“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”
If you’ve lived in one place your whole life, can you really be prideful of it?
Ever since I was young and my family would take annual summer vacations to the southern United States, I have been fascinated with travel.
The fundamental similarities interwoven with all of the considerable differences in each state intrigued me to no end. How something as insignificant as a few hundred miles and a border drawn up on a map could make for such large distinctions in the way people acted, thought, and lived, injected me with wanderlust.
Seeing a chain of grocery stores or gas stations that were foreign to me had my young mind entertaining the thought that we all live in slightly parallel universes, as did seeing completely different stories take the front page of newspapers depending on what state I was in.
Daily life is rendered anew again through the lens of travel, and something as simple as figuring out where I am going to eat dinner becomes an adventure to me.
The idea that travel gives perspective is not a new one by any means.
I have been fortunate enough in the past year to acquire a job that allows me to go to many new places for both work and for pleasure. And while so far it’s only been within the continental United States, travel has given me an immense appreciation for both where I’ve come from originally and where I live now.
Living in Ohio for the first 22 years of my life, a place that in my head was as mundane and plain as one could get, working in New York gave me levels of pride about my home state that I had never had before. I began to see my old home in a new light and began to really take notice of all of the unique and great things it had to offer.
There is certainly nothing wrong with not having the travel bug and wanting to stay close to your roots. I actually admire the level of contentment people can have with staying in one place compared to my gross addiction of change and new experiences.
However, I find the the hubris of some of those that have lived in one place their whole life baffling. Because in reality, it was the travelers (moreso in the pre-internet age) that dared to venture outside their borders that ended up defining a place’s identity by discovering what was unique about it.
Only from travel could the true character of a place be cultivated. Having points of reference to other places on the map allowed discoveries like “they’re the only people that do this” or “wow, this dish I ate every week as a child is actually a really unique thing to where I am from” to be made.
I realize travel is a luxury and that my situation is incredibly fortunate compared to most.
However, I can’t help but shake my head when I encounter bullheadedness towards even the idea of travel combined with stubborn ethnocentrism towards the randomly-determined home that the offender happened to be born into.
The ideal they cling onto so proudly only exists because someone else has traveled and seen the differences in how they and others live and don’t live.
Would Southerners boast about their corn bread, sweet tea, and grits if people in the Pacific Northwest were making the same dishes? Highly unlikely.
And not only does travelling give me a kind of geographical and cultural perspective, but also a personal one.
Travelling takes me out of my daily routine, and as much as I love what I do every day, when I get taken out of this groove it allows me to view how I am going about my life from afar. This gives me a new angle on what I can do differently when I return, or just simply reignites my drive after a mini-vacation of sorts.
For instance, the majority of this post was actually written in an airport cafe (one of my favorite places for reflection) on the way back from a trip that ended up helping me re-discover how grateful I am for my current life situation and location.
But had I not shined the light of awareness on how others are living, objectivity towards my own life would still be in the dark.
If not by travelling, how do you personally gain perspective about your life and the world?