Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Why Travel? Perhaps You Owe It to Yourself

It seems a bit entitled to say something like "You owe it to yourself to travel." After all, we are in an economy that is poised to recover...until it isn't and then it's back again. Taking trips is becoming more and more of a luxury. But, if you love to travel, nothing could be closer to the truth than "You owe it to yourself" because it's during the tough times that we realize what really matters.
Remind yourself of why you do what you do.

Like most people I know, I could go on ad infinitum about my financial debts, those costs we must all pay to have someplace to live, a car to drive to work, etc., etc. The debts that keep popping into my mind, however, are the debts I've accumulated in my travels. I don't mean credit card or similar debts. I am talking about debts I hope to pay back the more I travel, my debts to my fellow travelers and to those places I've been to.

This method I have of linking personal debt and travel actually came from my mother. For someone who loves to travel, I don't need the fingers of one hand to count the number of trips I've taken abroad. Two years ago, even traveling in the US was something I planned for, but never found the time to pursue. Then, in a casual conversation with my mother, I heard her say, "You owe it to yourself to see the world." Maybe I'd eaten breakfast that day or gotten eight hours of sleep the night before, but something clicked when she spoke. We'd had this same conversation a thousand times before, but perhaps never phrased quite that way. 

Since then, I've taken road trips and side trips. I've visited two countries and am working on more. In these trips, I've managed to reward myself with new horizons and have picked up more debts: I owe nameless strangers and new friends for the hospitality they've shown me and their willingness to share. I owe Colombia for showing me that most of what is told about it is outdated and irrelevant. Colombia today is a vibrant, growing country. I owe Montréal for making Canada feel truly far away from everything I'm used to and living up to its reputation.
Depending on the scale of your travels, you might find that traveling can indeed be very costly. If you travel to NYC for the shopping, even Chinatown can add up. But, if like me, you travel to learn, experience and just see, then traveling isn't very costly at all. Visit NYC to soak in the pulse of the city, try the croissants in Montreal, make it a point to see new museum exhibits or go kayaking in a nearby park. All those trips await, you just have to decide whether you owe it to yourself or not.

Traveling, even on a small scale, has altered my definition of what it means to owe and to spend. I now have a very clear concept that while I (like most people) work to meet my financial obligations, one of those obligations can be to myself and my desire to travel, to see more of the world. Even if it means 'traveling'only a few miles, making the effort makes everything else worthwhile.

Note: This past weekend, Longshot magazine challenged me to phrase my view of debt and owing. This post, longer than almost everything I've shared so far, is the result. Thank you for reading!


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