This Is Why I Travel
When are we first told travel broadens the mind? Elementary school? By our parents or after-school television? Everyone gets the gist of what it means, but I doubt everyone seizes the opportunity. I don’t think I always have and I’m still learning how.
But one recent trip where I got things right was my first visit to Portland. I told my friend there that I had no interest in being touristy (to me, that’s to be saved for later visits). I wanted to experience how locals lived. So on my first morning we woke up, sauntered over to Red E for some caffeine and took the MAX over to Portland Farmer’s Market. As it turned out, my friend had promised another pal that we would work her juice stand. It’s probably not something most people would be keen on doing during vacation, but I was cool with it. As I schmoozed with Portlanders who came up for samples, I quickly saw how passionate they were about supporting local by the types of questions they asked. Conversations quickly turned towards what outdoorsy adventures people had planned for the weekend. I was already getting a sense of what it was like to live here within a couple hours.
The energy I felt inspired me to be active and seek adventure.
My friend was an amazing guide throughout the weekend. We went hiking, biked to brunches, bars and zine shops where I legitimately felt the outdoorsy, environmentally-conscious, DIY camaraderie that had me set on becoming more like these friendly folks. But on my last night there (my friend had to get up early for work the next day) I snuck out on a solo bar-hopping adventure to talk to more locals. I had a fun couple hours chatting with both transplants and natives, and could not help but feel so very welcomed in their city.
What I’m getting at here is that you need to go beyond Yelp or friend’s recommendations to get the most out of traveling anywhere. Those are great resources, but (to me) broadening the mind means being open to how other people live life. You don’t have to adopt that lifestyle, but you should aim to respect and understand its merits. Hopefully, you’ll even be motivated enough to take the elements of their lifestyle that you appreciate and weave it into your own world. Even if it’s a place that you really can’t fathom having a connection with (the deep South comes to mind for me), just know there’s always something beneficial you can take home from the experience… if you take the time to listen and observe.
So talk to that random dude on the barstool next to you. Have a conversation with that pretty lady on a park bench. Otherwise, what’s the point of traveling at all? To brag, Instagram or feel good about yourself? Hardly (and if it is, please reconsider). There’s a million ways to live a life and even though we’ll never get to try half of them, we can always experience a few. Traveling done right is an amazing way to re-energize, educate yourself and prioritize what’s important to you. Yup, this is why I travel. What about you?