This year I am working with Allianz Travel Insurance to help provide new content and as a new travel partner. I’ve long taken out travel insurance on my trips and, from experience, it’s an important aspect of the travel experience. But today’s post isn’t about insurance, no, instead they asked me to tackle a thought exercise in this sponsored post that at first blush seemed easy but what has been an important challenge.
This year Allianz is talking all about the question, “I Travel Because…” We all have different motivations for travel, some are long term and others short term. For me this has been an oddly difficult question, because it’s so firmly ingrained in who I am as a person that I’m not sure I can really separate out the reasons. I’m thankful for this topic though because it provides me the opportunity to fully explain who I am; a digital mission statement of sorts.
From the earliest days, I have always been totally consumed with learning more about the world. The walls of my room growing up were covered in flags of the world and my shelves littered with items friends and family gave me from their own trips abroad. I read everything I could get my hands on and throughout my childhood was preparing for a life of international experiences. I was that kid reading the Gorbachev biography when everyone else had the Hardy Boys under their arms. Finally, when I was 17 I had the opportunity to spend a month in Paris and it forever changed who I am as a person as well as the track of my life. In both undergrad and then graduate school I focused on international relations with a firm eye on entering the Foreign Service and becoming a diplomat. I sat for, and passed, the tests involved but then, right at the critical moment, I made a strange decision. I decided to take my name out of the Foreign Service placement process.
From an outside perspective it doesn’t make any sense, but for me it was perfectly logical. While I did indeed want to see the world, I also knew that moving from one remote outpost to the next every few years was not for me. Today I call myself a traveling homebody and even if I didn’t know the term for it then, I felt it. I wanted a home, I wanted roots, I wanted to meet someone and so for those reasons and more, I set my eyes on Washington, DC to find a different path.
The problem with changing the course of one’s life on an impulse is a certain lack of preparation. I was in DC without a place to live or a job, and so I started blanketing the city with resumes. I wasn’t in the position to be choosy, and I took the first job offered, but there was one problem. It wasn’t in my life’s calling of international relations, it was in domestic US policy. I’d always hated domestic politics and avoided it throughout my education. But there I was with little recourse, and so I started working in the government affairs department of a large nonprofit association.
In DC parlance, government affairs is a kinder way of saying lobbyist, and that’s what I became. In life, being comfortable can be a dangerous place to be. I found myself in a career that I may not have wanted, but I was good at it, it paid me a salary and health care and frankly it was easier to stay in it than it was to leave. I switched jobs a few times until, 12 years later, I found myself serving as Director of Government Affairs at an admittedly young age. From the outside it would appear as if I was doing just fine in life, I was following the tracks like a good soldier and that was that. But I was miserable, however I didn’t know why. The funny thing about life is that being unhappy in one aspect necessarily affects all others and it gets to the point that you don’t know what started the process of misery in the first place. It was only through good fortune that I came to realize the mistakes I had made.
I started my blog a few months after taking an extraordinary journey in the Galapagos. Even though I wasn’t working in international relations, my love of seeing the world certainly hadn’t diminished and I used every available vacation day to see as much of it as I could. The Galapagos was different though, the adventure was so incredible it fully reawakened that long dormant part of my soul and there was no going back.
I maintained both the blog and my normal career for a couple of years, but it soon came to the point where I wasn’t doing either very well. My boss at the time suggested I go follow my passions and so I did. Although I was deeply upset and terrified at the time, it turned out to be what I needed in order to start living my true and authentic life.
Since then I have somehow managed to create a job from the ether, maintaining my same standard of living but also living out my life’s passion to see the world and to explore. I don’t know why I was born this way, but there’s no denying how much I deeply love learning about new places and people and I finally understand that while my career may evolve over time, this will always be the focus of my life.
So, to answer the question “I Travel Because…” is a bit of a challenge for me. Sure, I like to travel for fun and relaxation, but I also like to travel for cultural immersion and to grow as a person. But it’s so much more than that. I travel because I know I simply have to. For me it’s a basic part of my life, just as having a roof over my head and a bite to eat. I travel because I have to, I have no choice, it feeds a longing my soul feels so deeply that it has consumed me for more than 40 years. Everyone is different, everyone has a different focus in life but for me, this is it. It’s not about bragging how many places I’ve visited or having nice luxury experiences, far from it. No, it’s about integrating myself into the global community and it’s about education. I remember once as a 6-year old I got really upset one day. When asked the reason, I angrily replied that there was no way I could ever know “everything” and it frustrated me. I was upset that there were dusty corners of world knowledge off limits to me, and I set about addressing that problem. I suppose that’s the real answer then to this query. I travel because I want to know, I want to understand what makes the world tick, what makes people do what they do. I want to understand our global history and where we came from to better understand who we are today and where we might go in the future. If there’s a nice beach along the way that’s fine but, ultimately, it’s so much more than that.
This was a long, personal and thoughtful post which probably means not a lot of people will read it. There are no bullets, quizzes or flashy clickbait headlines, and that’s fine. My work in travel has never been about short term gain, instead I’ve been solely focused on encouraging others to get out there and better experience the world so they too can join me on this wonderful lifelong journey to better appreciate the planet we all call home.