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The Real Reason I Travel

in Travel

Huacachina, Perú

This article is a guest contribution by Casey Armstrong. Casey is a renegade traveler and kick-ass amateur photographer.  He blogs about his travels over at The Journey Is Our Goal.  His recent article on what to bring when traveling overseas is a fantastic read before you start packing!

Why do I travel?  Why do I leave behind everything I am familiar with and embark into the unknown?  Is it the famous sites?  The cool beaches?  The outdoor activities?  The cheap beer?  Yes, yes, yes, and yes!

Honestly, though, those are just the perks of the one real reason why I travel:

The possibility for something to really move me.


It was just another day in Huacachina, Perú.  An oasis town that I couldn’t even fathom before my arrival.  I was truly in the middle of sand for miles all around me.

My two day stop had turned into five.  I couldn’t leave.  Wake up in the morning to fellow backpackers laughing and talking.  Some new.  Some the same.  What should I do?  Maybe sand boarding.  Maybe read on the dunes.  Maybe I’ll catch breakfast next door.  Or just relax.  All of the above was usually the end choice.

At night, I would go down the road to the only place that was open with some people from my hostel.  We would talk, play cards, and drink a few beers.  Other nights this led to dancing around a bonfire, but tonight was different.

Tonight, there were two girls quietly sitting at the other end of the room.  They weren’t foreigners, but locals.  One of them was rather attractive and caught my eye.  My Spanish left much to be desired, but I figured what the hell.  I mean, how bad could it really go?

Everything started smooth and they were receptive to my joining them.  But after ten minutes or so my Spanish started to run a little dry.  The room seemed to fill with an awkward silence.  Suddenly, the girls started talking really fast between each other.  I just sat there with my smile as I had no idea what they were saying.  The girl I came to talk with, Cinthya, turned to me with a big grin:

“You know I teach English in my town?”

What?  Really?  Why are we speaking in Spanish? I was happy to get more practice in, but I’m sure it was like talking to a 4-year-old at best.

With this new bit of information, our conversation was able evolve from the “I’m from California,” “this place is pretty,” and “I like sports” gems I was dropping.  All three of us talked and laughed for another couple of hours before her friend had to go home.  Cinthya and I decided to walk outside to enjoy the beauty of Huacachina.

Dunes for miles around us.  We felt so small.  No lights, just the reflection of the sun off the moon guiding us up the hill.  We made it to the peak before we sat down to take everything in.  Deep breath. Disfruta. Enjoy.  The slight breeze felt so nice in the dry air.

We talked more.  We laughed more.  We sat in silence.

I was admiring the endless sandbox we were perched above when I felt her shift her head toward me.  As serious as her tone had been all night, she asked, “you know what I pray for?”

I turned towards her and she looked deeply into my eyes.  “Rain,” she said.  ”Rain?”  That was all I could think to say. “Yes, rain.  We suffer from serious drought, you know?  When it rains, everybody runs into the street.  We dance.  We thank God.  We cry in joy.”

As we were in an oasis it seemed so obvious, but it really moved me.  Nothing materialistic, instead something from Mother Nature.  Something so simple.  Just plain water… the gift of life. Grown women crying in the streets because they are thankful for the water from the heavens.  Children dancing in the puddles.  Life has been made easier.

It was at that moment in time I realized what truly mattered:  Family, health, shelter, water, food.  The basics.

Back at home, I didn’t have to think about these basics.  The closest I would come was having to choose what item of food to order off the menu or making sure I remembered to pay my rent on time.

But on the road, these type of things were part of my daily life.  Where I was going to sleep, what was safe to eat/drink, or even how much I missed my family were regular thoughts.  Life on the road seemed to encourage focusing on the basics…  focusing on what was really important in my life.

That is the real reason I travel.

Thank you, Cinthya.  I hope to be back to dance in the rain.

Baker’s Note: I really loved this story.  Courtney and I have noticed very similar moments throughout our travels.  Somehow, travel like this just seems to encourage you to focus on the essentials.  Like forced simplicity in a way.  It’s been a welcome addition to our lives.  By the way, that picture was taken by Casey of the actual city in the story.  How freakin’ cool.

Why do you travel? Have you noticed a similar connection to the ‘basics’.  Do you feel a sense of liberation?  Excitement?  Or just love growing through new experiences?  Do you travel at all?  Let me know in the comments below!

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Craig October 29, 2009 at 11:17 AM

I am a huge fan of traveling as well and recently came back from a 2 week trip in Guyana. It’s such a high for me, and I love the adventure. Nothing like seeing different parts of the world and escaping reality for a bit.

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Tyler Karaszewski October 29, 2009 at 1:00 PM

I agree — the best part about traveling is exposure to new ideas that you wouldn’t have considered otherwise: like a respect for rain that makes you realize you take the simple things for granted.

But something worth noting is that you don’t have to travel the world to get this experience — you can see a huge variety of different perspectives on the world right in your home town, (especially if you live in a big city) by just talking to people who wouldn’t fit in to your regular social circle.

I remember talking to a co-worker who comes from a fairly affluent family. He went to a top-teir engineering school, and is now married to a nuclear physicist (or something, I can never remember her exact specialty), and has always been pretty financially comfortable. In a conversation with him, he expressed disbelief at the notion that not everyone has fully-funded 401ks. Myself, and another co-worker, both from a far more working-class background, were astounded by his assumption, and he was astounded by the lives of the people we grew up around. Maybe it’s not as dramatic as a rainstorm at an oasis, but we all had “wow, I didn’t realize people thought like that” moments simply by talking to a guy who worked at the other end of the building.
.-= Tyler Karaszewski´s last blog ..Summer Update =-.

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Casey October 29, 2009 at 1:09 PM

@Tyler Karaszewski – I completely agree. You don’t need to leave your country to be exposed to new ideas; I just feel like it happens more often and to more radical extremes. Regardless, everybody should just be open and willing to listen to the journey others have taken.

I liked the story, by the way, on the fully funded 401ks. I imagine that there are quite a few people that like that, haha.
.-= Casey´s last blog ..Welcome Man vs. Debt Readers =-.

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Grace Boyle October 29, 2009 at 2:01 PM

I love this story! The times I have felt happiest and most liberated, was when I was traveling so I know how you feel.

I travel to be humbled. To expand, to learn, to grow, to understand, to exercise empathy, to get back to the ‘basics’ and to find inspiration. It’s not as though I can’t find inspiration at home. I do and currently am not traveling as I’m living, working full-time and in one place (for now). However, the mix between being settled and content with where you are and also being totally out of your comfort zone is amazing.
.-= Grace Boyle´s last blog ..Driving Alone To Work =-.

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Sarah October 29, 2009 at 2:14 PM

Thanks for this! It’s a good reminder about what’s important, even when we’re at home, and remembering those values helps me make the decisions I want to about my life and money both!

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Gholmes October 29, 2009 at 3:49 PM

Awesome. I am jealous.

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Chase October 29, 2009 at 4:21 PM

And what else matters than the basics of life? All else will fall away.

Great insight, Casey.
Thanks

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Coach J October 29, 2009 at 5:39 PM

After a hectic day of teaching, this is just the kind of reminder I needed. I’ll remember what’s important. Thanks.
.-= Coach J´s last blog ..Stupid is as… =-.

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Walter October 29, 2009 at 8:52 PM

This made me realize how I take for granted the basic things in my life. I wish I could see Cinthya’s eye and experience her longings; I will surely be ashamed of my ungratefulness of my current tropical and rain-cloyed lot. :-)

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Financial Samurai October 29, 2009 at 10:15 PM

Fantastic! And awesome oasis picture. How neat! Experience > material things and travel is one thing that creates fantastic experiences.

I’m constantly amazed by how LITTLE Americans travel. Supposedly only 60% of Americans have been overseas, and there are still some Americans who can only speak English! Never traveling and speaking only one language limits us to such a vast world of adventure.

That’s the other thing. If we can be financially disciplined, and make a good chunk of change, we can therefore travel more often, and more freely.

Best,

FS
.-= Financial Samurai´s last blog ..You’re Rejected! How I Use Rejection To Motivate Me Every Single Day =-.

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Casey October 30, 2009 at 4:56 AM

I am really happy that you enjoyed it. In regards to “how LITTLE Americans travel” and “there are still some Americans who can only speak English,” I think the numbers are a bit skewed.

Yes, I agree that Americans (and everybody) should travel overseas if they are able to, but the United States is huge and I don’t think those numbers factor in travel to Canada, Mexico, etc. I was shocked at how few people from the United States I met in Asia & Australia, but there were many in South & Central America.

In regards to speaking multiple languages, I think it is just so convenient to stick with English and there is no dire need to learn another. I am not saying that is right and I am working on learning Spanish (I guess I have been for awhile… :) ), but just saying. Everything on the Internet & TV is in English. Actually, I don’t even think you can submit stuff on StumbleUpon that is not in English, haha. Weird.

Anyways, sorry for the long response and glad you enjoyed it. I will leave the BEST part of your comment for last…”Experience > material things”

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Foxie | CarsxGirl October 29, 2009 at 11:41 PM

I’m totally looking forward to the day I get to go on a backpacking trip across Europe… Though mine’s going to be more than a *little* different than your usual trip. :P (Think cars!! I’m really hoping to catch part of Le Mans live, plus a ton of other cool places and driving the Nurburgring. Not cheap, heh!)

But, since we’re moving to Washington, I’m *really* hoping to hop on over to Japan in the next couple of years! I’m hoping to transfer to a college that’s offering a minor in Japanese, so I can go and somewhat comfortably soak in the culture… That’s going to be another very car-oriented trip, and I can’t wait to see Tokyo & the Wangan. ;) (Maybe even drive the Wangan, now that would be something pretty cool to me!)
.-= Foxie | CarsxGirl´s last blog ..Car loans: Are they evil to you? =-.

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kenyantykoon October 30, 2009 at 2:31 AM

i wish i could travel more but the thing is that i am always working. one time i will snap and sell all my businesses and go on a round the world trip with no deadlines or worrying about money. PS: i am not just saying it, i have even started planning it but as they say, the devil is in the details
.-= kenyantykoon´s last blog ..THE FUND OF FUNDS- THEIR GOOD AND BAD SIDES =-.

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Casey October 30, 2009 at 4:46 AM

I wanted to say thanks to you all for reading my post, commenting, and checking out my blog. I was very excited at the opportunity to guest post on MvD. See you all on future MvD posts and hopefully on my blog as well. Cheers!
.-= Casey´s last blog ..Welcome Man vs. Debt Readers =-.

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shannon October 30, 2009 at 10:34 AM

hi casey,
i am reading your blog high in the mountains of ecuador and wishing i could try sand boarding! how was it? my husband came home 1.5 years ago and said, “hey, how ’bout we quit our jobs and travel for a year?” i said YES! we are still traveling. it has been freeing to simplify our life and concentrate on the basics. i also love the novelty of it. there’s always something new which continually feeds my soul and expands my mind. we also do photography (mostly underwater – http://www.uwencounters.com). taking pics helps me pay attention to the world and people who are shot through with glory and beauty. thanks for your beautiful story and pic!

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Casey November 2, 2009 at 5:15 AM

Where in Ecuador are you? I was there for a couple of weeks earlier this year and loved it. Based on your blog, I am assuming and hoping you made it out to Galapagos. It is so amazing out there. Kind of expensive, but I found a nice solo room for $10USD.

I love your underwater pics.
.-= Casey´s last blog ..Escaping Your Cell =-.

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Josh Tremblay October 30, 2009 at 11:30 AM

Baker,

The guest post week was an awesome call. Really a cool to thing to learn from these 5 different perspectives. Keep up the great content!

Josh

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