Friday, January 23, 2009

Is Travel Addictive?

For me, travel is addictive. I really like getting out of my comfort zone when I'm traveling and in a different culture, language, and place. I just got back from a month in Vietnam and Cambodia and I'm ready to take off again in a totally different direction. I think it is a good addiction. My father was a Navy guy who had traveled all over the world and loved learning about the cultures and geography of the rest of the world. I treasured the slides from Turkey, the linens from Ireland, the stories from Russia, the glassware from Italy (and the stories), and the silk slippers from North Africa. I was convinced my father had been everywhere. And indeed, he had been to most places in the world except for the Pacific. Although when I moved to the Bay Area in California, he told me about his trip around South America from New York to the Port of Oakland! So maybe I came by this urge to travel naturally. My younger siblings are not so interested, I've noticed. I can't get enough.

So starting from much earlier than my Peace Corps days in North Africa, I've enjoyed learning about other cultures,their history, art, commerce, food, language,writers, and religion. I've been fascinated about the nuance of other ways of looking at the world. Point of view can be influenced by so many things and it's so interesting to parse through those "things."

Here's my theory: travel (the way I do it) is both physical and intellectual. I'm not a "tour" person because I really like to have some idea about how real people live so I stay in very low-cost hotels, travel by bus and train when I can so I can see more and interact more with real people, and eat street food or choose small, local restaurants whenever possible. I like to talk to folks in other countries to find out what they're thinking about and how they see the world. I walk everywhere, miles and miles a day when I'm traveling.

I think the combination of intense learning and intense physical activity is additive. It just feels good. Our brains and bodies know it's good for us. That makes us want more! I'd love to see some research on this topic! This is the best way I know to create new neuronal pathways and synapses as a brain fitness prevention tactic! I forgot to add: it's fun! (And maybe that's the most important thing about travel.)


Anonymous said...

I wonder if it's being an RPCV which makes us non-tour travelers. After you've been individually immersed in another culture, it doesn't feel right to be part of a herd, relying on the guide and someone else's itinerary. I took a Mekong Delta group tour last November and couldn't wait to cut loose the few times there was free time. For Phnom Penh and later Angkor Wat I had solo tours, so I got to know at least two real Cambodians. Then it was on to Thailand where I was "back home", and language was no longer a barrier. Amazing how it all comes back even after 30 years. said...


Thanks for the effort you took to expand upon this post so thoroughly.

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