The Inevitable Question: Why?
Inevitably we all get asked the question. Whether it comes from our parents, siblings, friends or work colleagues, we will all get asked the one question so many people wonder. Why?
Why do you want to pack up your life, buy a backpack and head out into the unknown? Why are you leaving your family, friends, a secure career, your home? Why put yourself in harms way when you can stay home, in a country with less crime, or less corruption, or less poverty? What are you trying to prove? Why are you doing this? The question of why may not always be easy to answer.
I have found it very difficult at times to put into words why I have, and am going to continue, to travel. 95% of people will be happy with the half-hearted, vague answers that I inevitable use: because I can; I just wanted change; it’s a great adventure; it’ll be so much fun; I love exploring. The list can go on and most people I talk to are happy with these responses. It’s the 5% who want more of an explanation that I find it hard to answer.
How do I describe the feelings that are evoked by travel? The calm that settled over my mind and body as I sat meditating on the edge of the Grand Canyon; Or the feeling of complete inner ease and comfort experienced racing through crazy traffic on a tuk-tuk in Cambodia among the dust, the horns, the trucks and the smells. How do I explain how I felt watching the sun rise over Angkor Wat? Or sipping Iced coffee in a Vietnamese cafe while I watched the world buzz around me?
Is it possible to share the sheer joy bursting from deep within as I let my body be guided through the foreign steps of salsa dancing in a club in Havana Vieja? Laughter spilling from the mouths of my dance partner and I as we enjoyed the moment. A moment shared with a stranger, who other than a few hand gestures and basic words, I was unable to communicate with.
Sharing a warm welcoming smile with an old woman whethered beyond her years due to extreme poverty and war as she stands sweeping her dirt floor, reminds me of the strength of the human spirit. My memory of the curious young children who ran along beside me in their pristine school uniforms as I walked down the dusty path to get breakfast, giggling and nudging each other, brightens my day. The richness exchanged in the friendships I have made abroad, and how it feels to be embraced by an entire family while sharing their special holiday traditions, are things that can not be replicated. The connections and interactions with people from other backgrounds, cultures and religions is where I have learned some of my most valued lessons as an adult. Being part of life in a country other than your own, even for small periods of time, is a gift.
Travel is what makes me feel alive. It’s what makes my heart beat and the reason I get up every day. I look at my life and it is obvious how the emotions, feelings, experiences and exchanges I have had while traveling have shaped who I am today. I like the growth I can witness within myself that has come from leaving my comfort zone. This development of who I am will continue with every new experience and I am excited by that.
I’ve been taught by people who have nothing, that possessions don’t equate to happiness. Knowing this deep within my heart and witnessing it, makes leaving all my ‘stuff’ irrelevant. Leaving my family was the most difficult, and remains the most difficult, aspect of choosing to live abroad. I have full respect for the concerns people have about my safety. I understand that the world does not work the way we are used to in North America or Australia. Corruption exists, worldwide, to varying degrees. People who travel a lot learn how to minimise their safety risks. I accept that there is a possibility, however small, that I may end up in a bad situation. I may end up in a bad situation no matter where I am. We all take risks in our every day life because we believe the benefit outweighs the risk. For me, the benefit of travel far outweighs the risk of travel. I’m not proving anything. I’m living.