Besides seeking escape, there are six major reasons why I’m so drawn to travelling
Nowadays it is so easy to catch a flight and arrive in a new country within a matter of hours. That’s probably why 1.4 billion people travelled abroad in 2018 (out of a population of 7.5 billion).
We all enjoy different types of trips; for some, it’s an opportunity to get drunk and lie in the sun, for others it’s an adventurous trek to an ancient ruin, or maybe you’re more into museums and foodie explorations.
Admittedly, I am a bit of a beach bum; I love nothing more than being by the ocean, but there’s also more intrinsic reasons to why I’m finding it difficult to shake this travel bug.
I took some time to think about the real reasons why I travel…
1. The challenge
Challenging situations can be stressful but overcoming them is where the real triumph resides. I thrive when I am on my own. Those who know me believe I lack common sense, but I’m pretty sure that it’s just because when I’m comfortable I’m way more lackadaisical. When I’m alone in a foreign land, I have to push myself to think on my feet (or at least communicate with someone to find the answer).
I remember when I had just arrived in New York. I had planned to use my credit card (it was my only option seen as I had no US dollars on me). Unfortunately, when I first tried to use it, it was rejected. This sent shockwaves through my system. “How the hell am I gonna pay for ANYTHING”.
I was slightly lucky that I wouldn’t be alone for this trip; I was meeting a friend who was doing an internship. But I still had to somehow navigate my way from Newark airport to Manhattan, without a working credit card.
I racked my brain for ideas, and luckily I remembered that I had a £20 note in my bumbag. I exchanged it at the airport for a terrible exchange rate, but I had just enough to make it into the city! I was very proud of my problem-solving skills.
The slight twist to this story is that when I proceeded to try to buy the ticket on my credit card (as a last-ditch trial), it worked… so I didn’t have to worry anymore about it for the remainder of my trip.
Since then, I have learnt to carry multiple cards and several currencies (just in case).
New places. New people. New architecture. New landscapes. New food. New sounds. Everything is new!
Although it’s possible to find novelty in your home country, it will be hard to find somewhere that can truly shock the senses as much as a new country can.
However, it can be overwhelming at first.
I remember arriving in Malaysia. My first destination was Kuala Terengganu, which was by no means a touristy place (at least not for westerners). Surprisingly, this was my first time alone in Asia (but only my second trip to this continent).
I still remember the first walk I took around the city; I was struck by the colours, the alley-like walkways, the street-side freshly-cooking food and the song of the Malay language… my senses were overwhelmed.
I also experienced a greater sense of what it’s like to be a minority. I was one of four westerners whom I saw in my 3 days there. Over my 3 months in Malaysia, this became a little more normal for me.
Although it took me time to become comfortable, I ended up loving the food (roti canai is one of my personal favourites), the vibrancy of the country and the incredibly welcoming people.
Each country I visit brings with it a wholly different sensory experience and I LOVE that novelty.
3. Scuba diving
This may seem a strange one but scuba diving is the passion that introduced me to adventurous travel; it pushed me to develop confidence despite fear, introduced me to a new world and new people, and actually took me to countries that I didn’t expect to visit.
I first travelled to complete my university dissertation (requiring scuba diving). Then I travelled to advance my scuba qualifications (I qualified as a Divemaster in 2017). Next, I travelled to work as a Divemaster/marine conservationist in both Croatia and Malaysia. And since then, I have dived in several countries around the world.
Yes, I’ve dived in the UK but I have to say that I’m more of a ‘fair weather diver’. By travelling, I can experience the amazing underwater world, a place I have loved since before I started diving (and when I surface I can dry off in the sun).
I would highly recommend scuba diving if you enjoy travelling… the ocean seriously is another world.
4. Proving I can make friends
As you go through life you will experience several circles of people.
Before, I travelled I often referred to my circles as family, home friends and university friends. Being a fairly shy person growing up I felt that I made most friends by convenience or proximity.
I didn’t feel like I could make my own friends. I felt like I had to rely on others to help me make friends.
By travelling, especially solo, I have been able to prove to myself that I can make friends. And it feels so good being able to say that. It means that I now have the confidence to chat to strangers with the open-mindedness that maybe a friendship will develop, or maybe not. Either way, that small chit-chatter might make one or both of our days.
It’s also meant that I’ve heard different opinions (that I thought I would never hear), I’ve heard different life stories (that would be unusual for a UK citizen to experience) and I’ve had experiences that I would not have expected.
Every time I switch back to solo travel I have to re-discover my confidence in my ability to talk to strangers and make friends, but I’m lucky that I can also look back on a wealth of travel friend-making history from the past few years.
5. The unexpected
By far my favourite part of travel (and a reason I strive to keep up unusual trips) is the unexpected.
The novelty, the challenges and the adventure can bring about a whole world of opportunities (excuse the pun) if you’re open to them.
You never know what’s going to happen. Maybe nothing out of the usual will happen. Or maybe you’ll have a spontaneously crazy day of adventure that you can’t quite believe.
I’ve been lost in a forest in Croatia (with friends). I’ve skinny-dipped at 2 am under the greatest sky of stars. I’ve experienced a hurricane party (and lucky for us the hurricane switched paths). I’ve changed plans to travel with new friends. And so many more crazy adventures in between.
6. To feel alive
Honestly, travelling is tough. So much can go wrong and you can feel alone. But there is nothing else that makes me feel more alive than when I travel. And it’s because of all of those reasons above that I do, truly feel everything so much more viscerally than I do in day-to-day life.
I have to be in the present and be thinking in the present — there’s no time for past or future.
I feel like I have more of a survival instinct when I travel because I have to think about where I’ll be sleeping, where I’ll eat, where I can get safe drinking water etc.
I’ve feared for my life and enjoyed my life during my travels. You can’t get much more alive than that.
Seen as I am getting back to my travelling ways very soon, I wanted to share why I’m doing it. I’ve learnt a lot from my travels but my travel itch remains for these 6 reasons.
What are your reasons for travelling? Let me know in the comments because I’d love to hear your motivations.