A few years ago, when I was working at a resort in the state of Washington, a co-worker asked me: why do you want to travel so much?
I went with the standard (and admittedly annoying) answer, “Why not?”
I think a lot of us travelers throw that response at people because we get asked WHY all the time. It can be exhausting to give a real answer to everyone because our true WHY runs so deep. Unless you want to spend an hour conversing with whoever asked, giving a real answer just isn’t worth the effort.
But if we’re being honest with OURSELVES, a lot of us travelers might not actually understand our why.
I could give a million little reasons as to why I travel:
- It makes me happy.
- It’s fun.
- I like to experience new things.
- I want to see how other people live.
- Etc, etc, etc
A lot of us go through the standard list of reasons to travel. But does it really answer the question? Does it really get to the root of why we feel the need to travel so much?
When my co-worker asked me why I want to travel, I didn’t think much of it. I gave my simple answer and went on with my day. It was only when I started to look back on that moment, on that question, that I realized my answer wasn’t honest.
Years went by before I finally stopped and forced myself to answer that question, to dig down deep and give the whole truth. I had to ask myself once and for all: WHY DO I FEEL THE NEED TO TRAVEL?
That question has been ringing in my head for the last 2 years, and I’ve done a lot of reflection in order to come to a real answer. I even put traveling on hold so I could look at the real reasons without distraction. I’ve written about this topic quite a bit here on the blog, and I’m sure I’ll write about it even more in the future.
What I found over the past couple of years is that I was lying to myself when I said I didn’t have a reason beyond curiosity. I kept ignoring the truth because I didn’t want to admit to my weaknesses, insecurities, or shortcomings.
But ignoring truth does not make it false.
Travel has always been something that fascinated me. I’ve wanted to see the world since I was a little girl, when I was intrigued by stories of adventure and discovery. So while my interest in travel began as an innocent curiosity, my NEED to travel turned into something else as I got older.
I’m still trying to figure out my true why. Or, more accurately, I’m still trying to come to terms with my true why. I know part of it is a need to escape from the things that make me unhappy or things that I don’t want to deal with (my mental health is a big struggle). Another part of it is the fact that I’ve never felt like I belong anywhere; I’ve always been the odd one out.
Traveling felt like a chance to escape boredom, discontentedness, and isolation. And for a while, that’s exactly what it was. I thought travel was making me happy, but I realized it was just distracting me. It’s a very cliché thing that us travelers have all heard, but I found it to be very true: no matter where you go, you can’t escape yourself.
I always HATED when people tried to force these ideas on me; the idea that I was traveling to escape, that I didn’t want to deal with reality, that everyone who travels feels lost…I still don’t think those things are true for everyone, but I realized they were true for me.
So as I looked into my reasons for traveling, I realized they weren’t all that healthy. I have things I still need to work on, but traveling isn’t the problem. These issues will exist whether I travel or not, I just need to learn to continue working on myself instead of using travel as an excuse not to.
To be fair, I do also travel because of all of those simple answers. I love the feeling of being somewhere new. I love exploring new places and finding cool stuff. I love that I can be my true self on the road, away from expectations and pre-conceived notions of other people. I love observing people all over the world, seeing beautiful places, and learning new things. I LOVE the person I am when I’m traveling, often becoming the best version of myself.
All of these things inspire me endlessly (to write, to create, to live), and it reminds me of all the good things in life. It reminds me that I do have the ability to create the life I want to live, whatever that may be.
Even though I might travel to escape (from my insecurities, from my loneliness, from myself) from time to time, it’s something I’m working on. But I don’t want that to stop me from traveling for good reasons.
So next time someone asks me WHY I travel, I’ll probably still say “well why not?” But at least I know my why, even if I’m not taking the time to tell everyone.
Originally published at traveldaze.co on January 1, 2019.