No Americans can truly understand their country unless they breach the boundaries of their own state, and explore all that this country has to offer. Isolating yourself only encourages misunderstanding and, in turn, hatred and fear.
I am not naive enough to believe that if more people traveled then all of the world's problems would be solved. There will always be disputes over lands and resources, and at present, it seems nearly impossible to quell religious tensions in many places across the globe.
Yet, even if travel helps just a small portion of the global populace understand one another better, it could have a far-reaching impact on our planet. This is particularly true for Americans, given the role our nation plays in global affairs.
As the great American author Mark Twain once stated: