Why We Travel.
By Val Vanderpool
Thursday, 3rd September 2009
Why do we travel?

Are we looking simply to escape, to take a break from the stressors of daily life? Is it because it makes us happy? Because it is fun?

I would say that the majority of people who travel are looking for something more—whether we realize it or not, the experience of travel provides far more than a relaxing and fun getaway (although that's a big part of it). I might even go so far as to say that the desire to travel is a primal instinct, and if we all listen closely enough, we can hear it telling us to explore, to connect, to venture out into our world and see what it's all about. After all, we've been doing this very thing since the dawn of man.

Even the most basic instincts are spawned from somewhere—a need to survive, a need to protect, a need to nurture. In a world where we are connected to cultures and happenings with the touch of a button, what could travel possibly provide us that we don't already have at our fingertips, and why do we feel so compelled to go out and see it firsthand? Where does this need come from?

The African bushman story tellers talk about two kinds of Hunger: They say there is physical hunger, and what they call the Great Hunger. This is the hunger for meaning, and there is only one thing that is truly insufferable, and that is a life without meaning. There is nothing wrong, they say, with the search for happiness but there is something greater: Meaning, which transfigures all. When you have meaning, you are content and you belong.

There is nothing as insufferable as a life without meaning. This hunger to find meaning in our lives, our purpose—beyond the quest for happiness, beyond material things, beyond all else that outwardly defines us, we are looking for something deeper. Travel—near or far—I believe, satiates this hunger. When we travel, we can better understand our world, we come to understand ourselves and find meaning in the smallest of experiences, enriching our lives in ways that perhaps no other activity can.

I invite you to take a look at your own travels—past, present and future—and explore the reasons you go where you go, want to see what you see, and listen to other reasons that might not be so obvious. To find even deeper meaning and connect with the places you visit, consider getting involved when you travel. Whether its donating to or visiting travel philanthropy projects or taking a volunteer vacation, there are inumerable opportunities to give back, benefit and protect the places and communities we so cherish.

In this month's Responsible Travel Report, learn about a project underway in Kenya to help communities and protect precious trees, with an opportunity to donate via our Travelers Giving Back program. Also, if you're planning a trip to Latin America anytime soon, consider a volunteer vacation with Volunteer Latin America. Lastly, we're taking an opportunity to thank our own valued volunteers in STI Behind the Scenes.

Happy reading and meaningful travels,

Val Vanderpool, Editor

Originally published in Sustainable Travel International's Responsible Travel Report

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