When I was little, I never thought much about traveling, except perhaps to the beach. I had this strange obsession with the ocean, and it’s never left. But that was about the extent of my desire to journey beyond my little country town. In college, I gained my first taste of soaring among the white, puffy clouds as we took a family vacation to Arizona and Colorado. It was fun, but I was ready to return home. Ironic now that I look back and see how God has a great sense of humor. Near the end of college, as I was finishing my Elementary Education degree, a strange thought began inserting itself into my mind. There’s a whole wide world out there. One that needs teachers. I’d never even been out of the country before, so why in the world was I thinking of leaving the comforts of home and friends and moving to a strange place?
The idea of moving overseas grew stronger with each passing year. Then one day, I had a plane ticket in hand to travel hours and hours away from the U.S. to my new home in the South Pacific as a missionary teacher. Remember when I said it was ironic that I could travel a few hours away but want to return home? It’s been five years now that I’ve lived outside the States. So what does all this have to do with reasons to travel?
While living in the South Pacific, I had the opportunity to visit Fiji. A friend and I stayed in an all-girls dormitory at a semi-fancy resort. The best of two worlds, right? Cheap accommodations but access to all the luxury amenities of a resort. When you stay in a room with other females, you are bound to gain some insight, on something, more than you want usually. Fortunately, I had a good experience. We met some girls from Ireland with an interesting perspective on life. They explained how many young people from Europe work for a few years to save up money and then travel the world for a year or so. Huh, that was an intriguing new thought.
I was a pretty new traveler at that point so the idea of traveling got me to pondering. Why was it so important to them? What was I missing? Because I have chosen to be a missionary teacher, traveling has become a somewhat unintended, but major part of what I do. In the five years I’ve lived away from the States, I’ve had the opportunities to travel to twelve different countries either for vacations or for mission trips. Each trip helped me gain new insights and life experiences.
So now that I’ve rambled on about me, let’s get into the top 3 reasons why you should travel.
- Travel opens your eyes. Figuratively, of course. It’s one thing to study about different cultures in your geography class or to watch traveling shows, but to experience it in person is completely different. I’ve lived in and been to 2nd and 3rd world countries and have seen poverty and families living in tents or all piled into a one-room house that’s more like a shack. You’ve probably heard that seeing poverty will make you appreciate what you have. That’s so true, but it’s more than that, it goes deeper. Kids smile and laugh and play despite their lack of “stuff.” You wonder how can they still laugh even though they’ve just fought over free clothes. How they can find a sort of contentment without having the latest iphone or Playstation or even a fidget spinner. It’s true. And it makes you rethink your own materialism.
- Traveling opens your mind. Did you know that in American Samoa the buses stop running at 6:00 pm, so if you rely on public transportation, you better be home by 6 or you’re walking. Or that they have special times of village prayer called the Sa? If you’re caught driving in the village during that time, you must pull over and wait quietly until it’s finished. In Japan, you bow to show respect and you take your shoes off a lot, in your house, in some restaurants, in the changing rooms at stores to list a few. Garbage trucks play kid tunes, making you think the ice cream truck is coming to your house. That was a big disappointment. In Bali, don’t point with your index finger and don’t touch the head of the locals; it’s bad manners. Oh and no touching the monkeys, but it’s okay for them to steal your sunglasses and eat them!. Sheep have the right of way in Scotland, so if you get stuck behind one, on a single lane road...well just enjoy the scenery as you crawl along. All these sound weird? To us perhaps, but it’s the way of life for these people. It’s not bad or wrong, it’s just different.
- Traveling changes your creativity. I can’t deny that traveling has made me more appreciative and respectful of people different from me. However, it also has opened up a whole new world of creativity, especially as a writer. I never cease to be amazed at how unique each place is. Sure, there are many similarities, scenery that reminds me of another place. But the uniqueness of each place leaves me in awe. How can there be so many diverse places in the world? And I’ve only been to 12 countries! As a fantasy writer, I not only view the places with a sense of wonder, but also with a writer’s eye. I could add that scenery to my story, and that landscape would work well in that scene, and so forth. The world is an endless source of creativity. As Bilbo Baggins says, “It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
So, those are my three basic reasons to travel. What about you? Have you taken that first step of traveling to far off places? Or maybe it’s on your bucket list? Don’t take my word for it, try it for yourself and see where the road takes you!