We are excited to announce that we have been selected by GAP Adventures for their Wanderers in Residence program. In preparation for the official announcement today, we answered a few questions about our journey, including the age-old travel writing and travel blogging query, “Why do you travel?”
In doing so, we ticked off a list, gazed at our navels and stumbled onto a stickier query: Is travel merely an instrument to achieve a set of objectives or is travel an aim in itself?
It was my first flight. Eastern Airlines, Scranton Pennsylvania to Orlando, Florida. Our plane took off in the pre-dawn as night yielded to morning. I was eight and had just gotten my first pair of wings. I was also terrified — only slightly — that just a few inches separated me from the open air at some obscene altitude of 29,000 feet. But I was thrilled. Life below was small through those funny-shaped windows, the earth bent, and I watched a sunrise in a way I had never watched one before.
Above it all, I was going somewhere, taking a trip. I was traveling.
Literally and figuratively, I felt a lift. I felt it in that airplane. I felt it on the Caspian Sea, on the Annapurna Circuit, and in the Pamirs. I felt it coming to Toronto a few days ago (surprise, we’re in Canada!). I have felt it on so many journeys for business, for pleasure and now for somewhere in between. I land in airports and get on buses and meet people and eat food and climb mountains. I seek to understand places, things, culture and history.
All these journeys and destinations later, it’s that feeling of possibility that comes packaged with taking a trip –- call it a travel high — that I get when I’m on the move.
But why? The feeling that we get when we travel — do we experience it because we are achieving stuff? Or is there something else?
Travel As a Means to an End
Since Mr. Dictionary always helps me understand what I’m writing about, I consult him again to clarify some terms:
- means: an agency, instrument, or method used to attain an end
- end: an intention or aim
The argument that travel is a means to an end (or various ends, for that matter) is well stated implicitly and explicitly in just about every travel article, travel blog post or “About Us” page: to learn, to escape, to challenge ourselves, to discover, to seek thrills, to meet new people, to satisfy our curiosity about the world and to do so firsthand.
We can all attest as to the ability of travel to provide a context to do any and all of this at once. Our world provides travel as the ultimate excuse to move through it. In this way, travel is a gateway, an enabler.
Travel As an End in Itself
But let me play devil’s advocate. Take all the answers you’ve ever given to the question “Why do you travel?” Couldn’t you have achieved all the same ends — learning, growing, exploring — perhaps a little closer to home without traveling?
But travel is a funny thing. Merely taking a trip — the movement, the places, the journey, the destination — suspends us in a different frame of mind.
Traveling places us in an intangible emotional context. And that sets it apart. Not unlike cooking, making music, running, doing yoga – and dare I say, having sex – traveling delivers something above and beyond the end product.
Travel as a Means and an End
We travel because it enables us to pursue and achieve all things conceptual and concrete that we speak to on this blog. But as I examine our own behavior and the behavior of others who travel, I have seen something else that transcends the story of travel as an enabler.
Someday, someone will publish a grand unified theory of the way our brains work. And when they lay the folds of our brains bare with the chemistry coursing through them, travel will have its own special place.
Travel enables us to do things. But travel is also the thing itself.
So why do you travel? For you, is travel a means to an end, the end itself, or both?