At nineteen years old I left the country for the first time — destination: Brazil. I was heading off to the Amazon River to travel on a boat for a month with a group of friends hoping to change the world. On the flight home, I knew that the one thing that had been drastically changed wasn't the world at all; it was me.
It's like a drug, traveling. It requires sacrifice, of time and money. It takes courage and bravery to trek across a land you aren't familiar with, interacting with a people you don't know, speaking a language in which you likely aren't fluent. It's riveting, it's thrilling, and it's unlike any other high I've yet to experience.
Five years, thirteen countries, and five continents later, I've only scratched the surface of what traveling the world has to offer. But, why? Why travel? What's the big deal?
In a generation where comfort is relentlessly sought after, there's a small remnant of millennials who aren't convinced that's the end goal. They're bored with the status quo and aren't impressed by shiny things and being comfortable. These are the world changers, the motivated ones who would rather write their part of history's unfolding story rather than watch it through a screen. This is where I find myself.
The Comfortable vs. the Traveler: It's a Mindset
If I've learned anything over the past five years, it is that comfort is temporary, yet humanity runs to comfort more than anything else. If you think about it, comfort is typically the number one thing that keeps people from traveling — that, and fear. It takes bravery and selflessness to undergo the temporary discomfort of a small airplane seat or a crowded city bus in a foreign country and it takes trust to remind yourself that what you're doing is crazy, and it's worth it. It takes discomfort and trust to achieve the very thing that your soul is truly craving: adventure and impact.
You see, the comfortable spend money on material things to build up treasures for themselves. The traveler sells their things at the exchange rate of a plane ticket. The comfortable binge out on TV shows and video games while the traveler spends their extra hours learning a language, building relationships with travel partners, and researches destinations and organizations to work with while overseas. The comfortable seek to eat, drink, and be merry while the traveler saves that $10 cover charge, that $15 mixed drink charge, and the calories... for when they land in Spain. The comfortable seek to gain a coveted physical image while the traveler grinds in the gym, building the stamina and strength it takes to physically walk, bike, hike at their next destination.
The difference between the comfortable and the traveler? Mindset: What that person has found to be most valuable in life and what it takes to get there.
Make an Impact Where You Are
Disclaimer: World traveling isn't for everyone. If you know it's not your cup of tea, that's okay! I have friends who cringe at the thought of a one way to flight to Beijing from the States for 15 straight hours. If that's you, no sweat. Literally. I'll be the first to acknowledge that it doesn't take traveling to the other side of the globe to experience the thrill of getting out of your comfort zone. Be a world changer in your community. Be bold and seek to be different right where you are.
But for the rest of my world travelers out there, you're going to get this part real easily.
Why We Go
We go because we know we have something to offer the world and it always has more to offer us back. We go because we value people, especially people who look different, act different, smell different, speak differently and dance to the beat of a different drum than us. We go because we understand that our corner the world is very small and can't improve without a challenged, fresh mind. We go because we learn and thrive when we're out of our comfort zone. We go because we are amazed at the beauty of our world. We go because we refuse to submit to cultural deterioration and close-mindedness. We go because a night in a foreign hostel with complete strangers seems a whole lot more fun than a night alone in our own beds. We go because we build relationships with flight attendants, tour guides, taxi drivers, organization leaders and locals: all of whom we would never have met sitting on our couch. We go because our lives gain value by the stories, memories, experiences and conversations we have in each new place we go. We go because it ignites a fire in our hearts every time we do. We go because we know our time is limited and if we travel with purpose, our impact has the ability to change the world.
Next Stop: The World
Feeling inspired? Good. There are miles-worth of opportunities for growth, understanding, revelation and fun when you open the door to traveling the world. My advice? Wherever you go, have a purpose for being there. If you travel without purpose, you might as well have stayed home. So go! Go, keep going, and never stop. You will lay your head on the pillow every night, whether it is at home or halfway across the world, with a skinny wallet, a spark in your soul, and a very, very full heart.
Happy travels, friends.