Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Why travel?

"Glorious it is when wandering time has come." -Eskimo song

There's been a question a lot of people have been asking me lately and something I've been thinking about as well and it's this: "Why do you want to leave your job, family, friends and life here and live abroad for a year?" I realize that there are some people who have no desire to travel or live in a foreign place, we all have different paths and desires after all, but that has never been me ;). From as early as I can remember I have wanted to explore. I have had that call to distant lands, that urge to jump out of my comfort zone and be transported to another world. You don't always have to go far to experience this. Just driving across Canada was an eye opening experience for me (and yes, Canada is huge so it is far I realize ;). I've lived abroad twice now, both times in the UK and both were very unique and life changing experiences. This time I wanted to live somewhere where I had to learn a new language. My passions in life are music, culture and languages and I have always wanted to live somewhere where I would be forced to learn a new language.

So what is it about travel, about living in a foreign culture that calls to me so much? My mom gave me a wonderful book a few years back by Phil Cousineau called "The Art of Pilgrimage" and its beautiful words tap deep into the traveler's psyche. As he says, "A pilgrimage is an opportunity to reconnect with your soul" (p. 87). Maybe living for a year in another country is not exactly a pilgrimage, but I'd like to think it is a type of soul journey for me (and sure I could even throw some soul music in for good measure.)

There is something so raw about being thrown away from all you are used to, forced to make a life for yourself somewhere new where, in general, nobody knows you and every day there is a good chance you'll feel awkward and uncomfortable or say something embarrassing (well, I do this at home all the time anyway so that's not too new for me ;). You could say that about living just about anywhere else, but throw in a new culture and country and it brings the challenges and joys to a new height. My friend Janet told me a while back that the thing about living abroad is is that your highs are higher and your lows are lower, but I haven't met a single person who has ever regretted the experience.

It's not an easy thing to leave your loving family (particularly your ridiculously cute nieces) and amazing friends back home, but there is also nothing like the thrill you get from connecting to a foreign land and people. Also, lucky for me I have some wonderful friends and family already in Europe. I will never forget standing on the edge of the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland and feeling the pull of that stunning scenery or even just walking to and from work when I lived in Winchester, England and being steeped in history. Maybe it has something to do with my European mixed breeding, but I often feel a pull to all my countries of origin - Italy, Germany, Ireland, Scotland, England etc. There is something about being in the place where your ancestors came from that makes you feel even more like you.

I think we've all felt different calls in our life, whether it is for a certain career, education, activity, person...and of course location. It's usually only after we've been there for a while, or even come back home that we truly know why we went. So pretty soon I'll be off and if nothing else, I'll have some good stories to tell. ;)

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” – Martin Buber


Star Weiss said...

You've said it so well, and I understand the allure....You'll have the chance to explore both inner and outer lives. Hard to resist.

Ethno girl said...

Thanks :)