Right before we were set to move to China, it happened.
It was a bit ill-timed, but otherwise not entirely unexpected.
We had been traveling in Central America for three weeks and were preparing to move to China just a month later.
So as we relaxed on a peaceful fishing dock watching the sun set in Caye Caulker, Belize this summer, we both came to the same realization: the way we travel has to change. It’s exciting, yes, but not in the same way it used to be. It’s just not as fulfilling as it once was. And, quite honestly, it’s exhausting.
Maybe we have been too busy. Maybe we’ve packed too much into such a short period of time. Or maybe we’re just getting older and starting to slow down.
Whatever the reason, travel is beginning to lose a bit of its luster.
I’ve seen countless wonders of this world, and I’m grateful for each of these opportunities. Please don’t get me wrong. Racking up countries and UNESCO World Heritage sites and checking them off the bucket list … it’s amazing. It’s inspiring. It’s mind-blowing.
I love traveling.
I never thought this would be my life.
I thought I would only ever get to know these places through documentaries or the pages of National Geographic. I never imagined I would experience them firsthand.
But after awhile, it becomes less exciting — no, less surprising. I come to expect to see these places. I come to expect a lifestyle of exploration. And a a result, I lose my sense of wonder. I lose my sense of awe that I’m actually experiencing these places. I lose my gratitude. It all seems like just another day in the life of a world traveler.
I worry that at just 30 years old, I have already checked off almost all the “sights” I’ve ever wanted to see in the world — and more.
It’s not that sight-seeing the amazing wonders of this world — both natural and man-made — is a bad thing. They’re incredible. They should be treasured. Preserved. Revered.
But checking items off some arbitrary list, and for what? To say you’ve been there? To have something to talk about at parties? To have something that sets you apart from your friends?
There has to be more to travel than this.
I don’t want to cheapen this world and the people who live in it by simplifying travel to nothing more than a pin added to my map, a photo on my wall, or a souvenir I’ve collected along the way.
I’m not content for travel to lose its luster.
I want to be profoundly changed by travel, as I have been in the past.
And in order for travel to continue to change me, I need to change the way I travel.
So even though we’re living in China for the next year and will no doubt be doing our fair share of sight-seeing, fundamentally, the way we travel is about to change.
Here are just a few of the ways in which we’ll be traveling more intentionally over the coming year …
Although volunteering abroad is not a new concept to either of us (we’ve both done so several times in the past), it’s been awhile since we’ve traveled for that purpose. This year, we’ll be using some of our personal vacation time, as well as our R&R trips, to give back and volunteer in communities throughout Southeast Asia, particularly Cambodia. Not only does volunteering allow you to offer a positive contribution to the country you’re visiting, but also it provides an opportunity to connect with the local community in a way that’s just not possible as a typical tourist.
Traveling with our friends and family.
Often we wonder, heck, if most of our family and friends don’t even read our travel website, why on earth would they want to travel with us? Well, fortunately for us, a few of them actually do. This year will provide us with several great opportunities to discover new places in this world with more than just each other.
This Spring, both of my parents will travel to China to visit us. Although we’re not sure what the itinerary holds, it will be great to experience Chinese culture, geography, and history with them. This will even be my mom’s first trip outside of the United States!
In June, we’re planning a horse trekking trip through the remote Alatai Mountains of western Mongolia with one of Justin’s former professors from college. Talk about an adventure!
In July, a few friends from back home will fly out and meet us in Japan where we’re planning a hike up Mt. Fuji!
Although there are only a few people who plan to visit us (or are able to visit us), we’re really excited about the opportunities we’ll have to share in these experiences with our friends and family. After we move back to the U.S., we hope to be able to convince even more of our friends to travel with us. Either that, or we’ll just spend the majority of our vacation time traveling to visit our friends and family across the country, rather than leaving them to explore the rest of the world. This doesn’t mean we’ll stop traveling, but it does mean that we recognize our travel-addicted lifestyle has caused us to sacrifice time we could have otherwise spent with people we love.
Traveling for outdoor adventure.
We certainly enjoy quite a bit of outdoor adventuring together close to home, but when we travel overseas, we try to fit in a bunch of things and see sights, so we often don’t get the adventure we would like. And ever since the time I ruined our chance to hike the Inca Trail, we’ve been craving an epic trek. We’re hoping the trips to Mongolia and Japan prove to be exactly that. We find that getting off-the-beaten-path and out into nature allows us to experience a particular destination in a much more powerful way than just drive-by sight-seeing at the places everyone else is visiting.
Traveling to places we’ve already been.
In the past, our goal has been to visit as many different countries as possible. Now that we’ve each traveled to more than 20 countries, we’re realizing that numbers don’t mean much. Rather, it’s the experiences and exchanges that take place on our travels that really count, and those cannot be reduced to numbers. Because of our job we often spend less time in a place than we would like. Now that we’ve been there, done that, we’re looking forward to returning to some of the places we’ve already been — places that we’ve loved. To be honest, we feel like we’ve seen plenty of this world already and now we’d like to go back and just enjoy it.
Although we’ll certainly be traveling a lot this year while we’re in Asia, we hope that we’re able to experience the cultures and communities we visit on a deeper level than we have over the past several years.
I’m sure we’re just in a bit of a travel rut due to how much we traveled over the summer before we moved overseas. I’m sure travel has not permanently lost its luster. But I think it’s definitely a good wake-up call for us to continue to challenge ourselves through travel; to continue to grow as travelers.
We look forward to experiencing this incredible planet in fresh, new ways.
Have you ever experienced a time when travel lost its luster for you? How did you overcome it?