Hmm, I see you hommie. I think I get what you are saying.
You wrote a very interesting piece on travel, a topic that has been the centerpiece of most of my adult life (yeah, I left Kent State University for Europe at the ripe ages of 22–36). Traveling around these foreign places, with these foreign languages and people, it all started to feel like home (after a long while of suffering and misunderstanding). I’d come home every summer and wonder why more people didn’t travel to experience trying something different, to struggle with that voice of internal awareness that happens when you approach travel and new culture as a personal growth experience.
You either approach travel as a chance to grow, or you don’t — basically, you get in what you put out.
The Bangkok coconut chicken curry panang is less important than the person making your dish. Their story, his family, her rise to the place in that kitchen through that country; to know people that live halfway around the world are struggling with the same shit as us is a very important life lesson to experience.
To only enjoy the creme brûlée, to only devour the Italian stracciatella gelato, to only take the bourgeois cruise through the Caribbean, and to only see the Eiffel Tower or quick hitting sights is, for lack of a better description — a shortsighted way to approach what travel is really good for…
to help you understand who you are in relation to the millions of other people and what their cultures are.
I must have a Traveler Gene in me — travel is my lifeblood, my want of moving in and out of the places and people and ideas that seem to get stale and old. Or maybe I just enjoy speaking broken Spanish with a man named Gualberto (yes, that’s a real name) while I sip on a mango margarita and watch the sunset. Dusty ass places scare me (Trump understood this). As I get older, it seems I have to accept my location and place of living, but your feelings of not really feeling anything special (or rather apathetic, unless I misunderstood) while you travel made me think of how I feel (at times) while living here in America.
The longer you stay somewhere, the better you get to know yourself?
Is that true? Does that help your internal rubric for living happier?
It seems like travel doesn’t help oneself is what you are saying. It’s all good stuff, good questions to ask.
TRAVELING TO UNDERSTAND WHY AMERICANS AREN’T LIVING THEIR BEST LIFE
Do I need to quell my need for more, my travel lust, but why should I if I can glean what makes other cultures happier than us?
To want something is a universally engrained DNA code because when you get it, your brain releases some chemicals and you feel something. You feel more. To travel is to want that feeling of something more. It’s why humans still play slot machines. It’s the same reason why people try to do what they love. It’s why the woman hunts with her hawks. It’s why I played professional basketball. It’s why you write. It’s why horses gallop and birds fly and kangaroos jump.
It’s in our blood and genetics to want to feel happy.
But travel is more than feeling happy to me. Being in a new culture teaches me to assimilate other people, to listen, to smile, and to feel your energy. That is what travel is to me. Digging my toes into the black sand in Costa Rica brings that peaceful feeling to me (because you don’t actually need a lot to be happy), but then again, so does writing in my Bucktown apartment in Chicago while nibbling on my version of a doppio con panna.
Another reason I love travel: you can’t be grateful for what you don’t know you have.
Taking an espresso back to my lonely AirBnB in Venice is enlightening. With no friends, I am nothing. I’d have to meet these Venetians and befriend them to be happy here. It makes me grateful for the friends I have at home. The relationships I’ve built. Traveling allows me to feel more, to understand our differences, be alone, and still be happy/grateful about who I am. To understand we are more than our society’s environment that silently changes us, and that true peace and understanding is just found in being where you are. The old Zen trick. Love your neighbor as you love yourself and then shit man, accept where and what you are doing.
That love can be in your hometown French Lick, Indiana, or that can be in the cobblestone streets of Lisbon, Portugal.
Truthfully, I love to see the differences of the world. I love the magic of being alone in a place that few Americans are willing to see. It’s much like being an explorer, that tinge of panic and fear that comes from getting to the edge of what you thought was possible for yourself.
Yeah, shit, people don’t like to feel that way, but even the French butter wears off and you have to deal with yourself if you stay long enough. By traveling, you learn how to deal with not only yourself, but other’s differences.
If travel helps me try to accept my uncomfortable feelings of being different, I can then understand and embrace those feelings when I arrive back in my society. Of not being able to talk the same language. Of not wearing the same clothes and being the same skin color. Of ordering the wrong things and driving the wrong ways and not understanding why they don’t have stop signs at their corners.
Travel isn’t about comforts, it is about the lack of comforts, the mental and spiritual challenge to travel and live there, and be where you are, wholly (holy). Most people lose their shit after about two weeks of travel. The culture shock sets in. The lack of choice kills them. The silence of simplicty irks them.
Fuck this, I remember saying my first year in Germany.
Travel isn’t for me.
Damn, I’m glad I didn’t give up on traveling because life isn’t easy here, or there, or anywhere and Costco is a really, really convenient thing after all (when you use it the right way).
A majority of our country lacks the thousands of years of architectural history, progressively small cars, roads, renewable energy, and simple foods that come with traveling Europe. The simplicity and difference is hard to assimilate, but it teaches us a new way to live — to take what they do best and what we do best and merge them together.
Their foreign pace offers us less online distractions so we have to sit with ourselves, and not work, which again, means good things for Americans that don’t like that process.
To take the time to relax, connect, and break bread with strangers, or European friends was always one of my biggest achievements in life.
Yet, I don’t live abroad anymore. USA is my home, and it is the very place I question living in for a variety of reasons:
- Our shitty American values of consumerism, small town conservatism, things, status, money, shiny shit, and greed over experiences that give us perspective into the meaning of our lives. There are 365 degrees of living here, but yet, Americans like to live within 30–50 degrees of what they can see and know is in front of them.
- Travel changes people. Change is good. If you don’t like to change, then stay home and invite the foreign cultures to you. Living and traveling was an experience that gave me meaning and perspective on what I have, what I’m grateful for, and what I can appreciate about my culture and others.
- Without travel, I’d be wondering about this. Americans seem to love our fill of competing, working, and moving up on the ladder of corporate and financial success over the finding true meaning of what we want to be or do or raise or love or play our way into.
- A cafe au lait and a tip for a waitress in Paris is a shared experience with a stranger that doesn’t understand why we gave her a tip in the first place.
Adjusting to culture. Working and communicating with strangers in a culture not your own. Appreciating the little things you miss. Flushing a toilet without two buttons and then shitting on a porcelain tray underneath your butt and wondering why the hell anyone would design a toilet to with a tray under your butt is enough of a reason to travel and continue loving it.
But to each their own, Kris, touche.