When Chris and I brainstorm the place we’d like to visit next, we tend to pull from our master list of must-see countries, but every once in a while we do wax poetic about places we’ve already been. Okay, in truth it’s probably more whiny than poetic when it’s coming from me. I’m sure I’ve said, “I want to go baaack to the Cayman Islands” in a pouty voice at least two dozen times since we came home from Grand Cayman. (I may have also stomped my feet a bit; I don’t recall.) St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands is also one of our favorites because it’s an easy trip – a short flight, we know almost the whole island, and it feels comfortable and familiar. Plus we’ve had some incredibly amazing trips to the Caribbean, and who doesn’t want to recreate amazingness?
And then there are places I’ve been like Italy where I’ve only seen a small percentage of the country and I definitely want to return someday. That said, I flip-flop between, “Should we go somewhere completely new, or return to a place we’ve already been?” Lately the answer leans more toward seeing something new. I like the idea of slow, thorough exploration of the world and even rediscovering places I’ve already seen, but I also want to visit at least part of every place on our lengthy must-travel list in my lifetime, and then hopefully we can go back to the places we loved to do further exploration.
Here are my own top five reasons to visit new places.
1. Personal Growth
Embarrassing confession: for some reason I am slightly awful at remembering historical dates, names, and facts. (I’m good at remembering song lyrics, so perhaps my brain is simply too full with tunes?) It’s something I’d like to improve about myself. I’m in complete awe of people who are able to commit these details to memory, namely my Dad and my friend, Casey. Please don’t ever quiz me on all but the biggest events in the world because I admittedly won’t be able to recall the facts. I know I learned them at one time in World History classes, but it just doesn’t stick. I was pretty good at studying for exams so I was able to get good grades, but after the test…poof! The info is mostly gone except for fuzzy details. When I travel to a new country, however, it does seem to help me remember a few things, and I hope that if I keep traveling and seeing and photographing every corner of the world that I can reach, maybe I’ll commit more facts to permanent memory.
2. Geography Lessons
During my travel planning, I tend to study Google maps obsessively almost to the point that I can sometimes navigate our trip (in general) without map or GPS assistance. And then seeing the location in person just burns that geographic information into my brain, so hopefully one day I can identify nearly any country on a blank map. That would be a pretty cool party trick. Unless I was at a party full of geographers where that knowledge would impress no one.
3. Expanding the Comfort Zone
Sometimes travel requires a bit of courage. I constantly find myself in situations on our travels where I’m literally staring a fear right in the face (and I can use the word ‘literally’ there since ocean creatures have faces), but afterwards I have that awesome that wasn’t so bad feeling. I feel like that’s an important feature of our travels, since I might not have the opportunity to face those challenges otherwise. Also? Spiders. Traveling seems to introduce me to larger and larger spiders and other creepy critters every time, so perhaps I’ll eventually overcome my greatest fear and just be like, “Oh is that a tarantula in the room with me? No big deal.” I have goosebumps just from typing that sentence, so I’m definitely still quite a ways off from overcoming that fear. Doing an Amazon Rainforest tour to see Macaw parrots sounds amazing, but I’ll have to work on that spider thing first since the region is home to over two million insect species. Greaaat.
I love different languages, dialects, and accents, and I really enjoy trying to learn common phrases and greetings. Even just pronouncing cities and street names properly is a fun challenge for me. I took French for all four years in high school and then a few semesters in college, and sadly I haven’t traveled to any francophone regions yet (well, other than parts of Switzerland). Someday soon I’ll visit France and see if I can still parler Français.
5. Change of Scenery
A change of scenery is often just what the doctor ordered for nearly anything. Seeing new places is a humbling experience for me and always provides an inspirational perspective on life. The most stressful problem in my own life can all of a sudden feel completely miniscule when I think about what a teeny tiny speck I am on this planet amongst billions of other specks, and I appreciate that reminder. I also feel more alive when I travel, and I say if you can find something that makes you feel alive, do it! (Unless it’s harmful or like, a criminal activity. Don’t do that.)
So what about you? Do you tend to enjoy sticking to your favorite spots, or do you prefer to venture out and explore new places? Or do you have a hard time deciding like I do?