Why I Travel

Do you know how travel builds character? I'm not talking about all-inclusive resort travel...

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Several months after graduating undergrad I found myself sitting on the stairs of a friend’s college apartment. I had been hanging around the college town, living off savings and sleeping on sofas. I was avoiding integration into corporate America, a path I felt predestined to follow but did not want after experience in marketing, operations, and law. I knew what I did not want, but had no idea what I did want.

Sitting there and ruminating on it all, darkness began to creep in. With clammy hands, I fought to find some meaning and thought back to my education but found little inspiration except to think harder. I was desperate. Then something from an ancient text I read as a teenager popped into my head, best paraphrased by “as a child, we know what to do with life, only after growing up and being educated do we forget what we once knew.”

Latching onto this bit of light, I thought about childhood. The fantasies of being president or superman seemed irrelevant, but I found hope in my love for the ocean. I recalled all the times my heart ached leaving after vacation was over, every wish I had at night to live near and hear the sound and smell the salt and splash in waves. This was all the inspiration I needed.

Two weeks later, I ventured into the great wide open for the first time with a blanket and pillow in the trunk, bound for fulfilling a dream. I will always remember that first departure from safety: the freedom and exhilaration, the blinding rainstorm which slowed me to 10 mph but derailed others, and by a miracle-making it out clean on the other side.

Since then, I have spent years living and traveling across the states or in different countries with nothing more than fits in my backpack; every time I buy a one-way ticket or pack up, the thrill of freedom rushes back to me. Freedom to me back then, and today, is the feeling of knowing how unpredictable the future is, and fully embracing that tomorrow is an unknown. Freedom and travel is a lifestyle without the security of routine and on the edge of chaos, but immeasurably beautiful with its heightened senses and self-awareness. The chaos which makes you stronger is the adventure.

If freedom is the feeling which builds a lifestyle, adventure is its guiding beacon. Adventure is like walking on a balance beam, an act of staying on course despite a narrow path. When traveling, the adventure requires constant attention in the form of planning, mindfulness, and self-care. A road trip requires planning for gas and supplies, mindfulness to stay on the road, and caring for the engine; the adventure requires planning for safety, mindfulness for not missing the beauty in front of you, and self-care so that you can keep going. I love the adventure because it heightens senses and intuitions, and exposes the volition to its own fragile dependence on routine and familiarity.

Over years of adventuring, I learned a lot about how to take care of mental and physical health, but often this was accompanied by hardship. Adventuring hardship is difficult because instead of retreating to the comfort of a soft place in a well-acquainted home, there is only a seemingly unfamiliar, desolate expanse in front of you. Yet desolation can be a traveler’s greatest friend; space is a necessary precursor for creation. Through the many days and nights of lonely hardship, while traveling in lands far away from family where no one looks or speaks like me, I always pull through and extract a lesson for life from the hardship. I’ve found and honed personal morals from difficult situations and applied philosophy. Mental Sweat is your gateway to the world of adventure through the eyes of a seasoned traveler who has spent years honing a sustainable and rewarding lifestyle of adventure.

            Traveling is an art, a way of life and work. When a person leaves home to travel, they change; upon return, they find everything to be the same. Chogyam Trungpa said meditation is a path that once started down, cannot be strayed from without mental suffering. After leaving home and beginning my adventure, travel and freedom became intricate to my life and I cannot just leave it and be done. Everything about adventurous and freeing travel—the danger and lack of routine, the dramatic differences of culture, and the perpetual internal growth spur me on into the great wide open.

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