Why I Travel.
Last Saturday, I sat at the breakfast table telling Nat, the owner of my guest house, that I planned to go ice sating. The look on his face as I said this confused me. Without saying a word he got up from the table, ran to a closet, pulled out some old hockey skates and brought them into the dining room. Little did I know he used to skate and loved it! When the skating rink in Chiang Mai closed down, he’d often travel to Bangkok to visit his aunt and skate. Then she moved. Eventually, he stopped skating altogether.
Later that afternoon, Nat grabbed his wife Katie and a few friends from the guest house, piled us all into his car and drove us down to the local mall to go ice skating. In Thailand. When it was 84 degrees outside.
We probably only skated for an hour, but I smiled a lot. And laughed. And glided. And was so utterly happy. I watched Nat skate again for the first time in forever. I watched him assist his wife, who’d only attempted skating once before. I saw my friend Janine skating along without a care in the world as if this was completely natural to her.
As I glided along, watching the whole scene play out before me, I remembered why I chose to travel in the first place.
You see, when I packed my bags and said my goodbyes earlier this year, I heard over and over again some variation of “I hope you find what you’re looking for…” Those words hung in the air as if I had to know what it was I was seeking to find it. Many thought I was looking for love. Others thought I was looking for thrills. Some thought I was seeking myself.
The truth is, it was none and all of the above at the same time. I don’t know why I left. It’s not like I was running away from anything. I felt called to travel. Called to explore this great big planet I’m fortunate enough to call my home. Maybe I was seeking a life less ordinary? Who knows.
What I do know is this – I’ve always been a people person. I love hearing people’s stories – where they got their scar, their favorite vacation, how they fell in love, why they chose their profession. Stories of love, war, heartbreak, despair, resilience, and overcoming. Maybe I’m interested because these are all parts of my story. Or, maybe, they restore my faith that miracles really do exist, even if in small ordinary gestures. Regardless, I love and crave a need to connect with people. That’s what I wanted to explore in my travels. That’s what I wanted to see with my own two eyes and experience for myself. People.
Yet, when I first started traveling, I felt the need to see all the monuments and do all the touristy things. Don’t get me wrong, I loved sharing a piece of the world with everyone back home. But when I did them, something felt off. It was like trying on a piece of ill-fitted clothing. You liked it on the rack but something about it didn’t look quite right when you placed it on your body.
I’ve also tried traveling with friends. While I’ve had amazing times, something still didn’t feel right. I wasn’t making my own choices anymore, but rather going along with the group for the greater good.
But then last Saturday happened. Ice skating happened. Connection happened. That’s why I travel.
For me, this trip is about people. Meeting people. Hearing their stories. Making memories. Sharing life. Together. Yes, I crave connection. Saturday, I brought a group of people together to do a simple activity – ice skating. It was so beautiful. Sure, we could have seen a temple or done some touristy market. But no. Ice skating was the one thing that connected us, that conjured up old memories as we made new ones. And for one full hour, we all acted like we were 12 years old again.
So now I’m reclaiming my travels. It’s easy to get derailed, feel lost and constantly be seeking answers. I encourage you to slow down. Sit in silence. Take a deep breath and connect with why you started something in the first place. Does it still hold true for you? Are you still fulfilling that dream or following your heart? Maybe. Maybe not. But ask yourself the hard questions before you look up and a lifetime of memories has passed you by.