If you’re plugged into social media–and really, who isn’t, these days–it looks like everyone is living a life of travel, dreaming about travel, or has quit a 9-5 job in search of perpetual vacation. As Alexandra Turney, blogger and author of the Go Thou to Rome blog, recently wrote on the Huffington Post, “These days, everyone travels.”
Of course, while what we see on social media is often a beautiful illusion, many people are indeed fueled by wanderlust and taking advantage of easy, accessible, and affordable travel unknown to previous generations. Some have even become digital nomads, working and living wherever the wind blows them. Certainly not everyone travels, but a lot of people do.
Sometimes I wonder whether my four children who have grown up traveling and ‘roadschooling’ will ever know the life-changing magic that travel offers. Or whether they will even truly appreciate how lucky they are to jet off to kayak in the British West Indies, road trip to all 48 Contiguous States in the USA, hike in the Alps, float through the canals of Venice, bathe in Iceland’s hot springs, or do math assignments at Starbucks in Paris or NYC. Will they ever think, “Wow, all this travel is incredible.”
Or will my children, like so many people these days, take travel for granted? Will they see travel, exotic sights, and historical attractions simply as check boxes on a bucket list–or an activity to score social media followers and likes? Is traveling becoming so mainstream that it is no longer a big deal. Will it become so mundane that it is no longer appreciated?
Cheap travel, social media, and screen time may remove elements of travel surprise–or at least desensitize us in advance to the charm of a destination–however, any way you slice it, travel is by nature life-changing. As with anything, though, travel might be at risk for under-appreciation, but even if it’s not fully appreciated, it still has an impact on shaping one’s life experience.
Travel is adventure.
Adventure is life-changing.
Travel today may not look like travel of the early 2000s, 90s, or 1890s. Travelers may now know all the secrets of a particular place before they ever step out their front door, but people still have to step foot in a place to truly experience it–to breathe it, feel the environment’s energy, interact with the people, absorb the culture, or taste the food. The secret to the magic may be figured out in advance thanks to the Internet, but the impact of the travel experience, even if done solely to capture a sweet Instagram pic, is somewhere imprinted in the mind, body, and soul as a life experience.
It may not look like a life-changing experience–or be filled with life-changing moments–to those who knew the old way before the Internet–before the days of iPhone Travel Apps or Selfie Sticks. It may look different–less powerful, less consequential, less defining–but that doesn’t mean it is.
My children may not ever know the awe and wonder of flying in an airplane for the first time, as I did when I took my first flight at age 19. They may not appreciate what it means to road trip without a GPS or Google Maps (although they do rock at reading paper maps) or understand what it is like to get off a train in a random, small Swiss town without first researching everything about it on Google, locating it on Google Maps, or seeing pictures of it on Instagram, but that doesn’t mean the magic and life-changing experience of travel is lost, forfeited, or somehow less meaningful.
Travel shapes us.
Travel naturally means stepping outside of one’s comfort zone, even if it is a very small step.
Travel is change.
Change is growth.
When there’s change, there is growth. New awareness, a shift in perspective, fresh ideas. We are shaped and re-shaped by travel.
For the sake of our world and my children’s futures, I can only hope that travel becomes more popular, that my social media feeds flood with more travel pics–even beach feet selfies and selfie-stick captures–and that wanderlust fuels everyone.
After all, change is good.
You can never have too much of a good thing when travel is in the picture.