Travel is a choice and one that I make as often as work and life allows. In a bout of introspection, I have been examining what motivates travel – the need to jump on a plane and go at every possible chance. Why travel? It seems that there could be a scientific explanation. Novelty seeking behavior (often linked to substance abuse because of the tendency toward impulsive and exploratory behavior) may be linked to a variation in a dopamine receptor gene. This gene may explain why some of us travel more than others and why we find travel to be addicting. Quite simply, it makes us feel good. Moreover research has shown that spending money on experiences instead of possessions, brings more happiness. The anticipation of an event actually causes our happiness to build. And in the case of travel, once we depart it is easier to find ourselves living moment-to-moment which psychologists also attribute to contributing to a greater degree of contentment. Our brains are meant to focus on one thing at a time and not wander from thought to thought, worry to worry.
And while biology and the search for happiness may predispose some of us to travel obsessively, we choose a type of trip for a myriad of reasons. Cultural immersion, adventure, escape, solitude, and exploration are frequently listed as primary drivers for those with wanderlust. We travel to see the world; to reconnect with our true selves; to appropriate a place as our own; to bond with loved ones; to relax; to see a place, animal, or painting we saw in a photograph; or to break-out of our comfort zone.
For someone like me who is driven by routine and easily falls into the quotidian tasks that consume days and weeks, travel is a break – an escape from the mundane. Away from my daily life, I see things more clearly, think more freely, and my creative juices flow. I devour entire books and I spend time lost in thought or better yet, thinking about nothing in particular. This is particularly true when my travels take me to cities where I can wander the streets alone or when I am out in nature soaking up the pristine beauty of a location. Travel leaves me feeling more present, mindful, reflective, and connected to the organic web of life. When I return home, I am recharged – my work-self reaping the benefits of a cleared mind.
Yet there are times when travel has become the routine Instead of a desire to explore a new place I want nothing more than to be at home running errands and sleeping in my own bed. When these moments dominate a weekend away, it is time to scale back. Toward the end of last year, my travels had become too much. Despite visiting Cape Town, Franschhoek, Kuala Lumpur, and Widerness, I didn’t feel inspired to write anything. Writing a travel blog, made me feel as if I had to continue jetting off even though I wasn’t deriving much pleasure from these sojourns. When work kept me tethered to Johannesburg for most of January and February, is was this imposed travel break that re-awakened my wanderlust.
Plan a staycation and explore places you have never been to before. Spin the globe and randomly select your next destination Pack the kids in the car and head to a nearby campsite. Buy a ticket and embark on a solo journey. Go somewhere you have always wanted to go that excites your imagination.
Why travel? Because it is good for the soul.
“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson