By Logan J.
Why do I travel?
As I sit here on only 4 hours of sleep in a surely futile attempt to minimize jet-lag, I wonder the same. After a night of packing and repacking my monster of a backpack, which I know will become the bane of my existence shortly after I leave the comforts of my home, I can’t imagine why I do this to myself again and again. With lists upon lists of “Don’t Forget” and 10 tabs open to various transportation sites, Pinterest pages of “What to do in ______” and a Google Doc of a rough schedule, I can’t help but ponder the same. Then I remember, I travel for the unknown, the adventure, the connection to both people and places yet to be discovered as soon as I waddle out that door.
A lot of people travel to “find themselves” well, I can tell you definitively I’ve known who I was since I was about 5 years old. I am a fiercely loyal, painfully independent, stylish, amusing, animal loving realist. That girl lining up a random smattering of new playmates on the side of the pool explaining the rules of the game I invented, having no reservations eliminating anyone who did not follow them to a T from our end of the pool, was me. When one of the dads told my mom he “felt bad for whoever married that little girl”, we knew that while I may be secure in who I was, I may have a tough time finding where I fit.
I was fortunate enough to have what some may describe as an impossibly idyllic childhood. I’m talking living in a tiny Midwestern town on a lake, surrounded by kids my own age at every house. In the summers we would swim, boat and jet-ski; Winters, when the lake froze over it was ice-skating, snow fights and ice-fishing. Doors were never locked, everyone was family, safety was an after-thought. I could not imagine a better way to spend the first 10 years of my life.
Our family though, didn’t quite fit the mold. Before I turned 9 we hosted 4 different foreign exchange students in our home. We didn’t take overseas vacations, cruises or even family road-trips, both of my parents worked full-time so the best option was to bring the world home. Some of my most vivid memories are from these global guests’ teachings. I remember Hisae, the teacher from Japan indulging me in a seemingly endless blueberry picking adventure. Megumi, a student from Japan teaching me origami, how to roll sushi and what year round school in Japan was like. Bea and her sister, from France, taking me to buy my first CD (Aerosmith and the Red Hot Chili Peppers for them, while I opted for a Mariah Carey classic) and much to the dismay of the wives in the neighborhood, what crop-tops were.
Being a self-aware 7 year old doesn’t always fare well for you in a small school, especially with a bully named Carrie lurking around every corner. Meeting these people who uprooted their own lives to explore a new one worlds away, I knew there was much more out there for me than Portage, Michigan. There was new cuisine, new tradition, history, and culture like I had never seen and I wanted to take it all in.
When I was 11, my whole world was turned upside down as my family relocated from Michigan to Las Vegas, NV. Everything there was baron, superficial, massive and unfriendly. My first day at school I put on my best over-sized t-shirt, jean shorts and sneakers only to find that the 6th grade girls in Las Vegas wore lip-gloss, platform sandals and baby sparkly baby Ts. This was not the same world I had come to know.
Middle and high school went off pretty much as expected, had some friends, lost some friends, tried to fit in, found my group. In high school I aligned myself with an impossibly intelligent group of people. I mean, all went to Caltech, MIT, Harvard and scored nearly perfect on their SATs smart. While I never quite measured up, I was always driven to do more, be better and push myself being around them.
If you stay in-state for college in Nevada you have two options, Las Vegas (where half of your high school class goes and you live at home) or Reno (where the other half of your high school class goes and you live with them). I knew I wanted something different, so alone I went to the University of Oregon.
In college I found people totally different than the ones I had known in Las Vegas. People who were vegetarians, who had their own political convictions, who woke up at 7am to attend a football game and who had never been east of the Mississippi. Still motivated by achievement-based recognition, I was so laser-focused in college (had to finish in 3 years!) I regretfully did not taking full advantage of all the opportunities available to me.
After college I worked for a year back in Las Vegas before moving to the love of my life, New York City for graduate school. Graduate school is not college. Most people in my program were older, with full-time jobs and families, classes were only at night, but it was here I met my first true global citizen. My friend Emily had traveled the world with her family as she was growing up, she was amazingly intelligent, impossibly light hearted and globally minded. She would be a fixture in my life from this moment on. New York began to wear on me after 4 years of constant close contact and designer labels; I just needed some alone time and left for good, never losing any love at 24.
After desperately searching for employment, I found my tribe in 2010. The job sounded absurd. Move to Washington, DC for a month and teach kids about National Security. I was a Psychology graduate student, I had never been to DC and certainly didn’t know a thing about how to protect our nation.” Don’t worry” they said,” we’ll teach you all you need to know”. This is when I met them, people from all over the world who had a passion for education and global affairs, people who spoke in airline points and upgrades, people who lived outside the expectation of keeping the same 9-5 for 50 years and I loved them all.
These past 5 years I have been fortunate enough to live my happiest and most complete life meeting fellow global “citizens” or “nomads”(whichever buzzword you prefer) as I continue my travels. I have now seen all 50 states and am working on setting foot on all 7 continents. Whether I travel alone or with a crew, I am sure to meet someone along the way I will instantly connect with, and that’s why I endure the packs, the impossible schedules and the jet-lag, for the true human connection. Whether it is a girl from New Zealand on a gap year after a bad break-up, or an Italian woman traveling through Peru while her brother works in a mine, or the biker couple at the bar off the Enchanted Highway in Regent, North Dakota, meet them. Share your story, learn from theirs, open your eyes, say hello, take the road less traveled, buy less and travel more. Hope to see you out there..