The other day, while we were watching our little girl twirl around the living room, James asked me if I could think of anything in life that provided as essential an experience as having a child. (Yes, we get quite philosophical at times ;) ) I thought about it, and the only other thing I could come up with was travel. Just as if you have never had a child, there is this whole realm of life that you just never experience if you never travel (which describes many, many people I have met over the years). There is, quite literally a whole world that you have missed out on. Now, of course, I wouldn't trade my daughter or family for travel, but I would trade just about anything else in my life for that experience, and in many ways, we have.

   We are not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, but have traveled to much of Europe, a little of Africa and all but 9 of the United States. We are in our early 30's, and we live unlike anyone we know. Rather than spending money on SUVs or a large house, we live below our means and redirect the extra money to travel.


   I started this blog thinking that I was going to answer the question as to "why" travel was so important to us. Instead, I want to find out the answer to my question "why not?" I have heard many excuses over the years, so we'll start with those.

Money: The most common excuse, of course. This is the one that I get when I am sheepishly telling my aquaintences that, yes we are going to Disney World again, or that we have a cruise in Europe planned. They eye my very unfashionable clothing, shake their heads, and exclaim "we don't have the money for anything like that. We are lucky to get down to the beach once a year!" And I feel guilty. But, then I think about how my husband really doesn't make more money than they do, and I look at their fancy new car, visit their 2500 sq ft houses, eye their high-class wardrobe and come to the realization that we just have different values than they do.

For those who I meet who really don't have the money to travel like we do, and have no way of getting it, there is still travel to be had. When we were first married, we were broke, as normal college students tend to be. But still, we traveled within our means. One weekend we went only an hour away to Natchitoches, LA and visited the old French fort there, played mini-golf and ate at Ryan's. We ended up with a private tour of the fort with a cute little old lady, dressed up in pioneer garb, leading us around and storytelling as only these type of people can.


   Also this year, we went down to New Orleans for one weekend, in addition to hitting all the state historic sites near our home. Some of them weren't great, but some were, and you know what? I can't remember much more from that first year of marriage, but I remember every one of those trips vividly. And each of them were done for very little money. Even to this day, if we are visiting family or going through a new area, we still try to stop and see whatever tourist thing they offer (especially historic sites).
   Most recently, while visiting my home town of Lafayette, LA, we had an extra afternoon, and decided to head down to St. Martinville, where the Evangeline tree of the Longfellow poem still resides, and ended up in a museum dedicated to the Acadians. There was a presentation at the end of the museum that brought us to tears. And this was only about 20 minutes from where I grew up. In 5 years, I won't remember much else about that visit, but I will remember St. Martinville and Evangeline.

   All of this is actually a rebuttal to another very common excuse: Time Off Work. I agree, it is necessary to have a decent amount of vacation time to do most extensive vacations, and many people are forced into vacationing when everyone else is vacationing, in the summer. But really, the only place that I have visited that I just will not visit again in the summer is Walt Disney World. (Okay, add Washington D.C. to that as well, but that is more a personal thing having to do with my hating to walk in the heat without tree or building cover.)
But, as I have proven above, you can have memorable travel experiences just worked into your everyday life and on weekends. We see every time we leave town as an opportunity to stretch our travel legs. Even within our town, we make sure to see the attractions, which can make for a memorable afternoon or evening. Although, we have yet to make it down to the Hank Williams Museum downtown. Eventually...


   So, why else, when it is so easy, and often cheap, to have some neat experiences do people not place importance on travel? "I just don't care about that stuff" This is the one that gets me the most because it is the one I least understand. What, exactly, are they claiming to not care about? The world around them? History? Art? Natural beauty? Man-made beauty/ architecture? I think that these people are missing the boat completely. Even if you aren't "interested" in the above things, travel can remedy that. I learn more through travel than I ever have in any classroom or through any book. One of the things I am most excited about is showing our daughter the world and seeing her learn as we travel. I wasn't interested in visual art in the least before visiting Europe, but after being there and learning about the people who created it, (and seeing some really great examples), I love art now and visit even the most piddly museums wherever I go, in hopes of seeing something that stirs me.

   And if I had known how much I enjoy architecture, when I was in college I might have majored in it, or at least taken a class. I am not trying to say that I am more "cultured" or smarter than anyone else. I am just a small-town Southern girl. But, I know what I like, and you have to actually see more of the world to see what you like.
Without travel, I would have never known that I LOVE Indian food, that, for some reason, my brain picks up the Italian language more quickly than others, and I wouldn't have met amazing people who have helped to shape my view of the world. 

   From Tarek, my Tunisian tour guide and now good friend who gives me a window into Muslim culture to Daniela, who struggled with my poor Italian over skype before picking me up from the airport in Florence and treating us to an amazing night out in Fiesole, to Eliza and Maynard who love Disney as much as we do, to Davis and Becca, who are just another Southern couple that love to travel like us.

   Even if you disagree with me about how important travel is, I hope this blog has at least encouraged you to make memories with your family because that is the biggest reason that I love travel. Years down the road, you won't remember the day to day drudgery of work and life, but you will remember those times when you did something out of the ordinary, even if it didn't go so well. (Sometimes those are the best stories!) So get out there and travel, even if it is to your local museum, fort, beach or state capital, and make some memories!

Original post with pictures

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Comment by Nicholas Kontis on September 19, 2011 at 5:34pm

Well said! Travel is important to my life. I live to travel.

Kaleigh, check out my Trip Rambler web site also for posting travel


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Thanx, Nick

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