Earlier this week, I stumbled upon a Facebook post written by my favorite writer, Elizabeth Gilbert. It was entitled “Why do we travel?” and began with a picture of Gilbert, donning an eye mask and clearly suffering the effects of jet lag.
It was 3am. A time every traveler who has covered a multitude of time zones will tell you, is when you question your life choices. Much like Gilbert, you recall all the money you spent, the chores you left behind, and how many emails are waiting in your inbox. You look in the mirror, at a mere shadow of yourself—eyes hollowed, skin dry and taut, stomach bloated. And you wonder, “Why the heck do I do this to myself?”
This is a question I’ve been getting a lot lately. It seems, that all around the world, the idea of being 33 and single, without the desire to have children, is concerning. I’ve particularly felt this concern while spending the summer in my hometown of New Port Richey, Florida. My high school friends look at me with pity, while they share stories of their misadventures in breastfeeding as I sit in silence. Questions of when I’m coming home, and when I’m going to get married buzz around me like flies circling a horse’s backside. And instead of slapping them away with a giant tail, I’m forced to smile, and to do my best to explain why it is I travel.
- I travel because every time I board a plane, my palms sweat and my mind races with anticipation of exploring a new country.
- I travel because it’s made me a better person. A less selfish person. A patient person.
- I travel because it’s made history matter.
- I travel to hear and learn new languages, to expand my mind.
- I travel to eat. To cook. To understand how food brings people together.
- I travel to see aging temples, to hike to ancient ruins, to witness sunsets and sunrises so beautiful they can’t be captured in a photograph.
- And finally, I travel because the more I see and experience, the more I realize that I haven’t, in fact, seen much at all.
The reason we were put on this earth is different for everyone. Some were born to be mothers. Some to be fathers. And some, like me, were born to be travelers. Thank you, Liz Gilbert, for teaching me that. And for reminding me to pick up a good eye mask before I leave.
Tell me: Why do you travel?