Ah, what it would be like to greet the sunrise on Koh Samui… dive into the Great Blue Hole in Belize… feel the mist of Victoria Falls on your face… stand in awe under the auroras… marvel at the crimson sun slowly setting on the Serengeti…
So many places most of us long to visit, with only the thought of a good selfie at the forefront of most people’s minds, with perhaps some contemplation of the epicurean delight soon to come, little realizing that at the core of all these travel goals is an instinctual yearning to explore and be awed.
Simply put, we travel to be amazed. We have a constant need to be awed by things greater than anything we know. So we embark on arduous treks to view the stunning magnificence of nature, we journey around the world to see astonishing feats of engineering, we seek exquisite architecture and fabulous works of art, we stand in awe before ancient monuments, we look for the best or most unusual cuisines, and we allow ourselves to be locked in an airplane knowing that soon we will be cruising on nothing but air. Amazement not only keeps us humble, it also makes us feel truly alive.
When we travel alone, we travel for introspection. When removed from our daily routine we forget about our work and domestic responsibilities, freeing our minds from mundane matters, enabling us to explore our more profound thoughts and observe other people, thereby gaining an insightful lesson on human nature.
We travel to nurture our soul. We practice amity and kindness when we interact with strangers and encounter animals. And when we go to nature we are awed by the handiwork of God, and in the stillness of the pure air we hear His voice in the birdsong and the rustling of the trees, inspiring us to do what is good and beautiful.
Oceans and forests and mountains forged over billions of years are more compelling places for a spiritual experience than any temple humans have wrought with their hands, for nature is strikingly majestic, unexpectedly beautiful, and immensely awe-inspiring in size and design, challenging even the unbeliever to consider the possibility of an intelligent creator.
We travel to learn. Each culture is immensely interesting in many ways, lending an edifying facet to travel. When we travel we learn that the world is staggeringly huge and diverse, and our customary way is not the only valid way of doing things. We learn that the destination is the star, not us, and ?that ?the pictures we take must reflect this, paying proper respect to the charm of the place and the uniqueness of its culture.
We travel to indulge our hobbies. Whether it’s photography, painting, music, dance, cooking… there are endless, fresh inspirations to be found in foreign places.
We travel because we are built for it. From the thrill at takeoff to relief on landing, from marveling at the roaring cascades of Niagara Falls to swimming in the emerald and sapphire waters around Malcapuya Island, from skillfully bargaining in quaint shops along Calle Crisologo to scooping up great deals on Orchard Road, there is something electrifying about travel that’s hardwired in our genes.
Our early ancestors were able to colonize the farthest nooks of the earth because of this insatiable wanderlust, and we are not done yet—soon there will be suborbital space flights for tourists. The fare is exorbitant and the trip potentially dangerous, but it is an incredible variation from even the most exotic destinations on this lonely planet. And we travel because we crave change.
There is no evolutionary advantage in stagnation, and our deepest subconscious knows this, forcing us to move our feet, to scrimp and save so we can have our yearly fling—that break-the-bank megavoyage of our dreams that might involve skiing on the powdery slopes of Davos in the winter or lounging on the sun-kissed shores of Majorca in the summer—and still be able to go on our usual jaunts to our favorite regional and domestic destinations.
From each travel we return home rejuvenated, and yet we are immediately and oddly excited to repeat the exhausting cycle of researching destinations, looking for the best deals in flights and hotels, packing discriminatingly, and driving through vexatious traffic to the airport all over again.