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Why We Travel

“Yet for me the first great joy of traveling is simply the luxury of leaving all my beliefs and certainties at home, and seeing everything I thought I knew in a different light, and from a crooked angle. In that regard, even a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet (in Beijing) or a scratchy revival showing of ‘Wild Orchids’ (on the Champs-Elysees) can be both novelty and revelation: In China, after all, people will pay a whole week’s wages toeat with Colonel Sanders, and in Paris, Mickey Rourke is regarded as the greatest actor since Jerry Lewis.” -Pico Iyer


This quote from Iyer’s essay, “Why We Travel,” gave me a new and interesting new take on travel. When we travel, we can often take in the experiences by comparing and contrasting different aspects of the area with our home. We take interest with what makes foreign cultures unique while also taking interest with what makes us connected to these cultures. Overall, we tend to observe the world through our own native lens. By traveling, however, we can gain new insight, understanding, and appreciation of the world by looking through foreign lenses and comparing these new observations with each other and with those that we had established through our native lens. Like the examples in Iyer’s essay, we can apply foreign lenses on places, people, and objects to marvel at the novelty or lack thereof, for other cultures, in things that we might otherwise find insignificant or quite important to our culture. We can also apply the same idea to more intangible ideas such as religion, politics, and lifestyle and observe their varying significances and differences for different cultures. The more you travel, the more lenses you can collect. The more lenses you have, the greater your understanding and appreciation of the world around you becomes. Although one could simply gain a brief understanding of the world’s view on everything through mere Google searches, travel introduces a richer, more concrete view by experiencing the people themselves, who are the most raw representations of their culture. By looking at the world through foreign lenses through travel, we can gain a greater appreciation and understanding for not only foreign cultures but also for our own home and for the vast, rich, and colorful world we live in.