I travel for the moments that are least likely to be remembered. For those pauses of breathtaking experiences that can’t be captured or reproduced. I travel for the awkward and nervous feeling I get when I step up to the cashier with my wad of foreign money, simultaneously converting in my head while still trying to remain calm and polite.
I can remember my very first time buying a bottle of water in won, baht, riel, dong, yen, peso, euro, pound and how I would study the money to make sure I didn’t make a fool out of myself. Those moments of uncomfortable uncertainty forces a person to stop and live in the present.
But really, why do I travel?
For the Waiting
Waiting in the airport, for the train, for a taxi. Because during those moments, I stop and look around and notice the surrounding world, one unlike that found within my daily routine. Waiting presents a precious gift of time for observation.
For the Smiles
For those moments that you don’t even realize will impact you later. The girl sitting across from you on a crowded train in Kuala Lumpur dressed in her hijab with the most stunning eyes and facial features who catches you admiring her beauty and gives you the most sincere smile that melts your heart.
The moments like that make you realize that we all are alike, and traveling to see something different is almost insulting. Those moments show me that despite culture, race, religion, socioeconomic status, we all smile at strangers and share the same warmth in humanity.
For the Meetings
I travel to meet the people I’ll never see again. The break dancers from Switzerland. A fellow ESL teacher now living in Vietnam. The Peace Corps workers helping to reestablish normal life after a typhoon-laden disaster in the Philippines, grateful for vegetables and internet access. For the fleeting friendships that touch your soul so deeply in an instance that you’ll never be able to conjure that fast feeling of intimacy again.
To Go Home
A friend recently shared a wonderful quote from a book that really made an impression on me.
“There is nothing like going home.”
While home is sometimes the reason why we travel, there is something magical about each trip back. I call Korea my home-for-now, but my home is where I can get into a screaming match with my Mom, borrow the car and forget to fill the tank, track mud on the carpet and be the truest form of me that exists. No matter what I do or the mistakes I make, there will always be an extra coffee mug and a warm hug. The winding weaving roads come rushing back to me as an insurmountable excitement overcomes me to come home.
No matter where I go in the world, seeing that “Welcome to West Virginia” and “Welcome to Philadelphia International Airport” will always bring tears to my eyes. I will never fit back into the community that I once called “home”, but that’s because I’ve traveled. I see new places and experience the world so I can see home clearer. I can appreciate the world I once wanted to run away from more because of how travel has transformed me.
I travel to come home. I travel to find myself. I travel.
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