I travel to return home, but I first have to get away and realize why I want to come back. Before I can travel home, we first need to get out and explore previously unseen parts of this world. We have to search for the moments that are least likely to be remembered when we travel. For those pauses of breathtaking experiences that can’t be captured or reproduced.
I travel for the awkward and nervous feeling I get when I step up to the cashier with my wad of foreign money, simultaneously converting in my head while still trying to remain calm and polite. I can remember my very first time buying a bottle of water in won, baht, riel, dong, yen, peso, euro, pound and how I would study the money to make sure I didn’t make a fool out of myself.
Those moments of uncomfortable uncertainty forces a person to stop and live in the present. But really, why do I travel? I travel to return home.
Why I Travel to Return Home
For the Waiting
Waiting in the airport, for the train, for a taxi. When you travel, there’s so much time for waiting, and that’s okay. Because during those moments, I stop and look around and notice the surrounding world, and not because I’m worried about personal security. No, I’m excited to find a world that’s completely unlike the one that’s found in my daily routine. Waiting presents a precious gift of time for observation and discovery.
For the Smiles
For those moments that you don’t even realize will impact you later. The girl sitting across from you on a crowded train in Kuala Lumpur dressed in her hijab with the most stunning eyes and facial features who catches you admiring her beauty and gives you the most sincere smile that melts your heart. The moments like that make you realize that we all are alike, and traveling to see something different is almost insulting. Those moments show me that despite culture, race, religion, socioeconomic status, we all smile at strangers and share the same warmth in humanity.
For the Meetings
I travel to meet the people I’ll never see again. Random meetings have made up some of our fondest travel memories. The break dancers from Switzerland we met in Koh Chang. A fellow ESL teacher we met in Bangkok who most likely still lives in Vietnam because he loves it. The Peace Corps workers helping to reestablish normal life after a typhoon-laden disaster in The Philippines, grateful for vegetables and internet access. For the fleeting friendships that touch your soul so deeply in an instance that you’ll never be able to conjure that fast feeling of intimacy again.
To Travel Home
“There is nothing like going home.”
A friend recently shared that wonderful quote from a book and it really made an impression on me.
While escaping home for a while is sometimes the reason why we travel, there is something magical about each trip back. I called South Korea my home for a while and we called West Virginia home for even longer. Now, it’s North Carolina, but that’s only in the physical sense of the word “home.” My home is where I can be the truest form of me that exists. No matter what I do or the mistakes I make, there will always be an extra coffee mug and a warm hug when I get home. The winding weaving roads come rushing back to me as an insurmountable excitement overcomes me to come home.
No matter where I go in the world, seeing that “Welcome to West Virginia” and “Welcome to Philadelphia International Airport” (where my Dad lives) will always bring tears to my eyes. I will never fit back into the community that I once called “home”, but that’s because I’ve traveled. I see new places and experience the world so I can see home clearer. I can appreciate the world I once wanted to run away from more because of how travel has transformed me.
I travel to return home. I travel to find myself. This is why I travel.
Why do you travel? Is it to have that feeling after returning home, or is it for another reason? We’d love to read your thoughts in the comments section below:)