Why Travel Matters
Last week I was asked to speak at a Women’s Travel Alliance event here in Charlottesville. It was Thursday night, two days after the election, and I was still short of words and understanding. I was asked to speak about travel blogging and why it’s important. But, why blog? Why write, why share stories, pictures and videos? I struggled coming up with an answer. All the hours and thought that goes into each post, why does it matter?
I thought back to what had actually brought me the most joy from it all. If I were operating in a naive little box perhaps I’d say the clout – I recently got recognized at a bar in Copenhagen (crazy, right!?), and have a media kit chock full of partnerships I’ve done with brands. But is it worth it? No.
Before moving forward though – here’s my question to YOU: what makes travel so enjoyable and perhaps addictive? I thought about this for awhile and concluded that what I love is learning about people, places, and cultures that I’d otherwise be oblivious to.
I love wandering bustling markets, observing old grandpas playing chess on park benches, and trying squid ink pasta because the waiter told me it’s his favorite. Travel for me isn’t about stepping away from my home, but about stepping towards a destination and realizing that it’s someone else’s home. Travel is important because it brings perspective.
Sharing these stories and experiences, whether it’s blogging or otherwise, matters because it encourages others to gain their own perspective.
It prompts others to go and explore beyond their comfort zone – only to realize that despite the miles and hours from their ‘normal’ we are in fact all the same. We have our families, our friends, our favorite restaurant and our dreams.
We meet people like Beppe (sounds like Pepe), a baker I befriended in Tuscany. He appreciates good food and is well-loved by his family and friends. One month ago today I did a day hike with Beppe through the misty Tuscan vineyards. At one point we stopped in the middle of an olive grove and Beppe unveiled a hot loaf of bread he’d made that morning at his shop, then poured olive oil – from the grove which we stood – on to slices for all of us to try. Safe to say, Beppe is incredibly thoughtful and proud of his homeland.
Perhaps just as memorable – despite the language barrier, each of my interactions with Beppe confirmed that he was a true jokester. While toasting a couple’s wedding anniversary at dinner one evening the husband stepped away to take a picture of the group – Beppe, spotting his opportunity, quickly stepped in and embraced the wife for the shot. Our entire group rolled with laughter (the husband too!).It’s people like Beppe that give me perspective on what it’s like to be Tuscan or Italian. After the recent earthquake in central Italy I thought of Beppe and the other friends we’d encountered there – was Beppe affected? was he alright? Suddenly, what happens outside of my own political borders matters.
Travel isn’t just a fun pastime or hobby, it’s a vital element to society. The more we can all grow in our understanding and empathy for the rest of the world, the better we’ll all be. Share your stories, share the perspective you gained, or simply encourage others to go. No matter if it’s grabbing your keys or your passport, we all have something to learn.