Why We Travel

This post originally published as a guest post on The Unexpected Journey's blog. You can see the original post here!

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Hello! We're Bailey & Vince!

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And this is why we travel:

When we sat down to write this post, we considered all of the possible ways we could describe our love and reasons why we travel. We thought about all of its psychological and relaxing benefits. We thought about our innate wanderlust (and the snobbery that can often come with it in the blogosphere). We thought about our entitled right as Millennials to wander the world. And then we thought about just keeping it simple:

We travel because we love to experience the unknown - together.

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Because We Like to Encounter Problems (and Solve Them)

When you're traveling, whether on a staycation or halfway around the world, problems inevitably arise. Some are minor (like forgetting to pack a razor on a beach holiday) and some a major (like not being able to drive the 15 km in your rental car to your hotel because eight glacial rivers stand in your way). So traveling is a breeding ground for problems.

But don't people travel to escape the difficulties of normal life?

Yes and no. People travel to escape the mundane of their routine lives, and problem solving while traveling is anything but mundane. On the contrary, it's an exciting new way to stretch our brains and creativity! When you're on the road, myriad things will stand between you and a solution. Things like language barriers, technological issues, cultural clashes, and more. Sometimes you have to use all of your resources - no matter how obscure - to get what you need.

Doesn't that sound like fun? Well, for us it does.

Back to those glacial rivers: When we were in Iceland, we rented a car to circle the country's Ring Road. On our first night outside of Reykjavik, we turned off of the main highway onto a gravel road leading to our hotel. (This is pretty common in Iceland where the majority of roads are only suitable for 4-wheel-drive vehicles.) When we reached the first river, we were surprised but a little energized by the opportunity to truly off-road our way around Iceland. What explorers we were! When we reached the second, deeper river we hesitated.

Thankfully, we'd bought a local cell phone to help us navigate. We used it to review the hotel's booking page, right there alongside the river. Come to find out that normal cars aren't allowed to drive to the hotel on account of the unpredictable rivers! We had to book tickets on a specially equipped bus to get us there, which we obviously hadn't done. Thinking resourcefully, we purchased our tickets on the spot, returned to the pickup location down the road, used our free time to explore a nearby volcano, and still made it to our hotel that night! Was that an inconvenient route to our hotel? Absolutely. Could we have easily given up and slept in the car that night? Yes. Instead, we embraced this crazy detour, figured out a solution, and got to enjoy more sights on our vacation because of it!

Solving problems on the road helps put things perspective in our lives. We quickly weed out the big problems from the small ones that aren't worth stressing over. We've found that this skill even transfers into our everyday lives. Bring on the problems!

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Hayna Picchu 2004

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Because We Like to Feel Small

Traveling forces you to understand how simultaneously enormous and small the world is. For us, this feeling never grows old. Part of why we travel is so we can better define the tiny little corner that we take up in the world.

The first time I (Bailey) went to Peru I was a high school student, still green to the world. (The quality of the above photo, and its accompanying thumb, should be a giveaway of how long ago that was.) This was my first time experiencing a culture very different from my own. Previously, I'd toured western Europe, but, being European in descent, these cultures weren't drastically different from my own. Peru, however, was like no culture or history like I'd ever experienced before. Already I was feeling the world expanding around me.

The main reason I traveled to Peru that summer was to see Machu Picchu. I was extremely lucky to get to do this as a sophomore in high school! On the day we finally reached the UNESCO World Heritage Site, we were set loose for a few hours of exploring. I made a bee line for the trail up Huayna Picchu, the tall neighboring peak you see in most photos of Machu Picchu.

Two hours later, I reached the top. As if walking through the ruins of Machu Picchu wasn't enough, I had just hiked an additional 1,000 feet up narrow, slippery paths. As far as I was concerned, I was on top of the world! Perched atop Huayna Picchu, I experienced one of those a-ha moments that push your life in defining directions. I felt a strong connection between the ancient past that built these ruins and my present and future. It was on that peak that I decided to study Spanish and Anthropology in undergrad, which ultimately has set the course for my life.

Sometimes the only way to center yourself is to throw yourself into the unknown. These experiences change you, oftentimes for the better. Sometimes the changes are subtle and sometimes they practically smack you in the face. Either way, they leave you a little wiser about the world and about yourself.

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Because We Support Food in all of its Forms and Flavors

Unless you live in a place like New York City, where literally every cuisine is a simple takeout order away, you're not going to be exposed to a huge a variety of cuisines in your home town.

Enter traveling.

Traveling is one of the absolute best ways to experience new foods and flavors. This can seem really daunting, especially if you tend to be a picky eater, but it's also really exciting! For us, eating is the second most important experience on a trip (after sightseeing). Dining is hands down the best way to absorb a new culture. How else can you truly support the idea of the Spanish siesta than after a traditionally large lunchtime meal? How else can you appreciate the historic hardships of Icelandic agriculture than by eating almost nothing but fish and meat at every meal? And how else can you savor the Adriatic Sea than by biting into a freshly caught tuna on the coast of Croatia?

Before I (Bailey) studied abroad during college in Bilbao, Spain, I hated fish. Naturally, I selected a coastal town as my new home. For the first month or so I avoided fish, even if my host mom prepared it for dinner (sorry about that, Mamá Cristina). Yes, my host mom was a tremendous cook, but I was certain that even she couldn't magically make fish appetizing.

On the eve of our neighborhood's annual festival, Mamá Cristina prepared a very traditional Basque dish called bacalao al pil pil. It's this painstakingly prepared dish that features white fish filets nestled in a shallow pool of creamy sauce. Given the holiday, and the amount of hours my host mom had spent in the kitchen that day, I decided to try this particular dish. What a fish! The creamy richness of the sauce perfectly complemented the tender cod in a way that I'd never experienced. I went back for seconds. I may have had thirds. (Did I mention my host mom was a really good cook?) Prior to this milestone, I was certain I hated all fish, when really I'd just never had good fish!

I later came to find out the cultural significance of this dish. Part of the reason the sauce is so rich is because it's slowly simmered from the skin of the cod. In the past, this dish was very popular among residents of the Basque region because it used nearly every portion of the fish. Not only was this bacalao converting me to pescetarian ways, but I was learning a cultural lesson with it! Sometimes only food can teach you these types of lessons about a culture and its past.

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Because We Like Good Old-Fashioned Sightseeing

Some people take pride in their carefully curated, completely obscure bucket lists that take them to the farthest reaches of the globe. These travelers relish in the chance to go where few have ventured so they can brag about their unique experiences later. Some travelers are more interested in popular attractions and look forward to guided tours and itineraries.

We prefer to have a healthy mix of both on our bucket list. While we certainly enjoy traveling those roads less taken, there is something to be said about your standard sightseeing. The classics (Big Ben, Times Square, the Eiffel Tower, etc.) are classics for a reason. They stand the test of time because they bridge a culture and its past to the present and its future. And who wants to go to Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower?

The first time I saw the Coliseum, I was completely unprepared. During an impromptu trip, my (Bailey's) friends and I had landed in Rome just hours earlier. We were strolling the Roman streets late at night feeling like a million bucks. Suddenly we rounded a corner and the Coliseum stood directly in front of us. It was just there in the middle of the city, as it had been for hundreds of years. The entire group fell silent, in awe of where we were. I think I even teared up. (Keep in mind, I was an Anthropology major in college.) The Coliseum, and so many sights like it in the world, are the kinds of places that you always read about and see photos of. You always hope you'll get to see them in person, and when you do for the first time it's unforgettable.

The next day we returned for an actual tour of the international landmark. Satisfied just by being here, I would have been happy to wander the grounds by ourselves. My friends encouraged us to splurge for the guided tour and I'm so glad we did. In places such as the Colosseum, it is often more beneficial to take a guided tour. On your own, you're likely to bypass subtle details or stories that can only be gained by a guide or a lengthy round of researching (and who has time for that?). Plus, you can ask your guide after the tour for tips on great local restaurants and lesser-known attractions!

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When you travel to experience something new, you inevitably learn something new about yourself. Maybe you learn that you can be quick on your feet in a problematic situation, and that helps you build confidence in your everyday life. Maybe a mountain vista inspires your future trajectory. Or maybe you just learn that you really love fish after all.

You're enlarging your world when you travel, and that helps make the world a smaller, more inclusive place for everyone. Keep wandering, friends!

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This post originally published as a guest post on The Unexpected Journey's blog. You can see the original post here!

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Ever wonder why your wanderlust friends do what they do? Why they spend so much time and money away from home? Well this is why we do what we do; this is Why We Travel!