No matter where you’re headed, travel is always good for the mind and soul. When we travel, our horizons grow a little bit bigger and the world becomes richer. But how does one get the most out of the journey? How does one travel thoughtfully and mindfully?
Whether you’re a seasoned globe-trotter or you’re ready to make your first big excursion, here are a few thoughts to make sure your next jaunt is a truly a journey and not just a trip.
“The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.” -G.K. Chesterton
It is tempting to plan our trips around must-see landmarks and famous sites, but these areas are not always where true natives and rich culture reside. The seasoned traveler knows to keep an open mind and truly explore a place as much they can, to see a city or site for all that it is, and not just what they want it to be. When you go to a new city or new place, really look at what’s around you. Try to see past tourist traps so as to get a sense of what life is like in that area. Be a traveler, not a tourist.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” –Mark Twain
Traveling is a most excellent way to break the assumptions or stereotypes we may hold about others. Going to new places and meeting new people forces us to look past the stories we’ve heard about a certain culture or community. You may find that the places and people you initially thought strange are not so different, or that things you thought you knew all about are not what you thought at all. Most travel is incomplete unless it helps you learn something new or challenges your conceptions.
“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” Gustave Flaubert
There’s nothing like travel to make you humble. Whether you’re standing amidst foreign crowds, navigating a subway system, or asking for directions in another language, travel has a way of making you realize how little you know. And this is good! Realizing how little you know makes you more eager to learn. A modest traveler is one who is more open, more eager, and takes nothing on the journey for granted.
“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.”-Lao Tzu
Lao Tzu may have been referring to the metaphorical or spiritual journeys we often take, but his words may apply to travel as well. The most enlightening and enriching experiences happen when we immerse ourselves in the uncertainty of travel, when we step outside of our itinerary and wander off the path a little bit. Rather than try to control all aspects of your trip, let the journey unfold before you and try to enjoy things as they come.
“Travel far enough, you meet yourself.” –David Mitchell
When we travel, we do not simply learn about other places, but ourselves. When you travel, take notice of what of person you become when you are no longer in the comfort zone of your hometown. What sort risks are you willing to take? What places and experiences do you gravitate towards? Are you an intrepid adventurer or a laid-back wanderer? Learning what sort of traveler you are is another way to learn what sort of person you are.
The next time you’re bitten by the travel bug, keep in mind these small wisdoms so as to make the journey a truly meaningful