Every time I read Iyer’s words–and every time I try to articulate to others what it is about intentional travel that feels somehow like the most important stuff of life–something new strikes me as The Real Reason I travel (and facilitate student travel, too).
Proust posited that the voyage of discovery is less about seeing new places than in seeing with new eyes, and Iyer adds that “one of the subtler beauties of travel is that it enables you to bring new eyes to the people you encounter.” If I’m honest, if the rest of the beautiful opportunities we are exposed to as we travel are stripped away, I travel because I love seeing people.
In the values, mannerisms, unique or shared dreams, creative forms of expression, expressed worries, habits, rituals, senses of humor, I see the magic of the range of human experience. I feel most lucky when I get to peek into–and sometimes share directly in–unique ways of going about this life. It’s such a privilege to get to dedicate time and space to being open to learning about, witnessing, observing, trying on, sharing, exchanging, discussing life experiences of generous and open humans. The opportunity to better understand the nuanced relationships people form with their environment, with their communities, with themselves… and then to consider how my own relationships can be shaped in response… this is why I travel.
I traveled just once to China–to Beijing and Shanghai–as a 13 year old, with my gymnastics team. The weather, the relationships between Chinese gymnasts and their coaches, the food (i distinctly remember eating duck hearts, and feeling conflicted about enjoying them), all of it broadened my worldview. I had an acute awareness of how lucky I was for the experience, though I had trouble articulating the gratitude. The opportunity to return to China with new eyes–looking inward, outward, backwards, forwards all at once–feels like magic.
I can’t wait to meet and learn from/with you all!