While enjoying a birthday lunch with my mom last Saturday, we talked about my upcoming plan to take A Million Steps on the Camino de Santiago this May. She was recently talking to my uncle about my reunion with Spain and he apparently rolled his eyes and said, “Is he still trying to find himself? Again??” While the answer could easily be yes, a better one is to explain the beauty of travel.
What do you really learn inside a cocoon of comfort? Does staying inside your home, driving to work, and going to the grocery store expand your horizons? Too much of any type of comfort will lead to a big rut. Having a trip on your horizon gives you something out-of-bounds to look forward to. It is an opportunity to open your head and heart to exploring this beautiful world. Some need mountains while others prefer beaches. Some go a million miles per hour and others unplug to rest. No matter the reason, the end zone is filled with memories that prevent life from becoming platitudinous.
Travel is an opportunity to take a vacation from your life. Time and distance will always change perspectives. Why not take advantage of both by traveling somewhere that allows you to see your life with distant eyes. Your personal shore looks much different from a row boat.
Visiting a foreign land filled with strange customs, languages, and cuisine forces people into acceptance. By being an outsider, you learn to survive everything. The new found confidence is a hammer to the nails of fear. Experience is the greatest teacher. Creating relationships with new people and places is a perfect classroom for the lessons of life. It is a form of therapy that creates a newer and fresher version of you.
Do not be afraid to travel alone. Traveling with a lover, business partner, friends, or family is always good, but the road less traveled is the solo journey. My first time alone was a bit nerve wracking. The cause is unknown, but there were many moments of insecurity. My ego convinced me to feel like a lone diner in a packed restaurant. Instead of taking advantage of the good fortune, I spent time worrying about what other people were thinking. Age taught me to disregard this idiotic thought process.
Life is about compromise and we all do it on a daily basis. Solo travel is one of the few arenas where this is left in the dust. You choose everything from the destination, wake up time, restaurants, and the daily list of activities. Group travel can quickly morph into an exercise in herding cats.
One of my favorite features of travel is to place myself in an environment where things are on the outer edges of my comfort zones. From previous life experiences, I find that the best way to break the routines is to place myself is situations where things are outside of my comfort zones. Walking the Camino was an extreme version of this practice. I put myself in a foreign country, sleeping with strangers in bunk beds, walking, eating a different diet, not connected via cellphone, carrying all my possession on my back, and not really knowing where I would go each day. Autopilot disengages and I had a chance to fly the plane again. For me, personal growth happens in these unfamiliar territories.
The answer to should I stay is always go!