I’ve long heard the comment “you travel a lot” said to me as both a compliment and as an insult. I’ve heard comments about how maybe I should be spending my money on other things or maybe I shouldn’t be jetting off around the world at such a breakneck pace. And yet, I still travel. I’ve come to find over the years, that the naysayers, the ones who use my frequent travel against me don’t really understand why I do it, don’t understand why it means so much to me and in the end, don’t really know me.
Here’s the honest truth: I travel a lot now because it fulfills me, it fills a part of my soul that nothing else does and it expands my mind like no education ever has. But I also travel because I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know if I’ll always be able to travel, I don’t know if my health will always be enough to be able to travel. I travel now because I don’t know what will happen in my life or the world tomorrow, or in 10 years, or in 30.
I’ve had a lot of health issues in the past 10 years; things that don’t stop me from living my life but that just mean I’m dealing with a level of pain and sometimes discomfort that most people generally aren’t. I’ve watched my family members suffer from auto-immune diseases, watched my Mom and Grandmother go through breast cancer and seen many other members of my family deal with serious health issues. And the honest truth is that as I get older, I may very well not be able to continue to travel like I do now. And while I hope that’s not the case, I think it’s important for people to know why I treasure my travels so much, why I protect that part of my life so fiercely. It’s that thought that crosses my mind every now and then, that pushes me further to explore this planet, to see it, to feel it, to gather it all in to my heart and soul.
And while that may be my driving force forward to continue to travel as much as I can now, I also desperately need the force that travel gives to me. I desperately need those first few moments wandering a new place, to breathe in and out in the middle of nowhere that is more beautiful than you ever imagined. I desperately need the peace I find when I’m exploring someplace different, when the sounds of a foreign language are singing around me. I desperately need the idea of learning about other places, other people. I desperately need the idea that we’re all more alike than we are different because that concept seems so far from reality sometimes in our daily lives. I desperately need to travel, if only to expand my mind and soul.
I saw a quote by Mary Oliver that said “Listen – are you breathing just a little and calling it a life?” That thought stuck with me for weeks after reading it. Because sadly, so many of us are just breathing and calling it life. We’re going about our daily routines, we’re doing what we think everyone else wants us to do. We’re having kids and buying houses and going into debt. And in the end, is that living, is that really life?
In the last month or so, I was in the midst of a really bad health flare up. My back was so bad I could barely walk, I started having panic attacks again after none for a couple years and my aura migraines (which feel like strokes) were happening regularly again. And in the midst of all of that, that quote stuck with me. I wasn’t going to let the times in my life where I could travel, where I could experience the incredible things in this world pass me by without really experiencing them. I’m not just going to breathe and call that living. I’m not just going to wait for the next flare up or the next issue to arise, those will always be on the horizon.
A lot of people in my life might not know that what I am sharing today is my driving force to travel, they might only see the pretty photos and think that all is perfect behind that scene. We’re all climbing mountains, we all deal with our own issues behind the scenes and we must remember that everyone is just doing their best with the circumstances they are dealt. But at the end of the day, those pretty photos of places where I travel aren’t just pretty photos to me. To me, they are proof to myself that I’m living instead of just breathing. They are proof to myself that those experiences are shaping me, that they are fulfilling me. They are memories of growth, of healing and proof that I am capable of more than I think I am sometimes.
So I won’t quit traveling. It might change and morph as time comes on and it might not be as frequently as it once was, but I refuse to just breathe and call it life. I refuse to give up hope that the things I’ve learned through traveling can help change the world. I know the experiences I’ve had, the places I’ve seen, the people I’ve met have shaped me completely and that without those pieces of the puzzle, I wouldn’t be complete. So I’ll keep traveling and I’ll keep searching for that peace that only exploration can bring. And I’ll keep living beyond just inhaling and exhaling breath, because I don’t know what the future will bring and I want to look back and know that I chased every dream, fulfilled every goal to the best that I can. I want to look back someday and know that I was really living and not just breathing.