April 26, 2015

How Travel Provokes

It's all too easy to develop a sunshine, rainbows, and lollipops attitude about travel.  I mean, a cursory search of "travel" in any search engine provides hundreds of motivational quotes plastered across backdrops of beautiful vistas.

But travel isn't always smooth sailing, friendly locals, and delicious food.  Sometimes travel provokes you in ways you never expected or would have encountered if you had stayed home in the comfort of your recliner.  Sometimes it's in a good way, and sometimes it's not.

Hordes of people in the Colosseum.
Travel Exposes You to the Good Side of People
Before we even stepped foot in Italy last summer, we were on our guard.  We'd been told that pickpockets ran rampant through the streets of Rome and that cunning teens in Naples would pilfer our pockets at will.  (Imagine an urban Jurassic Park, if you will.)  So when a middle-aged gentleman tried to motion us farther down the track at the Naples Circumvesuviano train station while speaking Italian in a somewhat insistent tone, we were instantly suspicious.  But as most people were congregating down in the direction he pointed, we figured maybe he knew something we didn't.  Sure enough, the train was short, and we barely made it into the last (packed!) car in time.  While crammed in like sardines, the gentleman helped steady our suitcases from toppling like dominoes, and when we reached Pompei, he helped get our luggage off the train and waved us goodbye with a smile.

Moral of the story:  Not all locals are trying to fleece you.

He was shamelessly begging from the crowd. But it was all
part of the act!
Travel Exposes You to the Bad Side of People
But some are trying to fleece you.  From the obnoxious men trying to foist "free" roses into your hands at Rome's Spanish Steps then demanding payment, to the rude beggars in Nuremberg hounding you for change or a cigarette, some locals are trying to deceive you or even steal from you.  We learned this the hard way while at the Circo Massimo metro station, fiddling with the automatic ticket dispensers.  Before we knew it, a man reached in front of us, began pressing buttons for us, and ultimately ended up with half our change from the dispenser.  Granted, it only resulted in the loss of a few euros, but our carelessness and naivete resulted in the situation happening in the first place.

Moral of the story:  If you're uncomfortable with a situation, be firm and walk away.

Elephants in Uganda.
Travel Exposes You to the Beauty of Creation
Is there anything more beautiful than twilight over London's skyline?  Or a sunrise over the grasslands of Uganda?  Once you step outside your front door, you can enjoy the man-made wonder of cities or explore the rawness of nature.  This exposure heightens your ability to see the beauty all around you whether in the daring courage of a daisy growing in sidewalk cracks or the warm colors of a sunrise outside your own window.

Moral of the story:  Travel isn't about checking items off a list - it's about appreciating beauty.

Travel Exposes You to Heartbreaking Situations
Orphans.  Homeless families.  Women trapped in prostitution.  Scars of past atrocities.  Abject poverty and crippled economies.  Need I say more?  Always seek to view the world through a moral compass and ask yourself if a certain activity or event is harmful or exploits the people or animals.  There are many articles for and against such activities as riding elephants in Asia or visiting SeaWorld.  Amsterdam's Red Light District is a big tourism draw.  But beyond the flashy lights and the cries of "women empowerment!" lies dark, oppressive stories.  Endeavor to help where you can; absorb the lessons of other culture's mistakes; be mindful that your own country isn't without its flaws and heartbreaks, but don't participate in events or activities which are unethical even if they are considered a "must-see" or "must-do" for that country.

Moral of the story:  What you view as a "perfect" exotic location is someone else's hometown, complete with its own set of problems.

Travel Provokes You to Change
If you think travel won't change you, think again.  There's nothing quite like exposure to other cultures to challenge your beliefs and provoke your perspectives.  Sometimes your beliefs will be affirmed.  Sometimes you'll alter or abolish your convictions altogether.  But you'll never be the same!

Moral of the story:  Don't travel if you want to stay the same.

How does travel provoke you?

Linking up with the #SundayTraveler!


  1. So true! I cannot imagine why people have no desire to travel. Yes, it can be scary and heartbreaking, but it can also be so beautiful and rewarding! There is nothing like seeing the good in people all around the world.

  2. Very true, our year in France has opened our minds not just to different ways of doing things but also to the challenges and problems facing a nation so different from our own. Great post! www.kiwissayoui.blogspot.com

  3. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this post Katrina! I wholeheartedly agree that travel changes the way you see the world and sometimes even your place in it. I love how I tend to "get back to my roots" and sort of reset myself and my values when I go off and see another part of the world.

  4. Well written. Thanks.

  5. Great advice, so many people are interested, but that is okay too. Thanks for joining us for Sunday Traveler.

  6. This is a fantastic post and so true. Travel is definitely an opportunity for growth and an opportunity to experience things both good and bad.

  7. What a great post! I like to say travel leaves scars - some good, some bad, all with stories of their own. Thanks for sharing some of yours with us.

  8. Love this post, especially the point about changing. People don't realize how much traveling can change a person. For the better or for the worse. Still it's all about the process and the journey! Thanks for sharing!


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