Travel is really important to me, but that wasn’t always the case. My family didn’t travel a whole lot when I was a kid, mostly because the logistics and funding required to get a family with six kids and two adults on vacation made it impossible. I lived several places growing up throughout Washington, California, and Oregon as my father found teaching positions and we moved to be closer to my grandparents, but those places were always “home”. We didn’t really go on vacation and I was perfectly fine with that. In fact, until I joined the military I had every intention of staying in Gresham, Oregon for my whole life. I even turned down an option to be stationed in Italy in the Army but turned it down because I didn’t want to be far from home… Travel just didn’t appeal to me.
All that changed once I got my feet wet and saw a bit of the world. My first travels were in the military and, as such, were a little bit unconventional. I didn’t really get to do touristy things, but I did get to see the beauty of other places and meet a lot of people from diverse backgrounds. I spent a lot of time in a guard tower with an Italian soldier who talked a lot about his life in Italy, he also introduced me to the concept of consensual non-monogamy when he offhandedly mentioned that his girlfriend was sleeping with other men and he slept with other women. It didn’t seem like a big deal to him, though my views were still very conservative at the time and I promised to pray for him.
I also met many interpreters in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as soldiers from the UK. The most influential people on my drive to travel ended up being in my own unit. My squad was made up of an eclectic bunch from all over the US. My team leader was a African-American Muslim from Kansas named Vinnie; the other SAW gunner was from Rocky Mount, NC; my grenadier was an Irish Catholic from New Jersey; etc. We really reinforced the 82nd Airborne Motto of “All American”. This ragtag group of soldiers from all over the country made me want to see the country for myself, and as my belief system shifted to a point where I saw all borders as artificial and all humans as my brethren I became more interested in seeing the world.
In some ways travel is an unending task, and that might be one of the things I like about it. There will always be another place to see, festival to experience, person to meet. Even as we’ve spent two years bicycling around the United States we have only gotten a taste of many places we’ve been. There is no end to travel, even if certain vacations and adventures do end. After each adventure you become more aware of other adventures, like all things as you get deeper into them you realize they are more complex and beautiful than you could have ever imagined. I will never see everything I want to see, and that’s okay.
I pursue travel for lots of reasons, but primarily it is my love of novelty. Travel has allowed to have experiences that I couldn’t get at home and that technology hasn’t reached the point of accurate simulations. Whether it was a threesome at a pagan festival, getting snowed on in the Montana mountains, skinny dipping with a group of nudists in Florida, getting stoned in New Mexico and going to the hot springs, working the “Orgy Dome” at Burning Man, cycling through the Redwoods, or a thousand other experiences that I’ve forgotten, these are all things that I wouldn’t have experienced if I stayed home.
Travel inspires me, it makes me more creative, it keeps me healthy, and it makes me more loving. It shows me who I am and who I want to be, and it gives me greater love and appreciation for the little battles that other people face. The internet has connected us in many ways, but it also isolates us. We see a shadow of a person and reduce them to soundbites and a few views, we don’t get to see the passion in their eyes or heartache. Travel reminds me that we are all human and even if I disagree with a person they aren’t evil.
I realize that not everyone has an interest in travel, but I think we all have an interest in new experiences and getting the most out of life. There are many paths to reach those ends, mine just happens to involve a lot of movement.