Do you remember your senior thesis in high school? Learning to research, find good sources, and build up enough information that could somehow fit together in the form of your biggest paper up until that point, and eventually needing to present it to the class? It was kind of a big deal at the time. I wrote mine on the one experience that was, and still is, the single most influential part of my life.
I wrote about traveling.
My parents were the ones who taught me the value of traveling. Even by my senior year in high school, I knew that nothing in life compared to traveling; there was nothing greater than diversifying my experiential assets, if you will. I’ve since come to believe that reading is a close second, and perhaps film a further behind third, but in my book nothing can replace travel.
Traveling expands everything. It broadens every part of life—even the part that wants nothing more than to be a homebody, ironically enough.
In regard to traveling, I have this soapbox about how vacationing is not the same as traveling. You might do some traveling while vacationing, but vacationing, in and of itself, brings no increase to the human experience. Vacationing doesn't expand the imagination, doesn't make you a more empathetic person. Traveling involves exploration and discovery. Traveling is stepping into an insider situation as an outsider. Traveling takes time.
Traveling also has a reputation of belonging to the free spirits of the world and of costing a lot of money. I’m here to tell you that those two assumptions are not true. Traveling is for everyone who is willing to prioritize it.
When I was in college, I studied abroad a couple times, and I specifically remember being told by a few people that I was “always meeting people.” Back then I wasn’t interested in sticking with the group. Groups had this way of keeping to themselves in an isolating fashion, of getting bogged down in being choosy and taking forever to split a bill. ((Can I just say that if I ever have the kind of job that allows me to do so, I will always just pick up the bill? I know this about myself because I loathe splitting checks and I love giving people gifts. I give you permission to hold me to it.)) Because of the simple fact that I felt large groups brought me down, I did in fact meet a lot of people---a lot of local people, wherever I went.
Traveling gives life so much...more than not traveling does. We are in this amazing time in history when besides having cars, trains, and planes, we also have the Internet. We have Google and other sites that connect us to the rest of the world like never before. We have this resource that helps us figure out how to get places--and how to get to them cheap. There’s no reason not to embrace traveling—even if just a little; even if just on occasion. Traveling is rarely an issue of not having enough money and often an issue of life's priorities.
I guess there’s no way for me to know this for certain, but in my opinion nothing will develop a person’s perspectives in life like traveling. There is nothing that can give you an inside look at the lives of others like going to them and spending time listening, talking, and sharing ideas about the world and everything involved in it while being in their space.
It doesn't take long for traveling to make it evident just how small our perspectives are on the most important aspects of our lives: everything from how we date, how we celebrate and mourn, how we parent, how we worship—even specifically how we worship within the Christian faith.
Have I convinced you yet with this roundabout rant that you should take time to travel?
It really is a must, but it also really needs to be a priority if it’s something you’re ever actually going to do. I read a quote by Tina Fey earlier today and it’s been sitting on me, reminding me of how my mom raised me, and it’s this: “Say yes, and you'll figure it out afterwards.” This is how you travel—you say, “YES!” Yes to buses or trains, to sleeping in tents or in the house of a friend of a friend of a friend. It's saying yes to putting every spare cent in the proverbial piggy bank and yes to the hospitality of others. You buy an Ergo, strap that baby on, and go for it! Even if all it does for you is give you greater level of gratitude for your own community, it will change you. All you have to do is give it the chance and the time that it deserves.