The path of man has been one of motion. Evolutionarily, we came up out of Africa and didn’t stop until we found every last corner of the planet to call home. And then we began leaving the planet. Mongolian tribes, the Vikings, Native Americans, all nomads, wanderers, wayfarers. It is the great bane of the modern era that so many of us would be stricken with wanderlust, yet are required an almost constant location due to the type of work that has been prevalent for the past couple of centuries.
We all know someone who says they hate to travel. They’re afraid to fly, they don’t like the freeway, it’s too expensive. There are certainly people who grow up in and want nothing more than to live their lives, raise their families, and die in the same small town. However, that is not most of us. The proof is in the two week vacation. When your coworkers disappear on holiday, do they just lounge around their house? Or are they always coming back from somewhere with a tan?
We want to experience new things. The more quickly we begin these experiences in life, the easier traveling becomes. The longer you set yourself in ways, becoming comfortable with a specific brand of fast food, liking your eggs cooked a certain way, always buying coffee from the same coffee shop, the more difficult it is to accept the surprises, eccentric behaviors from strangers and generally differences the world is able to throw at you, just given the exiting of our comfort zones.
Mark Twain put it perfectly:
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.
When we stick around our own little slice of the world, we begin to think “This is the way things are.” But that’s only how it is where you are, and 7 billion other people on this planet would beg to differ that you are the shining example of what all humanity should be. Sure, having everyone around you speak a different language can be disconcerting, frightening. “Nobody understands me,” couldn’t be more true in those moments. Finding yourself ten miles deep into the mountains with nothing but your pack, a map and a good pair of boots can leave you feeling very vulnerable, there’s no doubt. “I am so alone,” is exactly right in those moments. But the greater sum of the experience is that—aside from having seen the beauty of a foreign country or hiking trail, aside from having accomplished what relatively few others have—you have added to your own being. You’ve begun to perfect who you are. You are, in fact, improving yourself, and what begins to happen is that as you open up to the rest of the world, the rest of the world begins to want to open up to you.
The more we do with our lives, the more “gourmet” we become. The more experiences we take in, the more premium the ingredients that make up our personalities. If you only use the ingredients you have in your kitchen, the ones your parents gave you by bringing you into this world, you can only make so many dishes. And eventually, as those dishes are made over and over again, you run out of the will to eat. We all become microwaved hot dogs if we don’t take the time to go out and find new ingredients, new recipes, new ways to add flavor to this never ending in and out breathing we do as the world spins on whether we choose to really inhale those breaths or not.