Why travel, and spend money that could otherwise be spent solidifying a home base? Especially, why travel to places remote from what you know and place yourself in potentially uncomfortable and destabilizing situations, where you don’t know the language well and where there aren’t established tourist traps and familiar corporate franchises and resorts to squirrel away into?
I’m speaking of course about going to Colombia, a destination that makes most Americans express dismay and shock that you would even think of venturing to (thanks to our sensationalist and terrorist driven media). I’m writing this not only to remind myself of why I want to go there, and why I love to travel, but also for my beleaguered girlfriend, who is perhaps not sure why she is accompanying me other than for the reason of making sure that I don’t run away with some random colombiana.
The reasons why I love to travel are really quite simple: I love to dance to different music, drink different drinks, eat different food, see different environments, and meet different people. So when you travel with me, that’s exactly what I’ll be doing: enjoying a new and different culture. I’m not very interested in seeing monuments or ruins or museums. I’m not very interested in snapping photos of myself standing in front of panoramic viewpoints. Essentially, I travel because I want to know what it is to live. And part of how I gain that understanding is by exploring how other people are living: what makes them alive, what brings them joy, what makes them them.
I don’t know where my life is going. I don’t know what career I can fit my attributes into. I don’t know where I want to settle down. I don’t know any of that, but I do know that I want live my life as fully as possible, and explore myself as deeply as possible. So to me, traveling to Colombia is a form of determining my future. This is just as viable to me as studying for the GRE and applying for grad schools. I don’t know where it will take me, but I do know that it will change me, and that that change will determine where I will go next.
Colombia, despite what the scars of narcoterrorism and political corruption have wreaked, contains a beautiful and passionate people that I want to get to know. It contains a land so varied and beautiful that it seems impossible to fit into one small country. It contains salsa, vallenato, and cumbia musics. It contains some of the best coffee in the world, and Carribbean, Andean, and Amazonian cuisines. The people arguably speak some of the most well annunciated and easily understood Spanish in South American, which means that I can bone up more on my slim amount of Spanish speaking capability. Furthermore, the one cousin I have in this world is a native colombiano, growing plátanos y café orgánicos.
In these strange times many of us feel displaced, without history or tradition or identity. So we must seek whatever connections we can find that will tie us into a true sense of family, sense of community, and sense of time. I go to Colombia to know these connections, to rediscover humanity. My girlfriend comes with me because we are family. Together we go because we don’t know one another nor ourselves completely. We go to find our place in this disconnected, fragmented world. Sometimes one must travel far from home in order to understand just what home really is; far from normality to know what normality really is; far from self to know what self really is.
We travel far so that we can come closer to where we are truly from.