They say there are no stupid questions, just stupid answers. So the question, “why do we travel?” can’t be dumb. However, (and I would bold, italicize and underline that word if possible) there are some answers that are so lacking in intelligence that I find myself staring into the void wondering where we went wrong.
Rick Steves speaks to my soul (this isn’t an unrelated tangent — I promise). He writes that there are “ugly Americans.” These are people who look at the world and instead of trying to understand it, write it off as inferior to their own country, snap a picture holding up the Tower of Pisa and shuffle on.
I’ll just say it: I don’t get those people.
I also don’t get the people who take Pico Iyer’s words of “looking for hardship” on a surface level — the people who come back saying how they’re a better person now than they were two weeks ago when they left. The people who say:
“It was life changing!”
“I feel so humbled to live as I do!”
“I wanted to see how the rest of the world lived so I can be aware of how privileged I am.”
All after they took a bus tour around Quebec.
So, now the question is: Why do I travel?
I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m better, or why I came to Europe or what I’m going to be at the end of this.
The reasons I travel can be summed up from the three most important phrases in the iconic “Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again” trailer.
“Life is short.”
Tell me when I’m going to have another chance to live in Europe for three months with another family and an education, almost all on someone else’s dime?
If I didn’t take this chance, I guarantee I would be the woman in the future going, “yeah, I didn’t want to go anyways” and then silently stewing in my watered-down white wine.
“The world is wide.”
Just the other day, I made a joke about how we’re told not to smile. I said even the kids here in Luxembourg are stone-faced. The guy I was talking to laughed (of course, I’m hilarious) and then said, “How sad.”
These kids aren’t running around thinking, “oh god, how I wish I was American so I could smile.”
No, they’re living their lives perfectly happy.
People don’t live their lives comparing them to American ones. As a journalist, a wannabe novelist and lowly human, I feel like if I didn’t try to experience how other people walk through life, I would be a fraud whenever I tried to talk about the world.
“I wanna make some memories.”
Besides all the half deep responsibilities and YOLO attitude, there is also this sentiment: I want the experience. I want stories to match my friend getting drunk and ending up petting cows on the side of a Croatian highway. I want to have a response when one of my other friends tells me about Israel and Norway and everywhere else she’s been. I want to look back and, even if I accomplish nothing in my life but delivering well-timed snarky comments, be able to say:
“I did that.”