Don't you love those pictures that show correspondents in foreign places, ruddy, muddy, sweaty -- Sebastian Junger in Afghanastan, a photographer atop an elephant wading in the Ganges, a fashion writer in Milan sipping cappuccino streetside. This month we dedicated a juicy chunk of Ladies Who Launch content to how travel stimulates or inspires launching, because if you're like me, every time I see one of those pictures I can't wait to book a transatlantic flight to "somewhere." So many businesses are also travel-inspired, especially for women, who perhaps suffer from wanderlust the most. Minneapolis member Kelly Westhoff weighs in on the itch she can never quite scratch.
Amy Swift, Editor in Chief, www.ladieswholaunch.com
My Travel, My God
I battle addiction. My drug of choice? Travel.
I read about travel. I write about travel. I teach about travel. I even started a web site all about travel. I've studied abroad, lived abroad and worked abroad. I've mastered "please" and "thank you" in at least six foreign tongues. My passport counts more than twenty stamps. My obsessive traveling has caused my mother great worry and strain. It has caused me strain as well. I have lost bosses, boyfriends--and even girlfriends--in my relentless pursuit of the next big trip. They all wonder, why can't I just stay put?
Why can't I just stay put?
There is a common misperception about travel junkies. It is often said that we travel to "find" ourselves. We do not. Or at least, I do not. I do, however, go looking for something when I travel. I go looking for God.
This revelation will shock some people in my life. I'm not a particularly religious girl. I tend to purse my lips tight when the subject comes up. I don't quote the Bible, and I don't attend regular church. Instead, for me, travel is church. Let me explain.
I like to travel close to the ground. I stay in budget hotels and carry my clothes on my back. I avoid package tours, preferring to map my own path. Yes, I've gotten lost. I've been frustrated to tears. I'll even admit to being scared. But I don't wander the globe to be comfy and snug. I travel to know I'm alive.
Rarely do I feel more alive than when I travel. At home, it's so easy to fall into a rut, to drive the same roads every day and eat the same dish from the same Chinese joint every week. Frankly, after a while, home can get kind of boring. Routine does not stimulate my brain in the ways that travel can.
When I land in a foreign city, suddenly, every ounce of my being is alert. Talking is a challenge. Flushing the toilet is an adventure. Buying a package of gum can become a 30-minute ordeal in which I must pay total attention. Foreign travel is a full-body workout, and I love the rush. It makes me feel bold. It makes me feel smart. It makes me feel like I'm finally pooling all my schooling and talents and skills into a concentrated, combined effort, that I am being--to steal a line from the army--the very best I can be, and I can't help but think it pleases the divine to see me living in the moment and not zoning on the couch.
Travel also offers me something else: human contact. Life at home is too sterile. I'm enclosed in my car, my office, my house. I hear the same voices, see the same faces. It has done my faith great good to go out into the world and interact with strangers.
For example, in Havana, three grandmothers rushed to my defense in a camera snatching. Once, a Mexico City restaurateur invited me to a white-linen lunch--innuendo free--and introduced me to the chef. There was also this time in Burma, when the night was dark and the city shady, that a taxi driver delivered me to a safe bed for sleeping. None of these people knew me, but they protected, befriended and helped me. Were they living embodiments of the Good Samaritan? I think so.
Travel puts me in the path of strangers. It gives me the opportunity to reach out to others, to people who do not look like, talk like or think like me. And I have found, by and large, that those people usually reach back. And that being the case, I have to believe in something bigger than me, in something bigger than them, in something that sparks our curiosity for each other and causes us to handle one another with care.
I'm not daft. I know evil exists. But travel, more than any worship service I have ever attended, reveals the awesome wonder and good that exists in this world. And that is why my bags will always be packed and my passport ready.
By: Kelly Westhoff, Global Roam ink., www.globalroamink.com