My Philosophy about Traveling

Why do I travel?

Well, I think I began travelling because I loved seeing new places and experiencing first-hand how other people live. Over the years, however, I have developed a personal philosophy about travel: not just about how educational it is, but about how it is a valuable tool for personal development and empowerment; about how it promotes understanding among people who may be very different; and about how it could be a way to achieve lasting peace.

From the time my homeschooled children were small, I told them that I would not pay for them to attend college. If they wanted to go to school, they would have to want to go badly enough that they would find a way. BUT…I also told them that if they wanted to travel, I might find a few dollars to help out. That is how strongly I feel that travel is the best education and mind-and-soul builder.  

A few months into my last sojourn around the world in June 2017, I slowly came up with an idea: Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all universities required prospective students to meet one main requirement: They would have to travel for one year to a place outside their comfort zone.

Am I a bad parent? Do I take this traveling thing too far? I don’t think so.

I feel that traveling authentically and independently—engaging with locals and learning how our similarities outweigh our differences—is an important avenue to peace.

If even 75% of us placed ourselves outside our normal lives for even a few months, we would reach levels of understanding and compassion that would be astounding.  

Let me tell you a story from my travels. It sounds a bit apocryphal, but this actually happened to me!

I was visiting small villages high in the Andes mountains, moving from one to the other. In one village, someone asked where I was going next, and I gave them the name of my next destination. “Oh, don’t go there, it is dangerous,” one person said. Well that made me hesitate a bit, but I ended up going to the nearby village anyway. When asked where I had come from, I told them. The response? “Oh, you are lucky; that is a dangerous place.”

As our world becomes more polarized (politically and culturally), fear of the unknown is easily used as a propaganda device to create more fear and keep us in our place (our village).

When we actually visit and experience cultures and people that are different from us, we learn that the world is really not such a dangerous place. People who seem different from us at first really are not. Almost everyone in the world wants security for their families, food in their tummies, a dry bed to sleep in at night, and friends and relatives that care about them. We all want to share our experiences, laugh together, learn from each other, express ourselves through our art, and watch our children grow into adults.

And then there is this: I am sometimes asked, “Aren’t you afraid?” or “Isn’t it dangerous to travel alone?” I want to respond with, “How many times last week did you get into your automobile and drive on the local freeway?”

Of course, there are some places in the world that are truly perilous, and I feel sad for the people who have to live there. But most places are perfectly safe and by taking that step outside your comfort zone, you can experience that safety yourself. Then you can meet real people and learn how they live. And then, you receive an important lesson in understanding: Yes, they live differently…and that is okay!    

The magic of travel…

The first day I landed in Peru in 2014, I was so scared, I did not want to leave my guesthouse. But I did, and step-by-step I pushed out the boundaries that were holding me back.

After I had traveled a while, I found my mind expanding—opening itself to possibilities and finding opportunities everywhere I looked. Gradually I began to notice coincidences happening every time I turned around. It was like I had taken a magic potion. I cannot explain it, of course, but I have not taken these occurrences for granted. As a result, I find them happening more and more often.

Travel, especially travel outside your comfort zone, empowers you to live to your fullest potential, even once you return home. One long-term trip abroad and you will never be the same person you were before.