Why I Believe in the Discipline of Travel

Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors.

―Terry Pratchett

I’m flying home today after spending a week in the Caribbean. It’s been a week full of life change — of new perspectives gained and old passions resurrected.

As I’m traveling today, waking up at 3am to drive two hours to the San Juan airport to drop a group of high schoolers off for their 8am flight, I’m wondering why I do this, why I travel at all.

What makes all this worth the hassle?

Why Travel
Photo credit: Flickr (Creative Commons)

I don’t get to travel very often. When I can get away, I jump at the opportunity. That’s what brings me to Puerto Rico this week — and what’s brought me to Italy, Kenya, Taiwan, and so many other places.

It’s been a refreshing, uplifting time of personal and spiritual growth for me and has reminded me why I travel in the first place. Without the airplane ride, exotic setting and new types of food, I wouldn’t have grown.

This is why I believe in the discipline of travel. It does something to the soul that no other activity can touch. It stretches your mind and perspective in new and extraordinary ways. I travel for several reasons, but the main one is this:

I travel to remember that I’m not complete

There are areas in my life that need help. I still need to grow in my faith. I still need to be affirmed as a leader. I still need to be challenged as a man.

I tend to hit plateaus when I’m stuck in the same place for too long.

It could be an office job or the same old routine or just the plain, old rhythms of life.

But eventually, I get restless.

Travel disrupts my comfort

It makes me rely on God. It causes me to give up unhealthy obsessions.

When I know where my next meal is coming from or exactly what tomorrow will hold, I’m less dependent on forces outside myself.

And I don’t like that.

I don’t like being a person who doesn’t know how to trust. I don’t like believing the lie that life depends solely on me. I want to believe in something more.

I travel to remember that.

Travel reminds me of the instability of life

A change of place can do a lot to your spirit.

It can stir you to a deeper place of dependence, of reflection, of a need for something bigger than yourself. That’s why I travel — to grow.

Yes, I like to see different cultures and meet new people. I love getting to see live flamenco music or eat “stinky tofu.” But at the end of the day, what happens internally is so much more significant than what happens externally. Because what happens inside me stays with me.

I can bring transformation home — and then give it to someone else.

Why you should travel

I’ve had the privilege of seeing the lives of 30 young people changed this week. Their worldviews have been stretched, their comfort zones expanded, and their ideals tested.

Yeah, it was pretty fun.

This is why I continue travel. Yes, because it has changed me. But also because it can change others.

I hope you’ll consider taking a trip, if you’ve never done this kind of thing before. If you’re young, I hope you find a way to travel the world. It’s worth whatever sacrifices you may have to make.

Wherever you are in life and whatever you do, I hope you’ll find a way to remember that you are not complete.

Here are some other reasons to travel:

  • To get an education in global cultures
  • To learn from others
  • To be humbled
  • To see things you’d never see at home
  • To appreciate where you come from
  • To fall in love
  • To finally be understood
  • To be inspired (and inspire)
  • To learn to laugh at yourself
  • To resurrect dreams
  • To find a new way of doing an old thing

Why do you travel? Share in the comments.

70 thoughts on “Why I Believe in the Discipline of Travel

  1. To rest. 

    Maybe that is just to physically rest on a pure vacation.

    Maybe it is, like you said, to get away from the rhythm of normal life, and to rest in the Father. 

    Either way, to rest.

  2. I LOVE other cultures. I was a military brat and I’ve travelled and lived in various places all my life. Some that grew up in the same town for their entire life would think that sounds miserable. I’ll admit it was tough moving so often but I have a perspective that not many have. 

    The desire to travel and see the world will always be in me. My most coveted destination is New Zealand. I’m hoping to get out there before the kiddies get here.

    1. New Zealand is up there in my list of places to go. But I can’t find anybody to go with me, because they know I will just walk around quoting Lord of the Rings, and acting out the scenes when we find a location.

      1. I found it interesting while living there that for the longest time they didn’t even have any signs identifying the various places the  filming took place.  It is a very understated culture and not prone to making a big ado about things like that – but eventually too many tourists were wandering on private land and disrupting their quiet peaceful lives, so they put up signs to help them find their way.

    2. It’s a beautiful country.  I’ve been to more than 60 nations and NZ would be in my top 3.  I lived there while writing for a Christian magazine based out of a rural area north of Auckland,  Ended up becoming a dual citizen- so if you end up visiting, I can steer you to some places. 

  3. I think I travel to realize there is more than just my little world. When I was in Jerusalem a few years ago I realized there were people going about their life while my friends and family on the other side of the world slept. I also appreciate how blessed I am. 

  4. I travel for the adventure. Forcing myself to do things out of my comfort zone greatly opens up my world. On my last vacation last month, I rode the longer zip line in the world over open water in Haiti, got proficient on a boogie board on a surf simulator on a cruise ship, and did some real-life surfing for the first time in Palm Beach, Florida. These experiences get me out of my rut, challenge my abilities, and give me confidence that I can do things I’ve always told myself I couldn’t.

  5. love this Jeff. Love this so much. Although I feel so blessed, because I seem to always be out of my comfort zone living in this country. I feel more at home with the nations I minister to and my fellow people in recovery. So I guess I could write why I travel to the suburbs or why I go back to my hometown. It always is a growing experience for me to travel back to Wisconsin back to where I was raised and see wow Jesus you totally saved me from a hot mess situation. Its also important for me to keep growing so that is why I love that I am constantly in contact with so many different people. I feel like I am constantly on a mission trip I never know what I will run into for instant today involves serving women with Aids, yesterday involved helping myself and others who struggle with addiction and mental illness, the day before helping a school teacher, and Sunday dancing with my Nepali friends at church. One of the best part about missions is the constant learning process and it’s also one of the hardest things about it. Again, I see the growth shining through your writing. 

  6. Great articulation, Jeff. I feel like travel cures myopia for me. When I spend too long in my town, I start to think that the world ends at the city limits, and life gets a little too black and white. Travel breaks down those barriers for me. It also plugs me in to how big Grace is, to see all of those people and to realize that grace can meet them the same way it met me, is very humbling. Thanks for the insight!

  7. Smiling as I read this because it’s so true. 🙂 Travel strengthens me, frees and inspires and teaches me, and I love it. Right now I’m traveling on crutches – a wholly new experience for me – and I’m learning a lot. 🙂

  8. Beautiful. Thanks for reminding me of why it’s okay to be hungry for new experiences. Ever since my semester abroad, I’ve struggled with whether my hunger for travel is an inability to be happy where I am, or whether it’s a legitimate need to keep moving. But the truth is, travel is an inspiration for growth, change and creativity, and we should never settle into our lives so comfortably that we feel complete without going new places and meeting new people. God made the world big and round for a reason. 🙂

  9. This was beautifully written, Jeff.  I’m not much of a traveler, and yet you wrote convincingly enough to make me want to book a flight, or simply get in my car in drive.  I especially love how  you described ‘disrupting your comfort’ as a good thing and related that to trusting God.   Very nice post.

  10. Thanks, Jeff – great thoughts.  I love to travel, too, and always feel fortunate to have the new experiences and meet new people that help create the final person we continue to become.  Thanks for what you are doing to help others!

  11. I travel mainly to go and experience life and fun with the family. We’ve been to some really neat places. Havana, Cuba sticks out though. Being in a third world country where the only thing familiar is the American Dollar makes you truly appreciate the freedom we have in our own country. But Cuba is still a beautiful country where, believe it or not, everyone you meet is happy and very friendly.

    1. Interesting. I just spoke with someone else who had been to Cuba recently and shared a different report. However, I do hear from all that it’s a beautiful country.

  12. Jeff, I just entered the following as a post to my FaceBook friends: 
    I follow a blogger–@JeffGoins–and he asked a provocative question in this attached post. I plan to make it my daily and weekly measure for how well I honor God with my life. He asked: “Did you make a difference this week?” I can do that by making a difference at least once a day.

  13. Over the years of my travels, I have gathered some quotes that say it so well. These are just a few of my favorites.
    Traveling is the first link in diplomacy. – Jean Victor Nkolo 
    The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.  ~St. Augustine
    No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.  ~Lin Yutang
    If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home.  ~James Michener

  14. At the time of your posting, I was en route  back to the U. S. after two weeks in the Middle East–first time to be in that setting but hopefully not the last. Traveling certainly opens my heart to God’s presence and lessons. The result is loads of new thoughts and therefore loads of new post ideas including my most recent, “A Chaotic Crossing,” at tnealtarver.wordpress.com.

  15. Right now I’m on a ten day mission trip to Cambodia. Way out of my comfort zone but I am who I am because of these trips. Great article and couldn’t agree more

  16. I just got off the road from 5 weeks of travel. I agree with everything that you said, there are blessings and curses from travel. But I would have to stand by saying the blessings will most always outweigh the curses, unless of course it is an unfortunately awful trip experience. 

  17. I am going to resign end of this year and dedicating 2012 for a year of nothing but travels. But that does not mean I’m jobless.. going to do freelance and taking advantage of this freedom and flexibility 😉

    1. I can really relate to Jeff’s writing because that’s exactly why I travel. I’ve always, since high school, traveled in a non-touristy manner. Meaning doing relief work or community service. Its popular in Singapore schools. And this has inspired me to embrace budget traveling and continue to travel to experience a less pseudo way. Credits to couchsurfing, a social-networking site, for helping me a lot to travel in the way that I enjoy most.

  18. I sound condescending as I say this but rarely do I read anything that truly resonates with me…I get everything you have written here and feel as passionately about the essence of it all!
    Thanks for finding a way to articulate a lot of what I feel! Keep traveling, keep learning, keep feeling alive!

  19. As a Christian, travel agent, blogger, and coach, I love this post on all of these levels. Some things are difficult (though a good travel agent can make traveling less so   🙂  ), but the really worthwhile ones are worth the effort.

  20. I travel because I love to feel like an explorer when I leand about a new culture. I also travel because it drives me closer to my family. Traveling is just great!

  21. A topic very close to my heart.

    Travel is my number one passion. It fuels my soul and helps me grow. It helps me see beyond the obvious. If I ever have to stop travelling, I may as well stop living.

  22. I’m going backpacking around South East  Asia next year and I have some ideas about an adventrue book. I’m totally motivated by your post. Thanks !

  23. Jeff, I like your point near the end about travelling to appreciate where you come from.  I do this in two ways: I travel third-world so I appreciate the amenities I usually take for granted, and I travel to the place where I grew up to revisit my roots and appreciate where I started out.  Both are spiritually refreshing, in different ways.

  24. I’am 29 years old and I’am living in Puerto Rico.I still have your same idea. I ♥ TRAVEL outside my country because I learn about other cultures, textures, life! I got married and my husband like travel with me to any place in the world! This is the idea, travel, travel, travel! Ps: Sorry for my English, my first language is Spanish!!!

  25. Well said! I couldn’t agree more! Travel is an incredibly humbling and inspiring experience and has a way of pushing us outside of our comfort zones and into extraordinary experiences that we would never otherwise have the opportunity to explore! It’s amazing!

  26. Great post, love all your stuff, keep getting it out, can’t wait for the next one,
    By the way travel at any age is exciting and educating, try it with one that never did, t ia amazing.

  27. Man I needed to hear that today! Just the motivation I needed to get off my ass and buy that ticket to Cartagena…need some disruption about now!

  28. Please do not travel to Napoli, Italy without any sense of awareness! Tourists are the targets of underground crimes. They work in groups to steal your belongings under your nose. They can even steal your whole car if you parked along the road! For sure, you will learn, grow n discover yourself but not under these type of situations. We were there n know the guests in our hotel who were victimized. Be safe n continue to travel. Great post Jeff.

  29. The first time my family in a Hong Kong it excites me so much, because it a new experience that will bond us. The new experience will make us relay on each other, the language barrier tested our creative way to communicate with the locals, and it an opportunity to get know the best and worst side of each other. We had tension in Hong Kong but at the end of the day it help us to know each other better. That’s what I like about travelling it makes our family bond stronger, because we don’t have anyone else to depend too. But when we travelled in South Korea it was a different experience, I enjoyed it more because we connect with the locals, get to talk to them, and simply experience their culture, I don’t mind asking help from the locals because they are very accommodating it makes my experience better. My regret was that I didn’t have the chance to walk around the city on my own and feel environment; and wasn’t able to try bungee jumping at Nami Island. Its one of my bucket list to do.

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