Dear Open Letter:
Travel is many things to different people.
For some, travel might just be a fun adventure, or a chance to visit friends and family. For others, it might be about stepping out of comfort zones and embarking on a new journey.
For all the joys of traveling, it is not always roses and sunshine. Sometimes you might end up waking up before the crack of dawn asking yourself, “Why in the world did I book myself into this God-early flight?”
During your travel, you might get tired feet, sore back, or even an upset stomach from consuming the wrong food. You might encounter people who try to scam you, or end up arguing with the very people you want to spend some quality time with. When you return home with a lighter wallet and you’re up again in the dead silence of the night with jetlag, you wondered, “Was the trip worth it?”
For me, the answer had always been an unequivocal “Yes”. I hope it always will be.
Many sage things have been said about travel, but I want to encapsulate why I love traveling. I might not be able to capture the full essence, but I want to try anyway.
To travel is to experience. Traveling forces you to see and experience new things. Since there is only a limited of time at each destination, you’d want to make the best use of time and take in as much of the experience as possible.
On my recent adventure to Seoul, I tried on the beautiful traditional Korean attire called hanbok and walked around in it. It didn’t matter to me that I probably have a giant T, for tourist, on my forehead; it was such a fun and memorable part of the trip.
TO GET PERSPECTIVE
Travel gives you perspective, when you have a chance to step away from the daily grind. The things that are troubling you can suddenly seemed more manageable, or even small, when you can put things into perspective.
TO BE IDLED
As the old adage goes, sometimes you just need to stop and smell the roses. See the sunrise. Feel the sunset. Ponder at the meaning of our lives and the direction in which it is heading. Figure out if it is time to change the sails of our ships.
TO SMILE AND LAUGH OFTEN
Travel often brings out a lightheartedness out of situations. During our first trip to Japan, we somehow ended up on the subway during the (gulp) evening rush hour. When the crowd began to swell, the realization of what was about to happen dawned on me. My first thought was, “Oh no, we are going to get sandwiched!”
Yet, experiencing the “rush hour” phenomenon for the first time, I probably had the most ridiculous expression. I had to stop myself from laughing at our atrocious timing, the sandwiched imagery in my head, and the actual sight of people throwing themselves onto the train.
It was all very bizarrely surreal. All the while, I was trying not to get squished as injuries can happen. I was so relieved to get off the train after only two stops.
TO BE REMINDED
Travel reminds me of how kind people generally are, and how we are more alike than we are different. In Seoul, a local asked us if we needed any help when we had been staring at a giant food menu board for some time. We simply hadn’t made up our minds with all the choices in front of us. Still, it was a wonderful gesture.
Travel allows you to appreciate more: the things you miss while you are away, and the things that are right in front of you: A sweet smile. A hearty laughter. A kind gesture. A warm hug. A warm bed. Precious time with family and friends.
In Seoul, the owner of the hanbok rental shop was excited to see my family dressed up in the traditional attire. The reason? She recently lost her mother, so she was happy to see us traveling together as a family. It’s one of those things you don’t think about much, but it meant more when seen through a different lens.
TO BE GRATEFUL
In Seoul, I was returning my tray at a food court when a kid accidentally dropped his tray in front of the trash bin. His tray landed with a bang and his stuff scattered to the floor. After I put away my tray, I got on my knees to help the kid pick up his things. He thanked me profusely. I hadn’t done anything grand, but what surprised me was the deep sincerity in his eyes and the audible gratefulness in his voice.
The encounter reminded me of something that I had always promised myself to remember: To have a grateful heart. When we are grateful, we see beauty illuminate more brightly all around us. We appreciate more of the simple joys and the wonders of discovery. We see, or rather we choose to see, the best of everything and in everyone.
These are some of the reasons why I love to travel. Travel reminds me of the simple things in life. To give me the perspective I need. To re-energize me when I feel weighed down. To see the world through refreshed lens.
I hope I never forget all the reasons why I love to travel. Should I forget, I hope this open letter reminds me.
Travel means different things to different people, but I know one thing it isn’t: It isn’t ever boring.
To that end, bon voyage. The world is in your hands.
Appreciate it. Embrace it. Live it.