For the first time in 10 years, 2020 was the first year in a decade that I didn’t step foot outside of the USA. And like many of you reading this, the idea of international travel became what seemed like a distant memory and very out of reach for who knows how long ahead. I know that in all that’s happened in the last year, having international travel taken away is not nearly at the top of the list of priorities, but as this is a travel blog and travel is a huge part of my life, I think it’s still important to talk about the psychological effects of having that freedom of movement taken off the table. Do I think we needed to stop traveling to combat COVID? Absolutely. Did I love the idea that I might not know when the next time I could jump on a plane and head outside of my own country’s borders? No, definitely not.
When something is taken away that we are used to having, something like travel that brought comfort and exhilaration, it’s hard to understand fully how that effects us emotionally and mentally. I have found this past year that the feeling of loss has come in waves. There are months that fly by and I’m so wrapped up in my day to day life that I sort of forget that travel is off the table. And then all of a sudden, some days, it hits me like a ton of bricks. I found myself really feeling the loss in December for a number of reasons. We usually travel internationally over Thanksgiving and that weekend brought a lot of moment that had me remembering some of my favorite trips like the Great Wall of China in the snow or exploring the wilds of Iceland. Then I found myself realizing that it was at the end of 2019 that I was wandering around and exploring Yangon, Myanmar before returning home to start what would become one of the most difficult years of our lives in 2020. All of the memories, they hit me hard in December and I realized that while of course local travel is great and I spent most of 2020 trying to explore as much as was possible and safe locally, there is just something about international travel that you can’t quite replicate at home.
I think it’s also worth noting during this historic time period in history with so much unrest and news cycles full of hate and blame, it’s important that we acknowledge what travel actually does for people as an education. International travel allows us to see things with new eyes, it allows us to learn that our way isn’t the only way. We meet new people, see new things and learn to understand that diversity is the solution, not something to hate. International travel is, especially right now, a much needed form of education and I wish more people would have the opportunity to experience it. For me, so much that I know about the world and my own country has come from travel and I hope that after COVID, international travel is allowed to teach us the vital lessons that our world so greatly needs right now.
So while I found myself making video compilations of pre-COVID trips and creating gallery walls at home with my travel photos to combat that feeling of loss, I realized what I miss most about international travel.
The Giddiness of Exploration
There are certain things in life that just make us giddy with excitement. One of those things for me is that feeling on a descent, the plane slowly dropping into the clouds, as the land below starts to appear, a foreign place emerging below you. Those first few moments of exploring a new place, the new languages, the new views, the new sounds. Those first few hours upon landing, seeing a new place for the first time or a return visit to a place that you love. That feeling of exploration, that newness, that feeling that you only get upon exploring a foreign place – it’s like a high.
Being Thrown out of your Comfort Zone
Perhaps my favorite thing about travel in general, but even more so when traveling internationally, the feeling of being thrown completely out of your comfort zone is exhilarating. It’s scary and uncomfortable, yes. But ultimately, it’s what makes travel so rewarding and so enriching. You can’t understand that language, how are you going to communicate? You can’t read the streets signs, how do you figure out where to go? In the moment, it can be extremely uncomfortable. But in the rear view, it’s one of the best ways that we grow as humans when we have to figure things out in the moment and react to a situation that is foreign to us. Travel is the best way to throw yourself into a situation and figure out how to swim, instead of sink.
I will forever say, travel is the best education you can provide for yourself. I have learned more in my travels throughout my life than I have in any school or degree. Travel shines a light on things in this world that you’ll never learn anyway other than seeing it with your own eyes and experiencing it yourself. Travel is an education in every meaning of the world and it’s been invaluable to me.
There is Nothing Quite Like Seeing the Planet we Call Home
As I look back on some of the trips we’ve taken and some of the places we’ve witnessed with our own eyes, one thing rings true over and over: we call this planet home, why wouldn’t we want to see it? From the glaciers of Alaska to the aqua lakes of New Zealand, from the barren landscapes of Iceland to the temples of Japan, this wide world has so much to offer, so much to see, so much to understand and I want to spend the rest of my life exploring it.