The other day I made tea and asked my husband what kind he wanted. I held up two options: Swedish Rhubarb tea and New Zealand Kiwi tea. I looked down at the bags in my hands and I choked up. You see, I had actually bought those teas in Sweden and New Zealand, respectively. In my hands I held pieces of opposite ends of the world.
Those teas triggered something in me, filling me with both humility and pride. They humble me because I know full well that traveling is such a privilege, and who am I that I am among the lucky few who can not only dare to dream of visiting far off places, but actually make it happen? They also remind me to be proud of the accomplishment in travel, because after all, I did make it happen. Too many people give up before they’ve begun on the question of whether to travel. They say that they don’t have time, they don’t have the money, they should do something more responsible like go to grad school or have kids, or focus on careers, or whatever. While all of these things are important and legitimate, the question at stake is not whether a person can afford to take a vacation, but rather whether a person understands fully how critical traveling (read: NOT a vacation) can be to the examined life.
I recently stumbled across this article that articulates my feelings on this subject quite well. This quote really resonates with me, even if so many other people just don’t get it:
Why should we travel when we are young? Because traveling is an investment. It is a luxury, yes, but so is higher education, or a nice suit for an interview, or a decent sounding musical instrument, and no one questions the value added in those investments. I can’t tell you how many raised eyebrows and quizzical looks I’ve received when I told people I was off to some foreign locale. “Why?” they would ask, often condescendingly. “WHY NOT?” was always my reply. Now is the time. I won’t want to do the same kinds of traveling when I am retired. By that point, my knees might not be up for hiking Mitford Sound. My eyes might not be able too see all the way across Grand Canyon. Heck, I could be dead. The time is now. I have no kids, I have enough money saved…it would be stupid NOT to go. But these are just superficial reasons. There are so many reasons TO go. This article from travelthewholeworld.org suggests three:
1) Traveling teaches you to live an adventure
There is something about breaking the monotony of life at home and going to places far outside your comfort zone that helps us trust God with our lives enough to see the world from a fresh perspective. I find that I have such an easier time seeing the woods through the trees, so to speak. More specifically, it is easier to see God at work. In this sense, traveling is one of the greatest forms of worship, an active pursuit of the creator through thorough examination of His creation. This kind of head-stretching warps any concept of ‘normal’ we may or may not realize we harbor. It is an education. Traveling is an exercise in breaking down presuppositions and replacing them with a deeper, more complex comprehension of God’s goodness, beauty, and truth. Traveling is an investment in creativity, since everything you see will be added to a store of stimuli you can tap whenever you need a good idea. Traveling is an experience you can substitute in no way.
2) Traveling helps you encounter compassion
Again, traveling challenges our concept of “normal,” and this is a good thing. There’s nothing like stepping off a bus to find yourself immediately swarmed by Cambodian children, all no older than ten, each with their hands outstretched. Each of their faces, so beautiful, burn your heart, especially when you realize the high likelihood that every cent the children collect will go to some insidious slew of grown-ups practiced in the arts of fleecing foreigners. What will become of those children? Prayer suddenly takes a new, heightened role in your mind.
3) Traveling allows you to get some culture. I didn’t like Madrid, but I still recommend everyone goes there if but for one reason: to stand in front of Valasquez’s Las Meninas. I don’t know how long I stood transfixed by that enormous Baroque masterpiece. I just know that there was a little God in it. That day, I had a tiny taste of the beauties of heaven, and it is now my duty to share my experience so that others can taste it too.
The article is gets it right. Traveling is something you will never forget, never forget; a gift you give yourself that keeps on giving.