The society, the culture, the world we live in would make you feel shame for this. Somehow the intrinsic, uncontrollable need to move is a character flaw, a selfish desire rooted in the longing to run away or live a life of leisure. I challenge that. For those of us who find our truest self out on the road, we also find unbound opportunity to impact people, places and culture in a positive way. This is a shift in narrative that must take place. That the act of travel, and the people who center their lives around it, is not the act of seeking selfish consumption, but is an opportunity to change the world.
Take me for instance. A nomad at heart, no matter how much I travel or how long I’m gone, I’m always looking forward to being on the road again. I did not grow up traveling. A desire to travel was not fully formed in my younger years, but something changed in my early 20s. I looked around me, and instead of feeling the contentment and joy that was supposed to come from the things that surrounded me, I had a deep-seated feeling that there must be more to life. The world around me was saying, “Just suffer through it, go to college, work, get married, have a family. These things will make you happy.” I didn’t, and still don’t, see those things as bad, but they just didn’t do it for me.
Before I knew it, I was on a plane to Kenya. That first trip abroad helped shape my outlook on movement and the impact I believe travel can have on individuals and local and indigenous communities the world over. I didn’t quite understand what that meant then, but that trip sparked a journey that I am still on. The journey to match my passion for travel with a desire to serve the world and its people.
When we decide to step out of our comfort zone and open ourselves to the world around us, we find a whole new context in which to view ourselves and our lives. Travel is not a fleeting activity for me. It’s not about “seeing sites” or marking places off on a world map. It’s not about photos for Instagram or making my friends jealous. It’s not because I can’t “sit still” or have a desire to run from life. For me it’s about understanding and cherishing people and exploring cultures that are different than my own. It’s about seeing the world with my own eyes instead of my worldview being shaped by media or outside forces. It’s about sitting and listening to people who so desperately want to be heard. In that simple act of listening, being and sharing a physical space, we find what it means to be human, which is deeper than our skin and our words. As a traveler, large parts of who I am have been built by these moments, experiences I could never have without moving away from my comfort zone both physically and mentally. Everyone I have met has stayed with me or made an impact in some way.
I still remember talking to our dear friends in Nigeria.They explained to me who the Boko Haram were and the atrocities they were living in. This was before it hit national media. I remember the tea, the food, the laughing, the kind Nepalese man who wanted to show me his crops and how proud he was of them.
I remember staying with an indigenous group in Chile and asking what they hoped to get from people visiting their village. Their response was, “For people to know our story.” This is the quintessence of revolutionary travel: The act of movement becoming more than leisure and transforming into a tool for change and a catalyst for understanding and personal evolution..
Travel and tourism is a powerful force in the world. As a multi trillion-dollar industry that employs 1 in 10 people, this sector has limitless potential. If done in a more meaningful and conscious way, it can impact not just you, but the communities you decide to travel in. Travel should not just be for our consumption, taking from people and places for our own personal enjoyment. It can, and should, be an exchange between human beings. An exchange of viewpoint, experience and culture that grows understanding and destroys fear and bigotry. Between the people involved in any travel experience, there is opportunity to make impacts that extend far beyond those directly involved. Positive growth spreads over the world, rippling through the web of humanity and creating a new paradigm where love and cooperation replace hate and division. Even if the positive power of travel ended there, we could change the world with that alone. But that is not the end of the story.
When we decide to step foot into another country, into another community, we decide whether our travel will be positive or negative, (whether it’s a conscious choice or not is irrelevant). If you travel, you participate in the system. How the travel industry interacts with local people is often dictated by the choices of individuals. People have the power to direct markets. The industry responds to market trends. Local people are impacted by the industry. If we as travelers are demanding that our travel dollars benefit indigenous and local people, the industry will be forced to change. If we value the needs, desires and well-being of the people who live in the places we travel to, the industry will respond or be left behind. This is the power of travel. This is the power we have to impact the world.
Restlessness is not a flaw. The desire for experience is not a hindrance. The life we are told to live is not the only option. Those who nurture their nomadic spirit are labeled selfish or lazy or unrealistic. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, when we live a life on the road, and do it with a consciousness and responsibility, we are serving the world and moving human beings toward a more just society. There are so many issues in the world, so many people suffering, so much damage being done to our planet. These things cannot wait. People cannot wait until we are ready to act. When we can transform travel and tourism into a tool for change and live our passions to their fullest, us nomads will lead the way toward a more just world.
I urge everyone to travel, to go out and see the world, to visit some place that might feel uncomfortable at first. Plan that epic adventure! I promise you, paying a little less for a house or a few less drinks at the bar or whatever reason we decide that we can’t travel will not matter once you are there. At the end of the day, our actions don’t just affect us, they affect the world around us.