Why I Want to Travel

I should have expected it–but I didn’t. The first relative I saw in person after I announced my decision to leave South Korea and do some long-term traveling asked The Question:

“Why do you want to do this?”

Can a question be simpler, yet less unanswerable? I’ve been thinking about this for a few weeks now, and I still don’t have an answer. Oh, I’ve read numerous travel blogs that write about how long-term minimalist travel has changed their lives, and while I know for sure that it will affect me, I just don’t know in what ways.

On a traditional Egyptian felucca (boat), Nile River, Jan. 2013.
On a traditional Egyptian felucca (boat), Nile River, Jan. 2013.

How will it affect me intrapersonally?

I want travel to help me become more positive, less anxious. When I’m settled in one kind of lifestyle for a while, I have the tendency to become… smaller and smaller mentally–spinning the boundaries of my comforts in ever-narrowing spirals. On the road, I hope to have to constantly question my definition of a “comfort zone,” to not let my mind back myself into a corner wallowing at the small things that usually give me anxiety.

Tashkurgan, Xinjiang Province, China, Summer 2013.
Tashkurgan, Xinjiang Province, China, Summer 2013.

How will it affect me interpersonally?

No matter how much I like my solitude, when I’m traveling solo, I need to overcome my inhibitions about talking to people, because being alone for that long drives people crazy. Similar to what I said above about how I hope travel will help lessen my anxiety, travel should get me to not overanalyze the implications of social situations–because, come on, you’re, like, not going to see this person again in another 24-48 hours, so who gives a damn what they think about you?

Me speaking at the Asian Festival of Children's Content, Singapore, May 2013.
Me speaking at the Asian Festival of Children’s Content, Singapore, May 2013.

How will affect me professionally?

…I don’t know??!?!

One reason why I decided not to apply for graduate school next fall is because I feel like I don’t know enough yet about the available fields out there that I might be interested in working in, and therefore I don’t want to make a five-figure investment in my career path when I don’t even know what I want that to be. So, on the road, I want to get to know people and communities different from the ones I’ve been part of already. I want to explore the ways in which I can do the most good.

Lake Tekapo, New Zealand, Feb. 2013.

That said, I also just can’t stop thinking about traveling. If I don’t travel now, wherever I go next, I’ll always be wanting to leave it for the next place… and that’s not giving a fair chance to anywhere. If I don’t travel now, I’ll be stuck with the biggest “what if” regret ever, and I want to try to keep my list of regrets as short as possible.

In the end, I told the relative that the answer to her question was, “Because I want to try it out.”

It’s not the full answer, but it’ll have to do for now.

Zhangjiajie National Park in Hunan Province, China, Spring 2013.
Zhangjiajie National Park in Hunan Province, China, Spring 2013.

Your turn, if you’d like to share: why do YOU travel?


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Jake says:

    I think the real question is – why wouldn’t you want to travel? One life, one youth, one planet – all temporary. I’m so stoked for you, so impressed, and I hope to one day have taken care of this med school debt so I can do the same for more lengthy periods.

    1. Steph Su says:

      I would like to think that most people would think like that (why wouldn’t you want to travel?), but can we really know for sure? For the people who do want to travel, though, I think many have different reasons for doing so. To learn about new cultures? To cross items off their UNESCO World Heritage Sites list? To escape something painful from home? To get Instagram cred? The more I think about this question, the more I want to ask this to everyone I come across. Good luck with med school and I also hope you can do extended traveling in the future!

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