How Travel Changed My Life

Friday, August 11, 2017


Travel had entered my life like a dauntless winter dawn. Its bright, reassuring warmth came right when the chill in my bones and the dread in my soul felt absolute. I was trapped in a wreckage, helpless from the avalanche of my mother’s death, and travel burned amidst with a promise of salvation. Desperate to survive, I looked to it to get out. 

And so, I traveled. I packed my bags and went. I moved because keeping still was so painful. Memories had the chance to wound when one is at rest. So for a time, the motion meant relief, and I saw travel as a cure – a way to mend the cracks and the rifts. Eventually, my life started to make sense again. The constant moving had the effect I was hoping for.  The pain subsided. My grief ebbed and made way for something else: purpose.

When the frost melted and the pain cleared out, I was surprised to find that I was granted perspective. Traveling, it seemed, had not only healed me, but had also allowed me to see past my self. The places I saw, the people I met, and the memories I made – even when I was hurting – ultimately provided me with an anchor. My travels were stories, and the desire to tell them gave me meaning. My mama was gone, but I was here. These stories, I figured, would honor her.

Soon, I’d renovated my life to fit that of a storyteller. Travel became my source material. My wanderings sustained me with words. In the mountains I scaled, I found ballads. I saw legends coming true in a person’s eyes. Metaphors lay hidden in shared meals. Epics were born from clouds and waves. I cruised rivers on alliterations, walked roads with puns. The forests stood as plotlines.

These landscapes, from which my stories were born, then became such a great part of me that I felt the need to guard them. Being in the thick of nature’s miracles had taught me to care more about the environment. Over time, the care grew so strong it compelled me to act. And so, in addition to everything else it’d already given, travel was also responsible for transforming me into the tree-hugging, sustainability-advocating person that I am today. Not letting the beauty in this world fade seemed like the most natural reaction to having had witnessed so much of it.

Now that I’m healed and filled with purpose, I see that nothing could be worth more than the values I’ve amassed from the trips that I took. The more I went, the wider my mind opened up. My biases are fewer. I am more accepting. And I now see, clear as day, that beneath the mantle of race and religion, we are all made of the same stuff. Traveling yields empathy more than anything. It breeds compassion and trust. Through the circumstances brought about by leaving the familiar, it was evident that people were inherently good. I was shown and a witness to so much kindness over the course of my travels that I felt myself growing kinder too. 

I was kinder to others, but more importantly, I was kinder to myself. I learned to live with my failures, to forgive myself for my mistakes. I now sail through life perhaps a little worse for wear but much, much lighter. To be able to travel was proof I had courage; that in spite of my treacherous mind, I had heart. My strength was assured.

My sensibilities were fortified, too, through traveling. From the way I dress to the company I keep, all are now more honest because traveling let me define the borders of my sense of self. My yes is surer; my no even more so. I learned how to yield, and to stand my ground.

This current version of me is the best so far. The scars are still here, yes. Some part of me will forever be vacuous from the tragedy, but all that matters is I survived, and traveling has helped and is helping me thrive. My stories, my cause, and my values had been its gifts. See, some things in me are commonplace, but there are also some very interesting stuff. If you think me special or strange or downright weird, just remember: I’m a traveler – it goes with the territory. 

You Might Also Like