I’ve been watching a lot of travel shows lately. I find it helps to keep my wanderlust up during periods where I’m not actually traveling. They also provide me with ideas on where to go next. I like finding ideas on new and obscure travel locations, and then daydreaming as I might actually get there one day. It’s a good use of brainpower.
It seems that, as of late, all the travel shows seem to have converged upon a theme. I’m not sure if it’s intentional or if it just happens as a matter of volume. The longer one travels, the more of the hit list locations get checked off, and the more one needs to move farther afield to find new travel destinations. I suppose it’s a natural side effect of longevity.
The theme that I am alluding to is the need to visit all seven continents. Stepping foot on all seven continents is seen, in some circles, as the mark of a real traveler. In other circles, a real traveler is someone who has gone to a new land and learned how to live in a new culture. In other circles, one who has thoroughly explored a region is considered a travelers. Everyone uses the definition that best suits the way they view the world.
So, I guess my question of the blog post is this: Do you need to step on every continent to consider yourself well-traveled? Where I would think the answers are either yes or no, there are as many justifications for those answers as there are people answering. And that, is the beauty of individuality.
My personal answer to this question is no. I am also sure about my answer. Let me explain why. In my experience, travel is NOT a collection of places. A bunch of pins on a map, or stamps in a passport, without the experience of those places, is just a bunch or pins or stamps. When you go someplace new, you learn. You may learn about the difference in how people travel from point A to point B. You may learn about other people history in a specific country or region. You may learn how people get on with other people, or the things they hold sacred, or the way they grow food, or the things they teach their children. But, above all, you learn something. If I have gone somewhere and learned only that I didn’t want to go back there (Which has rarely ever happened), I still learned something. That something is the thing that give travel meaning. It is the thing that you try to pass on to others. Travel stories and barroom tales are all just collections of you telling someone else your lessons learned through traveling.
Here’s a small diversion to maybe help prove my point about a collection of pins. I have managed five of the seven continents. They would be North America, South America, Europe, Africa, and Australia. I have spent excessive amounts of time in North America, and Europe. Would I say that I have traveled through them enough to know them and learned what there is to learn? Absolutely, no.
I live in the US, and have travelled to all but five of the states. Yet, there are still probably over a hundred things still on my US to-do list. Places I want to go and things I want to do, before I stop travelling around the US and call it seen. Obviously, those hundreds of things don’t all hit into five states. They are still scattered all over the US.
As I said, I’ve been to Africa. It was in 2000. I took a Contiki trip to see Egypt. The trip was excellent and I saw a great deal of Egypt. I definitely did things that I would not have done if I had solo traveled around the country. (I am not necessarily endorsing Contiki. I’m definitely a solo traveler by nature. BUT, if you’re not the go it alone type, I will say that if you’re 18-35 and want to get out and see the world, Contiki is an excellent company to utilize. I have countless good things to say about my experience travelling with them, and the people I met.) Did I see all that Egypt had to offer, no. Did I get to plant my pin in the African continent, yes. Because I’ve been there, and planted my pin, should I not go back? I say, no. There are a whole list of places I want to visit in Africa as well. I plan to have grand adventures in and around the African continent.
I guess what I am trying to say is that the idea of saying you have been to all seven continents, as if you’ve accomplished some great task, means you’ve missed the point of travelling to begin with. Travel is supposed to enrich your life. Travel is supposed to open your eyes to new cultures and to new ideas. Travel is supposed to be – rewarding, not simply a collection of pins.
I have met people that have spent all of their time simply travelling their own country. They never escaped to farther fields, yet they are definitely more travelled than I am. They went out and saw something new, and with opened eyes were rewarded with new experiences. Those are the people I love to talk to. Their passion for places just over the hill or across the state make me want to go to those places too. To experience the same things they did.
That, in my opinion, is why we all travel. Not to collect pins (Though we all collect pins), but to have new experiences.
Now get out there. Go.
Two good friends of mine I was motorcycling around with, somewhere in the US Southwest. I’m thinking sometime around 2010 or 2011. Even though I had been to the southwest several times before, I had never been there – until then.