I was nineteen the first time I drove cross-country. I was nineteen the first time I saw the ocean. I was nineteen the first time I flew in an airplane. I was nineteen the first time I set foot in Somewhere Else — far enough away that when people asked where I was from, it was because they knew I wasn’t from Around Here. I was nineteen when the idea that people in Other Places lived Different Lives became a fact. I was nineteen.
Growing up in Wichita, Kansas, the travel of my youth was contained to the states immediately surrounding the state. And not even all of them: I had been to Colorado, Oklahoma, and Missouri, but not Nebraska. I won’t take up any space discussing whether not visiting Nebraska was a loss.
My point is, I didn’t grow up what you might consider “well-traveled”. Honestly, I don’t have a real idea of my childhood travel experiences as any greater or lesser than most of my school mates. I’m sure some traveled much more frequently than my family, and I’m sure that some didn’t travel at all.
The thing that first struck me when I spent an extended amount of time in another state was the grocery store. Yes, out of all the things I saw driving from Kansas to the east coast, the most salient memory is always how the Giant did not have the right cocoa… did not have my kind of cocoa.
What kind of grocery store doesn’t have Hershey’s cocoa?
The Giant in Potomac Village, Maryland. That’s what kind of grocery store doesn’t have Hershey’s Cocoa. That Giant also did not sell beer or wine coolers, like the Dillon’s near my home, but there was a liquor store right next to the grocery store. There was also a Boston Market in the shopping center with the Giant and the liquor store, but it was called “Boston Chicken“.
AND, there were NO QuikTrips.
I ended up back in Kansas, and although that was initially disappointing for me — and don’t act like you don’t know why — the fairly low cost of living here is great for a traveler. I am fortunate enough to be able to take several domestic trips a year.
Travel enhances my life in several ways. For me, the absolute number one benefit of travel is the chance to be out of my element. I don’t know about you, but when I stay in the same place, with the same people, doing the same things I do every day, complacency sets in. I think complacency — of the mind, of the body, of the soul — is not only a lack of growth, but a type of death.
I am a Serious Introvert. I don’t mind being alone. In fact, I need my Alone Time. If I don’t get it in the proper doses, I get cranky. Traveling solo allows me to be among people, but still bask in mental solitude. Being in a different place forces you to pay attention to different things; forces you to be more intentional.
Another plus of travel for me are all of the sensory experiences. Tasting crawfish in Louisiana, crab cakes in Maryland, or scallops in Florida. That seems like a lot of seafood. But, I grew up in and still live in a land-locked state that’s overflowing with cattle. Smelling the ocean, the flowers, the trees. Feeling the Las Vegas sun beat down on you, your flip-flops melting on the asphalt and your skin, roasted like the $5 rotisserie chickens at the grocery store. Seeing the Statue of Liberty, the Smithsonian, or the Grand Canyon. Hearing all of the sounds of the city during the day, and being lulled by its hum at night.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the people. So many people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. People I now count as friends. People I’ve taught, and people from whom I’ve learned (and continue to learn). People with similar life experiences, and people with very different life experiences.
If you’re fortunate enough to be in the position to travel: do it. If you have children, and you’re lucky enough to be in the position to travel with them: do it. Change your context. Shift your paradigm. You will come back a different person.
What’s your favorite trip you’ve ever taken? What about the trip makes it your favorite?