I’ll tell you something important about my travels: I travel for three simple reasons: to open my eyes, broaden my mind and soften my soul. In other words, my travels help me to understand, learn and grow.
Let’s face it, the majority of us want to travel. But why do we want to see the world? Maybe because it’s fun and exciting. Or because it’s a job requirement. Or we have money to spend. Or a change is necessary. Or maybe just to be able to escape the routine.
It’s not enough to watch the news, read the newspapers or browse the internet to get a sense of how the world really is. Actually, it has never been enough. The media has only managed to confuse me by presenting a world full of injustice, evil and hatred.
But I think the world is much more than that.
My travels, in fact, connect me with nature and humanity. Even if I travel solo or seek out places to enjoy solitude, I travel because it’s the simplest and more authentic way of knowing the world I live in first hand.
If I’m going to talk about my travels, I want to be honest with you and make a confession: I am a novice traveler. That doesn’t mean I’m a callow wanderer. It means I started to travel with a purpose not long ago. To tell you the truth, it took me a long time to realize that the best education is outside the classroom. But once I discovered that, nothing has stopped me. And nothing will.
Let me tell you why. I’ll break down what my travels do for me:
1) They Open My Eyes
My travels brings a healthy dose of reality to my life
When I travel I understand the world around me better. Moreover, travel brings a healthy dose of reality to my life. Cuba does poorly in measures of political and economic freedom, for instance. But it has universal health care and its literacy rate of 99.8 percent is the tenth highest globally. Those are two major accomplishments, in my opinion. I believe it not because I read it or watched on TV, but because I have been to Cuba and saw it with my own eyes.
Costa Rica is not far behind. Its literacy rate is 96.3 percent and its universal health system is not denied to anyone. In addition, they abolished the army in the 1950s. The financial resources allocated to this category have passed since to education.
Travel, on the other hand, compels me to believe that all men and women were created equal. It is obvious. Having different religions, political systems or skin color does not affect the fact that we are all human beings. I do not feel superior or inferior to anyone else in the planet. Everyone has the right to choose their own way of living life. And nobody should judge others for their choices.
I know the way I look at the world is not the way many people do, but it makes me feel a more well-rounded human being.
2) They Broaden My Mind
My travels help me learn how people live
When I travel, I educate myself. I’m not a simple tourist. I’m not traveling for mere “pleasure” or for “business.” I’m learning how people live, feel and think. I’m finding out what people are good at, the way they contribute to humanity, and the different perspectives they have about life. I am a traveler with wanderlust.
I also discover skills I didn’t know I had. When I traveled to Costa Rica, I realized my forbearance prevented me from getting in trouble with someone who had a different opinion about the way tips are given in that country. It may not seem like a great virtue, considering it was a simple subject, but it helped me to avoid conflict and saved my trip of becoming a disaster.
Travel lets me learn much more about the history, economy, politics, geography, art and culture of the city or country I visit. It also deepens the knowledge I have about my own place of origin or residence, because I see everything in more detail.
3) They Soften My Soul
My travels kill prejudice and develop tolerance and respect
When I travel, I grow more and more compassionate. It kills prejudice and develops tolerance and respect. Travel lets me discover who I am and who the other people are. I see people for what they really are: human beings, “a man, woman, or child of the species Homo sapiens, distinguished from other animals by superior mental development, power of articulate speech, and upright stance.”
Does it sound simplistic? Really it is not. “We are the same people despite our beliefs and skin color,” a man from a tribal group in New Mexico told me. And I believe it’s absolutely true. We can learn from others and help one another despite our differences. I know it sounds easier said than done, but I think that we should always try.
On the other hand, I see every trip to a foreign country as a love affair. I cannot help to fall in love with turquoise beaches, vast rainforests, rich historic districts or colorful arts and crafts markets. But the smile of a stranger, the generosity of an elder tourist guide, or the warm welcome of a family that does not know who I am and yet receives me with open arms, also sweep me off my feet.
Eyes, mind and soul help me develop more meaningful relationships, with myself and with others. Ultimately, I travel because no matter how easy or difficult life can be in any part of the world, I have found that travel and the stories that come from it are, in reality, love stories.
So I invite you to travel and discover the world with your own eyes, mind and soul. I assure you that your life will be full of unforgettable adventures and your travels will leave a lasting impression on your heart.
I want to thank Lee Manning, a veteran photographer based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for his generosity and sensitivity, which helped me greatly to awaken my senses. It was thanks to him that I could see New Mexico with different eyes and tirelessly contemplate its beautiful scenery. I invite you to see his work at leemanningphotography.com