Like most millennials or, in fact, most humans that I surround myself with, I have always romanticized the idea of travel. I follow travel bloggers, watch Youtube travel diaries and I am constantly updating my Travel Pinterest page with destinations, adventures and places that I someday hope to go to.
In my short 21-years around the sun, I’ve made my way to 15 countries and 4 continents. A privilege that I am constantly thankful for and aware of. While I have the Instagram-worthy pictures to document my memories and my stories, I have gained a deeper appreciation for travel that exists beyond the picture perfect filtered reality that we so often share to the world. An appreciation for the part of travel that most people overlook or don’t really talk about, the part of travel that exists WAY outside of your comfort zone. It’s the discomfort that is inevitable in travel.
Because behind the beautiful and life changing moments, there are the hard, difficult and frustrating moments that take place so those beautiful (sometimes picture perfect) moments are possible.
So, why do I travel?
Because I crave the feeling of discomfort that comes from travel, a similar feeling you have halfway up a mountain where you realize that you might’ve just started something completely out of your comfort zone and ability and you have absolutely no idea what you’ve just gotten yourself into.
It’s moments like…
When I was staying in a homestay in Dharamsala (in Northern India) and had food poisoning for almost two weeks. We had a 15-hour public bus ride to Dehradun the next day so I was left with no other (rational) choice than to take a taxi down a very narrow and windy rocky road to the public hospital where almost no one spoke English. I was most likely the only patient in the building without something being amputated and was given three different drugs because my other choice was an IV, to this day I still have no idea what drugs I was taking because the labels weren’t in English.
When I was traveling from Barcelona to Rome, my phone was dead, our flight was delayed and then when we finally boarded we had to wait on the tarmac for over three hours. It was hot. Really hot. So hot that people screamed for water and started chanting in Italian (of course) but in true Ryan Air fashion the flight attendants didn’t provide water but did open the plane doors for air.
When I was traveling in Mozambique visiting a village in the midst of summer as our vans began to drive away (not coming back to fetch us for another 6 hours) I started to get sun poisoning. A long painful, almost delirious day, it was.
When I was staying in Selma, Alabama at the only motel with rooms left and we were forced to stay in our rooms after dinner, with the blinds closed because every night people would unload their AK 47’s out of their cars in the parking lot.
It’s those moments of discomfort where you want to quit, go home, grab the covers and never look back because that sounds so much easier. I crave that because right after that feeling passes and you make it after the food poisoning passes after you check in to your hotel or after you finally meet up with friends in a foreign city, you feel so damn proud. You feel elated.
It’s in that moment after the discomfort is over where you begin to feel yourself grow into a better version of yourself and begin to capitalize on the capability you now realize you have.
That’s why I travel.
While the sights are beautiful and the people you will meet forever change your perspective, it’s the personal growth that attracts me to travel. It’s the ability to feel yourself become a more aware, patient and independent person as you tackle culture shock, delayed flights, changes in travel plans, homesickness and frustrating miscommunication.
It’s the ability to grow into a person that you never thought you were capable of becoming because you never had the chance to tap into your potential. As humans, we are capable of incredible things but if we never lean into discomfort and give ourselves the chance to try new things, then we will never learn how much we can really overcome.
So, that’s why I travel. I travel to grow. I travel to learn. I travel to become a better version of myself.