Traveling is a foreign language. You are not born recognizing it, but the more you practice the language, the more you enjoy and see how it turns into your world. You converse with people who are like you in this tongue, yet when you come out of this sphere, it is almost as if you are unfamiliar with your native language, your original world. You feel lost. You feel alone because no one speaks that foreign language, and you cannot truly share what you love about it.
Most backpackers and 'travel-avids' will understand what I am referring to here. But for those who do not, let me explain to you why we, as travelers, always seek to get back on the road again.
I learn more about myself and the world from a day of traveling than from a month in school. I explore places every winter and summer break (unfortunately, I do not have enough money for spring break), and each time, I return having grown so much more than I did over the entire course of the previous academic semester. The kind of environment that traveling blesses its people with is a sort of training that school or work could never provide.
It makes you braver. It tears down your self-defense lines, it challenges your preconceptions of yourself and society, it strips you of all you own besides your most inner mind, and it forces you to let go of all hesitation and worries to continue walking on. You arrive more clear-minded, self-confident, and appreciative of all that is around you. You truly come to comprehend the meaning of what it means to live once. Throughout your life back home, you will take many many classes, have multiple relationships, go to many similar parties and events, and earn numerous recognitions, awards or recommendations. If you miss a class today, you can always make up for it tomorrow. You do not have a fear of losing everything. But when you travel, that tree, this mountain, that village, this meal—you sense and experience all of these aspects of life once. Next morning, the people you had laughed with, the roof you had slept under, and the place you had fallen in love with will be all gone, only to be replaced by an even more beautiful reality the next day. So we travelers learn, beyond anything else, to really treasure the present moment. Because even in the blink of a moment, we could miss a concept that we never will have the opportunity to behold again.
But I want to go back to the beginning, where I talked about traveling as a language. Each time we come back home from our travels, we are a completely new person. We have learned, seen and grown so much. Our values and perceptions of the world, ourselves, and life have sharpened and changed, and we feel so empowered and enlightened. We want to share this new state of mind with our family and friends. But often, they do not understand us. Not because they are not receptive, but rather they have not lived it. Two worlds, two different kind of lives—how do we relate to each other when the focus and priorities of our lives are so different? So as this excitement from traveling accumulates until you get on the plane back home suddenly plummets into an abyss of emptiness. You feel hollow and not known. It is like speaking a completely different language, an amazing one that you want to everyone to learn and instrumental to shaping your identity, but no one is able to understand it. You become an individual unable to communicate with anyone else, standing in a sequestered world.
Eventually, all of this emptiness and loneliness turns into one desire: to get back on the road. You hope to return to your world, where people who speak your language, and beauty captivates your soul. What is the difference between passion and desire? In the course of our lifetimes, we will have many passions. But desire is different. Desire is that uncontrollable, unreasonable urge in to get up and chase after something, even if it is not pragmatic or even if you become a moth diving into the flames. Some say that it is a negative addiction. However, I say that it is the most beautiful and fulfilling kind of addiction. It is the type that keeps you alive, and strengthens you.
No longer do you feel lonely speaking this foreign language by yourself but rather you know that there are so many people like you, separated only by a couple of oceans. More importantly, you learn to embrace loneliness. You start to value loneliness and silence, and to focus inwardly on yourself, giving yourself the time and space to cultivate your mind and heart. Eventually, you get back on the road, perhaps this time with a one-way ticket.