Travel News

A Quick Thought on The Nature of Travel

Nomadic Matt posing for a photo along the winding road of Hawaii

Posted: 2/20/2023 | February 20th, 2023

Traveling the world is like becoming a child all over again. You don’t know what to do, where to go, or how to function.

How do you stay safe?

How do you get around?

How do you communicate?

What are the cultural norms you have to follow?

In each destination, you start from scratch and have to relearn how to do the most basic of life skills.

You have to rely on the kindness of strangers. Without them to guide and teach you, you’d be lost. From locals who give you rides to people who help you when you get hurt to those who just tell you where to go or invite you into their homes, you need their guidance and assistance the same way a child needs an adult’s.

Every day on the road, you are learning what to do for the first time and how you have to rely on other people — just like a child.

Sure, this constant relearning is one of the tiresome aspects of travel. It’s a lot of mental work to constantly figure out whom to trust, how to behave, and how to get around. It is why long-term travelers always eventually slow down (and why people who travel too fast burn out). After a while, you just can’t be doing this every day. Your mental energy gets depleted. The brain burns out.

But it’s through this process that you really grow up. You come to understand the world the same way you grew to understand your hometown.

First, you get to learn how different countries operate. As the quote by Henry Rollings says, “A great way to learn about your country is to leave it.” By repeatedly seeing how other places operate, you get a sense of what your home country does right — and wrong.

It also gives you an infinite number of chances to improve yourself and how you do things.

We live the majority of our lives on autopilot. We get up, we go to work, we run errands, we watch Netflix — and then we do it all over again the next day. We know where to eat, where to shop, how to get around, and what places to avoid. We know the exact route to get to the grocery store and we’ve done it so many times that we just can kind of zone out on the way there as we think about the million other things we have to do.

In our day-to-day lives, we follow routines. Our minds don’t constantly need to do “the work” of figuring out how to live.

And any book on psychology will tell you how important that is to function as an adult. We need routine because we only have so much bandwidth per day to make decisions. Routines…

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