The real reason I travel

The Real Reason I Travel (2)I have been feeling uncharacteristically emotional and anxious lately. These feelings, I’m sure, are symptoms of stress from exams, lack of sleep, nervousness about my impending graduation and uncertainty about the future. This emotional tempest of late has caused me to be immensely introspective; I’ve thought deeply about who I am, who I want to be, where I came from, where I want to be and what I want to do with the rest of my life. When I try addressing each question, travel always seems to come up.

But why travel? Most people reading this blog are also travelers who I’m sure could talk for hours about why they love to travel and what travel means to them, but I’m still trying to figure out what it means to me. Of course, I love travel because I love learning about cultures different from my own, meeting people who have amazing life stories, falling in love with art and architecture and music from around the world, and meeting other travelers who are as passionate about these things as I am. Yet these factors describe only why I love traveling, not why I’m obsessed with it.

Truth is, I’m scared. What, Alexis? How does scared = obsessed?  Bear with me.

As I’ve recounted tales from my international trips to family and some older friends, I’ve usually been met with the same response, “Wow! I wish I had traveled when I was still young and healthy” or “I’m jealous! I always wanted to travel, but I got too caught up in my career and never found time…” Some are moderately regretful that they didn’t travel, others seem to be truly torn by their decisions. No matter what the level of regret they feel, I’m terrified that will be me someday.

I’m afraid of growing old and never crossing things off my bucket list. I’m afraid that any moment, a terrible accident will happen, and I’ll pass away without having fulfilled my dreams. I’m afraid of running out of time.

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Life is too damn short.

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Exactly one year ago, I lost one of the most important people in my life to brain cancer. He was more than a friend, someone I loved and who inspired me every moment we spent together. Even before he found out he was dying, Zach made the most of every minute, always chasing an adventure or story (we met in journalism class) and always seeing the best in every situation. One of the mantras he lived and swore by was,”Make each day your masterpiece,” and he did just that up to his last breath. He would have been 22 this May.

Since his death, I have vowed to honor him by in turn making each day my masterpiece. Any day can be a masterpiece if one is open, optimistic and sees beauty in everyday things, especially those things that disguise themselves as ugly. But the true way to make each day you masterpiece is to spend it doing what you love.

What I love most is traveling.

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Part of me is writing this post for my parents, to justify why I want to go abroad for a while after graduation. Like any wise, realistic parents should, they hope I get a job out the gate so I can begin earning a decent living and pay off student loans. Honestly, that is the smart and noble thing to do, and I know my parents want only what is best for me.

The other part is writing for myself, to know that if I decide to do a working holiday or teach English abroad for a year (I’ll definitely still have to work while I travel), I shouldn’t feel guilty for following my dreams. The ideal situation would be to find a job in the career field I want — public relations/marketing/research/data — that allows me to travel. Trust me, I’m searching for that job, but I can’t guarantee I will find it. Thus, in the meantime, I want to work toward fulfilling what dreams I can so my bucket list doesn’t become The List of Things I Wish I Did. I refuse pass away carrying inside me a depository of regrets.

I want to see the world before I run out of time. I want to take advantage of the fact that I am young, healthy, able, mobile, educated and, most importantly, alive.

That is the real reason I travel.