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On the values of travel

posted by Joshua on May 27, 2012 in Blog
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Last month I wrote how I don’t like to travel, just as I embarked on a trip to North Korea and China that ended up including Vietnam too.

Then I had another trip of a lifetime!

The amount I learn and grow when I travel — nearly every time — forces me to rethink that statement. People who’ve known me for years know I haven’t liked to travel for a long time, despite having traveled a fair amount.

When I think of traveling, I tend to think of spewing jet fuel into the air and living out of a suitcase, both of which I dislike intensely.

I don’t think about cost because with rare exception, I travel when someone else pays and I have enough time to explore during the trip. Otherwise, I don’t have enough reason to leave the awesomeness of home. That’s worked out to a few trips a year for the past few years.

I also don’t think about personal growth and exploring the world because I haven’t found any lack of sources of personal growth or world to explore when I stay in one place. If I don’t find myself growing and learning at home, I don’t blame my environment. I take responsibility to grow and learn with the resources around me (my near mantra: don’t look for blame but take responsibility for making things better to the extent you can). I rarely need more than meeting a few new people or writing about a few ideas to find something remarkable, even life-changing.

My past few trips, in the twenty-four hours before leaving I’ve gotten invitations to great events I’d love to go to but had to pass on. Visiting some place new means not being some place I love.

One element of travel I love and only get from travel

This past trip revealed one thing I get from travel that I only get from travel: relaxation time away from everyday distractions. I find such time gives me the best way to

  1. reexamine my priorities
  2. think about what I want to do, and
  3. figure out what low-priority things to get rid of.

Low priority things creep into life when you don’t think about them, when you relax your diligence and discipline. Time away from home and routine gets me to see where I’ve let crap creep in.

I was going to write another element of travel I love and only get from traveling — unexpected new experiences, like what North Korea gave both times, or seeing the dramatically different view of the U.S. only a country like Vietnam that could claim to have defeated the U.S. could give. But I life at home creates unexpected new experiences too — no less than travel. Funny how over time I’ve learned to create a life that predictably brings me unexpected things. Not sure how that works out since it sounds paradoxical, but it works out that way.

Regarding the jet fuel part of my model for traveling, I don’t need to travel by plane to get this greatest benefit. My most rewarding experience for relaxation time away from everyday distractions is a meditation retreat, which is only a bus ride from home.

Travel and staying home still balance out

Ironically, I canceled such a retreat to make time for my next travels. See how travel — however much people love it — balances out? It seems to me an unqualified benefit only if you don’t know how to make a great life for yourself at home. If you do, then I find travel no better or worse than life at home, just different.

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