The first time I traveled outside the country of my birth, I was only two years old and my family was moving from the U.S. to Kenya. I’m pretty much an infant in my first passport picture and I had to quit my pacifier cold turkey because it was lost somewhere in our luggage during the journey.
So travel has always been a part of me. And as I’ve grown up and chosen the type of life and career I want, I’ve continued to make travel a priority. Here are a few reasons why.
I love learning about history, geography, literature, architecture, culture, geology — it’s all interesting to me. And traveling is a chance to stay in school forever, with a much more interesting classroom setting. Wandering through museums, going on a touristy tour, visiting the quiet of a cathedral, walking through the ruins of an ancient society, and talking to people who have different life experiences than me — these are some of the best ways for me to learn.
2. New Perspectives
It’s helpful to remember that, when we travel, we’re visiting a place at a particular moment in time. Maybe we’re there at a really rough point, when famine, war, poverty, or corruption are central features. Or maybe we’re a guest during a period of renaissance, where art, science, and literature are thriving. Our experience of that particular time does not fully encompass the characteristics of that place. It is not static, but evolving and growing.
The more I travel, the more I’m convinced that every place is a mix of good, bad, and just okay. It can be easy to experience something that’s so different from your own context and either say, “Why do people live this way? It makes no sense!” or “Why don’t we live this way? It’s so much better than the way it is back home!” And the fact is, neither of those statements on their own is completely fair or true. Every place and culture has beautiful things about them. Every place and culture has toxic features that need to be improved. My hope is that I am able to listen, observe, and come away with a broader perspective.
3. Getting Uncomfortable
I wouldn’t say that I naturally like to be uncomfortable. But saying yes to things that I’m unfamiliar with or that scare me (within reason — stay safe!) has giving me plenty of practice in the feeling. And I’ve learned to value it, even in the midst of the experience, because the moments of discomfort are where the real adventure happens. It’s where all the good stories come from.
4. Seeing Beautiful Things
Life is hard. And sometimes you just need to hike to the top of Lion’s Head in Cape Town, or appreciate the view on a drive along the coast of Iceland, or go on a game drive early in the morning with views of majestic Kilimanjaro taking up the entire horizon… in order to remember that life is also really incredible and the earth is a beautiful place worth cherishing and protecting.
5. Living a Travel Lifestyle
I’ve noticed that, since I turned 30 and started to travel more, and especially since moving back to Nairobi, I have been more purposeful about living a travel lifestyle — by that, I mean I’m more likely to embrace these previous four things in my day-to-day routine.
I want to live my life with the perspective that there is something new to learn every day. Nairobi is such a diverse city, with so many different perspectives to listen to and learn from. I don’t want to forget what it feels like to be uncomfortable, so I try speak my mediocre Kiswahili and I don’t just look away from the person trying to sell me something outside the car window. And as I sit at my desk, staring at the bougainvillea plant, listening to the birds, hoping to see a monkey, I am very aware of and thankful for the beauty that surrounds me.
Originally published at http://travelwithjoelle.com on August 14, 2019.