Why Do We Travel?

I have recently began an online travel writing class through ASU and I hope to share some ideas and insights I gain throughout the summer semester on this blog. To start, we had to read an article by a writer named Pico Iyer who explains reasons why people travel. Then, in our own words, we had to share and discuss why we think people travel. Included below is the article along with my response.

Why We Travel (article by Pico Iyer)

I have sat in an airport terminal asking myself this same question, "Why do people travel?" I like to sit and watch people in airports. I know it sounds kind of creepy, but I love to imagine why individuals are there and where they're going. I have found that there is a wide array of both positive and negative reasons why people travel. The lucky ones travel for sightseeing, exploration, adventure, and simple leisure. The unlucky ones are forced to travel due to a death in the family, attending their dreaded family reunion, or to visit an ill family member. Whatever the reason, we all will travel at some time. It doesn't have to be traveling to another country, or even state. People travel to different cities within their own territory. Some travel for work. Others travel for school. Some travel to find a new life. Others travel to relinquish a long lost memory. Some travel to visit family or friends. Others travel to get away from family. Many of us travel to view the world through the lens of others. We visit new places to see how people in other cultures deal with life. We travel to gain a deeper understanding of this vast world that we live in. We travel to connect ourselves with our fellow inhabitants. We travel to see just how real life is.
I really resonated with Pico Iyer's first line, "We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves." Oftentimes when I'm stressed, overwhelmed or simply bored with life, I just want to travel. I dream to get on a plane and go wherever it leads me. I travel to lose myself in things unknown. And I've found that when I am placed in a new culture with new faces and places, I seem to find myself. I think many of us feel this way. When we travel, we get away from the hustle and bustle of life, we slow down, and we get out of reality; we lose ourselves in the adventure. And because we take ourselves out of "real life", out of what's comfortable and familiar, we have the opportunity to look internally and figure out who we truly are, outside of our comfort zone.
I also agreed with the dissimilarity of a traveler and tourist in Iyer's article. While traveling with my mom, I would always tell her, "Be a traveler, not a tourist!" A tourist, I believe, is someone who wants everything to resemble his or her hometown. They grab their guidebooks, maps, and a tour guide to see the place their visiting. A traveler, on the other hand, leaves their guidebooks and maps at home and they see the world not on their own terms. They allow themselves to take a wrong turn, get lost and build relationships with locals. A tourist eats at McDonald's and Hard Rock Café, rather than tasting local cuisine. To travel is to leave behind prejudgments, assumptions, and stereotypes and to take along an open mind and heart ready to learn, not just about the world, but to learn from the world.
What do you think? What are some reasons people travel? Have you experienced any of these?

1 Response to "Why Do We Travel?"

  1. musingsfrommesa says:
    July 10, 2010 at 8:41 AM

    Great post Tara! Pico's first line is very profound. It's great to be cognizant of the fact of first losing, and then finding ourselves.
    I know for the most part within my family, we travel to break up the monotony of routine. It's nice having something to look forward to, a "get away from it all" place to go.
    I like traveling because I love to see God moving and working in this world, no matter where I am. It confirms tangibly, what I know in my head and heart to be true. I love to see the variety and diversity of Gods creation. Whether it be people, animals, plant life, or terrain, God is so amazing!
    I like the idea of pitching the guidebooks, with the exception of researching customs. I wouldn't want to offend any new friends with behavior that may be acceptable here but not there.

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