Why are some people content to live their entire lives in their hometown, while others have an urge to travel that they just can’t ignore?
According to a recent news article, scientists believe they have discovered the gene that makes certain people more likely to want to wander outside of their comfort zone, immerse themselves in new culture and try new things. Perhaps there is a wanderlust gene and there is something in our DNA that makes us curious about what is out there – or maybe this explanation is too simple and there are a lot of factors involved in the desire to travel.
The urge to travel is something deeply human and it has been expressed since the beginning of mankind. We’ve always been curious about what is out there – longing for new sights, tastes, smells and sounds.
Pico Iyer wrote, “We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves.” We lose ourselves by pulling ourselves out of the mundane routines that we have become desensitised to and deliberately placing ourselves in situations that are strange, unfamiliar and challenging. So often we are defined by where we live, what we do for a living and how we spend our time – when we take ourselves out of that context what becomes of our identity?
In a foreign city no one knows your name and no one went to school with you. “Finding ourselves” begins when we remove all of the ordinary trappings of our lives and figure out who we are when we are a lone stranger on the road. You are anonymous and have no connections or prior associations with anyone. Who are you when you can meet someone for the first time and be anyone you want? This is why travel feels so freeing for many people – the world is a blank canvas for them to create their own identity and fill their life with the most beautiful experiences they can imagine.
Travel also teaches understanding and tolerance. Once we step outside of the tiny bubble of our own culture, we are able to see that the way we do things is not the only way. It’s not that other ways are better or worse, they are just different. It’s a huge growth experience to be able to understand that someone from another culture is not rude or stupid, they just have a different version of “normal.”
Travel is also an opportunity to leave behind your comfort zone, physically, socially and psychologically. Luxury holidays focus on creating the best and most enjoyable experience, but travellers don’t necessarily need high thread count sheets or room service. Travellers want to sleep under the stars with Bedouin tribes in the deserts of Jordan, or in bamboo huts in the jungles of Borneo. The traveller isn’t focused on having the best – but instead on appreciating all aspects of the destination even those that are humble, unpleasant or strange. It’s all part of the adventure.
There are as many different reasons for travelling as there are travellers. Tell us about your reason – why does the open road call to you?