Why I travel

I am currently sitting at Seattle Cascades, in the heart of the S Gate at SeaTac International airport. I’ve survived a half-hour wait at the ticket counter, a twenty minute wait through the cattle queue known as the security line, and another ten minute shuttle ride to S gate. Through this all, I’ve dealt with surly ticket agents, impatient travelers, TSA agents who seem to think that they’re somehow equivalent to the stereotypical Southern Sheriff, businessmen who have no qualms about running anyone over who happens to stand in their way, about a dozen different children whose temperament can be best described as “loudly unhappy”, and a woman who gave me a look of disgust when I ordered my traditional Irish Coffee for my international flight. I had a breakfast at a place that should only be called a restaurant in the strictest defintion of the term, because god knows what they serve here is only offered because the customers here literally have no where else to go.

For all of this unhappiness surrounding me, a thought occurred to me as I sat here waiting for my flight:

There’s no place else I’d rather be.

Don’t get me wrong, I find the entire process of getting onto a plane rather dehumanizing. People are mostly treated as either cattle, potential threats, or marks from which a quick buck can be made.

But places such as these hold some measure of promise, regardless of whether the travel is for business or pleasure. Every time I fly, there’s an air of expectation that I can’t get anywhere else. A feeling of optimism always seems to seep into my consciousness, regardless of where I’m going.

I realize that not everyone gets this feeling. Traveling can be so arduous that no amount of optimistic expectation can overcome the initial hurdle. Additionally, many people see traveling to an unknown part of the world a bug, not a feature, and no amount of evidence can prove otherwise.

I am not one of these people. I’ve always had a travel bug, even when I was young. I was the type of child who could and did get on their bike and ride every part of the city that I could find, and when I ran out of things to explore there, I rode on to the next city.

Now that I’m older and that I have the financial means (at least for now), I’ve evolved into the type of person that prefer to exists in three states:

  1. Planning to travel.
  2. Traveling.
  3. Recovering from travel.

If I’m not in one of those three states, I am noticeably more cranky.

The question is “Why am I this way?”

A common answer amongst those who travel will state that the act of traveling makes one a better world citizen. While I agree with this in principle, this is a result of travel, rather than a cause of it.

I could give a flowery answer, with deep romantic undertones about the pleasures of cities, and the joys of new scenery, and the tremendous highs that come from wanderlust. All of those do exist in some measure.

If I were to be honest, the real answer is that I find the day-to-day routine of life dull (a position many are likely to take). Traveling takes me out of that routine, and forces me to deal with the unknown. It matters not if I find myself in Calgary or Munich, getting away from the established norms of my life is a good thing. That I get to learn about the places I visit is an added benefit.

To put it succinctly, life can be boring. Travel can make it less so, even if only for a bit.

In the end, there is a part of travel that can get overlooked. For all of the chaos, for all of the unknown, it ends. Heading home grounds me. Returning to loved ones allows for me to indulge in them, appreciate them that much more. The chaos of travel works best only when one has a strong foundation that props you up.

My hope is to expand my travel in the next few years. I’d love to head to the Far East, South America, Africe, and Australia. I would love to swim in the culture of the world. Then I would like to go home and hold those memories dear.