Why I Travel
A Life Of Travel
Like study and teaching, traveling has always been at the center of my life. If I’m not literally on the road, I’m busy with my wife plotting out our next adventure. My first effort for a life on the road was at age seventeen, as a runaway. A childhood friend and I left for school one November morning and hitchhiked all the way to California. Fifty years later, the journey for me hasn't stopped. By the time I was twenty, I had hitchhiked across the United States three times, and once across Canada from the Blue Water bridge in upper Michigan to the far reaches of Alberta, Jasper, Banff and Vancouver. In those years I had backpacked across the American and Canadian Rockies, the Grand Canyon twice, the great American Sequoia forest, and the Cascade Mountain range in Washington State, including hiking Mt. Rainier long before it erupted. My desire for what I now call an "authentic life experience through travel" has always gone right along with my deeply rooted spiritual inclinations. I have come to realize that for me, they are one and the same. While family responsibilities held me in check for a time (I am the father of four), I plotted small adventures in lieu of the greater ones that I hoped would eventually come. They certainly did -- I have never lost focus.
At this stage of life, I am blessed with a wife who shares my love of learning, adventure and travel. In fact she not only shares it, she inspires and encourages it. When I discover a new destination, she is always quick to include a few more. She is in fact always step ahead of me in this respect, always encouraging and supportive with her knowledge of the world and her courage in the face of things new and untried.
Travel As Education & Spiritual Practice
For people like myself, traveling becomes an extension of our education. I find that It teaches me what it means to be human and alive in the world. For this reason, travel has become an integral part of my teaching and spiritual practice. I have literally gone from the classroom to the university lecture hall, from Divinity Training to the temple or monastery, to the planet.
Since my humble beginnings at 17, I have traveled a good portion of the world. I am a legal citizen of three countries with passports for each. I see every new country I visit as a classroom, every culture a new curriculum with the opportunity to expand my understanding of life and to increase my spiritual awareness.
I consider travel to be part of my spiritual practice because of the deep impact it has had on me over the years. The more I travel, the more aware I feel I become. I am continuously amazed by the lives of others, their intelligence, their skills, their struggles, their ability to overcome hardships and difficult circumstances, their kindness and good will. The more I travel, the more my heart opens to different cultures and people. My education in Anthropology has taught me to observe and analyse the differences and similarities in the various cultures I experience. I do so culturally, socially and spiritually. And I must say, there are many more similarities than I had ever imagined when I first started this global education. I firmly believe that on the deepest level we are all the same, we are all composed of the same stuff. We all share the same needs for love, for happiness and peace of mind. We all experience the same inner struggles, the same feelings of loneliness and fear. In many ways, we not only seek to survive, but we struggle to flourish and eliminate suffering from our lives. Travel has helped me to see that we are all truly part of the same human family. It has enabled me to realize that this is much more than an idealistic concept, it is a stark reality.
Sadly, some of us face life’s difficulties with so much less to work with than others. Sadly, some of us are born into a world without the dignity that comes from a decent home, a clean environment and healthy food. A life that has few if any options, with little or no way to lift ourselves and our loved ones out of violent poverty. You do not have to travel too far to see that some of us are unfortunately born into a world where no matter how hard we work, we will never be allowed to realize our full potential and deepest aspirations. I have experienced this kind of human devastation firsthand, in both the Eastern and Western portions of our planet home. In this way, travel has always served to educate me on a most profound level. It has opened my eyes to the reality of suffering in this world as well as the pure joy that some of us, like myself, are privileged to experience.