Why Do I Travel?

As many of you who have been reading my blog know, I recently completed a mileage running extravaganza to and from Taipei. During one of my flights I was talking with one of the flight attendants and she asked me why I would ever want to travel as much as I do. And that got me to thinking – why do I travel?

I will admit this right off the bat – the mileage runs I did to Taipei were crazy. So I can completely understand why the flight attendant would be so confused by why anyone would willingly subject themselves to that level of travel in such a small stretch of time. But she was also very much confused as to why anyone would travel as often as possible.

To be honest, I really do not know why I travel as much as I do or as often as I can. Science seems to suggest that some of us are genetically predisposed to have wanderlust and want to travel often as possible. If that is true, I certainly was born with the wanderlust gene.

Others suggest that traveling while you are young often leads one to develop a greater appreciation and love for travel. My first flight was when I was around 6 months old and I am told that I was the quiet baby who loved takeoffs and was easily amused by looking out the window. It is now nearly 30 years later and that still has not changed one bit, so maybe that is true as well.

I tend to ascribe my wanderlust to what I call the problem of the world traveler – the more of the world I see, the less of the world I realize I have seen. And for someone who loves to travel and experience new cultures, foods and worlds, that is problematic. It is problematic because there is never enough time off from work – or enough money, or enough flights that work for my schedule, or any number of other issues – to see all of the places in the world that I want to see. But as far as problems go, wanderlust is a problem I will gladly have. And I sincerely hope that I have that problem for the rest of my life.

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At the end of the day though, I know I am a damn lucky guy because I have had the chance to see, to smell, to touch, to hear, to experience so many of the wonders of this amazing world that we live in. I am a pretty simple guy at the end of the day. My apartment is almost embarrassingly bare and most everything I own fits into about 20 boxes and a few suitcases. But I like it that way because I value experiences over possessions. I’ll take a dive bar or street food cart to a craft cocktail bar or Michelin starred restaurant any day of the week. I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to dine at a few Michelin starred restaurants over the years…but I could not tell you a single thing I ate during any of those meals. On the other hand, I can tell you all about my top 5 meals from street food carts or sketchy holes in the wall around the world and why I would not hesitate to fly to that city just for one meal.

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Now I know what you are saying – “Adam, I’ve read your blog and you seem to only fly premium cabins and stay at nice hotels so this is all BS.” And you are not wrong about the fact that I generally travel in premium cabins and stay at nicer hotels. But I have literally hundreds of thousands of points and miles, so why not? I think at the end of the day that life is about experiencing the world to its fullest. And I think that is part of why I travel as often as I can.

Why spend your life saving every penny and always doing the safe thing? There was a story I read many years ago that has always stuck with me. A gentleman on his death bed talking to his son about life – his experiences, his triumphs, his failures and his regrets. He told his son that he did not regret the chances he took in life – only the ones he didn’t take. Sometimes it takes getting outside of your comfort zone to find yourself. And I think to a large extent that is why I travel whenever and wherever I can. I don’t want to be on my deathbed saying I wish I would have burned some points to go see the pyramids or spent that $450 on that cheap flight to Australia to dive the Great Barrier Reef. And I sure as hell don’t want my life story to be a boring one!

So why do I travel? I travel for the experiences, the excitement and the wonder.

I’ve gazed upon Machu Picchu from the Temple of the Sun and viewed Paris at sunset from the top of the Eiffel Tower and Monte Marte. I’ve ridden on an elephant, an 80 year old tortoise and long boats down the same river as James Bond. I’ve slept on a beach in the Bahamas, a bench in Marseilles, a hammock in Phuket and a train station in Venice. I’ve bribed police to keep friends out of jail on two continents, had police give me directions to their favorite bar and prayed with Buddhist monks while police looked on. I’ve sipped fine wine in France with millionaires and sipped the “local brew” from a bucket in Peru with poor construction workers…and I much preferred the “local brew.”

I’ve flown a L-39C Albatross Czech fighter jet in the Florida Keys and spent the next 12 hours thinking I was going to vomit up everything I had eaten since I was 4. I’ve taken a gondola down the canals of Venice, sailed a sailboat throughout the Abacos and raced down the Pacific Coast Highway in a sports car. I’ve played soccer with local kids in the streets of Bangkok and I’ve lost my voice singing drunken soccer chants with 200 of my closest soccer hooligan friends in Germany. I’ve unknowingly befriended drug dealers in a bar in the Bahamas and I’ve walked alone through the streets of Paris at night pondering life. I’ve stayed in some of the best hotels in the world and slept on the deck of a sailboat because the cabin was infested with palmetto bugs. I’ve hiked the rice paddies of Bali, gazed upon Wat Pho, climbed Heidelberg Castle and wandered the floating markets in Thailand. I’ve thought I was going to be in a plane crash when a Cessna I was flying in dropped 1,000 feet in a matter of seconds during a bad storm. I’ve shared flights with titans of industry and had chickens in a cage as seatmates.

I’ve eaten monkey brain, poisonous blow fish, bull testicles, bird’s nest stew, fried grasshoppers, grubs and cockscombs – and enjoyed all of them. I’ve consumed tequila out of a jar with 2 snakes in it in Mexico, tried homemade snake wine in China and sipped pisco sours on a cliff overlooking the Pacific in Peru. I’ve been bitten by a monkey on a remote island in Indonesia, been hit in the face by a flying bat in the caves of the Phi Phi Islands, had a palate thrown at me in the alleys of Germany and nearly been swept out to sea by the current on Castaway Cay. I’ve watched families bathe in a river I didn’t want to touch and spent an afternoon watching an elephant bathe itself and its’ calf. I’ve debated politics, philosophy and life with brilliant minds and with those who were illiterate – and I’ve gained perspective and insight on the world from all of them. I’ve been in some of the poorest and more dangerous parts of the world and I’ve been in some of the finest and most opulent. And to be perfectly honest with you, I am not sure which I enjoyed more.

So why do I travel? I travel because I would not trade a single one of those experiences for anything in the world. I think life is a journey that we are all just along for the ride on. To be honest, I have no idea what it is that I am looking for in my travels. But I hope to one day find what I am looking for. And if I don’t? Well, there is a whole big world out there left to find it – whatever “it” is.

Final Thoughts

I implore you to throw caution to the wind and just go ahead and book that next trip you have been thinking about (and we all know you have one you have been thinking about!). Reach outside your comfort zone. Try whatever street food looks appetizing! Try whatever street food looks interesting! See Machu Picchu from the Temple of the Sun. Watch the Northern Lights light up the night sky. But whatever you do, do it somewhere else in the world!

Why do you travel?

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