Why do we do this?

It’s the stroke of midnight. It’s the 17th of January. I’ve just turned 46.

I’m sitting at gate B27 of the Nassau, Bahamas airport with my wife, having just come off an 11 hour flight from Ushuaia, Argentia after an 11 day cruise to and of Antarctica. My wife and I cleared customs quick (the airport is a ghost town, but for the tumbleweeds) and now we wait with the other 145 passengers to conclude this journey to Miami.

Two months earlier we relaxed in an over-the-water bungalow in the Maldives for 4 nights, and then promptly washed all of that bliss away with 25 grueling hours of scheduled travel over 3 flights and 2 layovers to get back home to New York City.

One question kept turning over in my head as I wiggled around in airplane seats, paced terminals, and watched countless human beings fail to demonstrate the base level competency required to promptly get on and off aircraft: Why do we do this? Why do we travel?

Obviously we do it to experience new shit and see new stuff, eat stuff, fumble adorably with new languages, take photos, make memories. But, we can do most of that pretty much anywhere, right? Why do we suffer through the indignity of travel, the inhumane cattle prodding on and off, here and there, the removal of shoes and laptops, the clear baggies of tiny liquids, the pat downs, the tiny baggies of pretzels, the waiting and waiting and waiting for something good to happen, for something meaningful to be felt?

This question isn’t for you, not exclusively. I need to answer it too, for I am restless and began to define myself not by my best attributes and what I contribute to my family and community, but by the places I have been, which, without a shadow of a doubt, is asinine. As best I can ascertain, I do it all, again and again, the travel, the going, the relentless quest, to learn about myself and evolve my attitudes about the world and its people, to pop the bubble encasing me and my thoughts in everyday life at home, and to ground myself in a different reality, one that is comprised of other humans with their own set of expectations, wants, and needs but, curiously, with shared concerns, fears, hopes, and wishes for themselves, their family, and the future.

I also keep going, despite the toll it is taking on my body and mind, as a way to keep hope alive, I think. Travel helps to remind me with, real life evidence, that while fractured, there’s still so much that we share, that we adore, like the taste of freshly baked naan bread, the need for crisp clean air, the awe of water lapping upon rocks at the edge of a sea, the reliance on a public transportation system that functions properly and doesn’t smell like human urine, and the abundant joy of seeing and experiencing something we’ve long since dreamed of seeing and experiencing together with those who are the most special and important people in our lives.

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