"The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.", wisely pointed out St. Augustine and I wanted to start this article with that quote because traveling has become one of the most essential parts of our lives. Sometimes one travels to exotic places and some others keep it simple and local, but the act of getting out of our homes and experiencing new places, new routes, new food, new people and even new languages is intrinsic to our nature.
Humans were born nomads until they learned how to farm. It's in our origins to move around and find the place that best suits our needs and it's only the conventions of modern society that tell us we belong to one place: wherever we happened to be born. For long periods of time, the ones who took the risk to travel were considered outsiders, homeless with no motherland, but many of them are also the ones who wrote the history, like Herodotus in "Travels with Herodotus", because they got to see beyond their city limits.
Nowadays we relocate out of curiosity, in pursue of a better future, for work or for education, among other reasons, and sometimes these changes come with impactful cultural shocks that one usually overcomes because in the end, no matter where, we are surrounded by humans.
Traveling helps us to understand things that are outside of our control and puts in perspective what we used to consider the absolute truth. How insignificant our town looks when we see it from 30 thousand feet from the air? How can we think that whatever the rules are in that minuscule place are the same for all the world? Technology is supposed to help broaden our minds, but in the end, a person can use every tool available to communicate only with the people they know. Their little worlds are brought to the virtual life but they remain little, they remain ignorant.
When you visit different places you can't ignore what's around. You can behave the same way as you do at home and pretend nothing has changed, but the truth is, everything has changed, including you. Deep inside you there's something that is not the same, something that will live in your mind forever: a smell, a sound, a color, a picture. Whatever is captured by your senses will guide your future self.
We travel to find those little things that define us, to understand and find ourselves through the act of understanding others. It is the recognition of one self through the others that helps to give meaning of what we are.
Traveling matters because it's hard to evolve when your surroundings never change and if you are looking to become a better human, you have to lose yourself in new surroundings in order to find another self.
As Pico Iyer wrote on his essay Why We Travel: "Travel is the best way we have of rescuing the humanity of places, and saving them from abstraction and ideology."
It's so easy to pass judgment on things that seem distant and wrong, but once you get a closer look and experience first hand what once seemed afar, you can be certain that your vision will change. In the end, traveling only matters to the ones interested in learning why for some the sun is red.