“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman

Thank you Howard Thurman, you are so damn right – the world simply needs more people who have ‘come alive’ and traveling is one of the most effective ways to ‘lean in’ to life. Travel forces you into the beauty, the guts, and the rawness of life. It allows you to shred the perfect picture and touch your hands on something real. With all the madness going on in the world now, sometimes I find myself on an emotional roller coaster between hating the world and loving it. Sometimes it’s easy to get wrapped up in the chaos, the turmoil, and the horrible situations humans put each other in. This is why travel matters now more than ever, and this is why we can’t shut each other out, but should rather open ourselves up to the world and everything in it.

travel makes you feel alive

Here are 8 reasons why travel (hopefully) makes you feel a little more alive:

You learn to live in your own skin, wherever it may take you

Travel is an essential piece to your personality puzzle. Being thrown into the deep end, diving in darkness, and experiencing it all alone gives you the opportunity to have a close look at yourself. No matter what color your skin, wherever you step foot, you deserve to be respected – never forget that.

why travel matters Photo: Ian Schnieder

It forces you to show up for life

Travel is a way to feel reconnected to the world, the movement makes you show up – for a 6am sunrise over the Grand Canyon, for a first date with butterflies squirming around inside, or a simple solo stroll through a new town. We all get tired of ‘showing up’ for work, our friends, spouses, routine, and life in general. Traveling closes the gap between no and yes, moving you toward yes.

It splashes reality across your face

The media’s portrayal of cities is often skewed, and many countries deemed ‘off-limits’ may be safer than your backyard. This makes it hard to get a taste of reality behind the lens as nothing compares to touching a place with your bare hands. It allows you to not only scrape the surface but bloodies your fingers and leaves a piece of you on its rugged edges. Traveling encourages you to wake up (and into) reality. Reality like riding an hour-long train across Mumbai – a mixture of foul body odor, sweat, crying babies, and claustrophobic conditions shoved down your throat. But, then, a fresh wisp of Indian air pours through the carriage and a beautiful woman in a sari smiles the most genuine smile you have ever seen, and then it hits you: happiness, a pure, unaltered bliss.

Why travel matters

It allows you to develop the fortitude to fail

Failing is inevitable. Failing happens every single day on the road, and in life. But, what does it mean to fail? Does it encompass the draining feeling of missing a train due to circumstances beyond your control?  Or stumbling in broken Spanish to the stranger next to you, or getting lost on the way to Mecca, then finding a new adventure to call your own? Travel allows you to redefine what failure is, and it forces you to fail forward, fail backward, fail anyway – and then get the hell up. Failure teaches us that it’s okay to be wrong about our preconceptions of ourselves, the stigmas of other cultures, and about any perception we construct about the world. It is okay to be wrong, it is even better to embrace it.

Why travel matters
Photo: Jenn Richardson

It tattoos experience on your soul

Soul, back, ribcage, wrist – either, or, and all of the above. Physical tattoos with black or colorful ink from a bamboo wand in Thailand, or tattoos metaphorically drawn onto your heart and into spaces deeper than the eye can see. Some experiences scribble dark shades of black and can make you bitter and angry at the world or those around you. But, others can be drawn so beautifully, that even in your darkest moments you can pull out those drawings and find some sort of happiness amidst the struggle.

It satiates your thirst for exploration

When was the last time you hopped out of bed with eyes full of wonder? Being on the road, traveling to the state next door, or being thrown in a new environment reinvigorates the notion that life is good, people are good. It reactivates the thirst for discovery and an innate need to explore more, live more, uncover more. For me, the most interesting part of travel is digging in people’s dirt, uncovering the layers beneath the smile (or frown). Exploring people is just as important as exploring monuments, places, and other bucket-list items. The people are the ones you will remember, those are the faces you’ll dream of.

It is the best medicine – it pulls you out of ‘technology sickness’

If you are anything like me, you may have an all-consuming, manic-like obsession with your phone or computer. Technology sickness is drained from you while traveling in rural countries, or even through American backroads without your cell phone glued to your ear. Being unplugged leaves you grounded in the present moment, and the people around you. It thrusts you back into a reality that you can be a part of instead of watching like a bystander.

It leaves you wanting one more bite of whatever that just was

The Nick Miller quote: ‘travel is wishing for one more bite of whatever that just was,’ sticks with me every day. It reminds me of the simple moments that I always wish I could linger in a bit longer – the aroma of a fresh cup of Colombian coffee, the buzz after one too many cigarettes and German beers, the tingling feeling of a foreigner’s gaze upon your face, the late night conversations that keep you up until dawn, the strangers who come into your life for a one-day adventure, yet feel like old-time friends.

These moments always leave me wanting one more sip of wine, one more minute glancing at the miniature Mona Lisa, one more hushed conversation in a hostel room, and just one more bit of whatever that just was…

Why Travel Matters Photo: Gili Benita

Being alive is such a different experience for every human. It is tougher for some, and easier for others – and I will never really understand this existential lottery we are all born into. For me, being alive means smiling through life, experiencing and not only consuming, and continually struggling to find the balance between it all.

If you are feeling burnt out, upset, numb, or even depressed – travel. It does not have to be far, I don’t mean you have to buy a plane ticket across the pond, I mean try getting into the traveler’s mindset. Try moving through life with a little more awareness, a little more wonder for what the next moment of uncertainty may bring. Travel helps me create a little more appetite for life. It nudges me alive, and I hope it makes you feel alive too.