“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
~Bilbo Baggins, The Lord of the Rings
Travel is inherently dangerous. From the moment you pass over your threshold, you leave the comfort, familiarity, and relative control of the small world you call home. Venture further into your community and you have to interact with your neighbors, losing ever more control as you take each step. You could be caught in a sudden storm, or run into an old flame. Pass beyond your borders into the unknown and the control all but slips away.
Human nature is to fear what we cannot control, what we do not understand. This is the underlying idea that makes travel dangerous. Yet even with all the bad things that happen to good people–terrorism, accidents, diseases–it is not those dangers that define travel. Mark Twain put it best:
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
Travel is a dangerous business, because nothing is more powerful than an educated mind given a purpose. Often times, the traveler achieves just that.
All our lives we are taught to sit and study, to memorize words on a page or dates on a chalkboard. But trivial facts and dates are useless without the theories and concepts they support. Memorizing the Declaration of Independence or the Magna Carta is of little consequence if the parrot repeating it does not understand its significance.
Traveling is dangerous because it refuses to let ignorance rule. There is no better teacher than the world itself. Let me be clear: not everyone that boards a plane or a cruise ship is a traveler. The average Joe on holiday is merely a tourist; he is not out to learn or to grow, and takes photos where he should instead strike up a conversation with a local. He returns home unchanged and uneducated. But a traveler leaves home with the purpose of gaining knowledge, of bringing a new understanding of the world back with them.
Traveling is a dangerous because it makes us think. It is easy to dismiss the hardships of others, the intelligence in other ways of life, or the wisdom of a different path when one is not directly exposed to it. True understanding comes from dialogue and interaction, not from reading words on a page. Because of this, I urge you out into the world; be brave, be daring, be open-minded. Reading my words cannot replace the wisdom you will achieve when you take that chance and journey beyond the known into lands so very different than your own.
Take a small step. Find a place a few hours from home that you have never seen. Bring a friend and discover something new together. Set aside money to take a long weekend somewhere exotic and new. Try a new cuisine. Give yourself the opportunity to fall in love with traveling.
Traveling is dangerous. Once you take that first step, you may not be able to stop. You may find yourself setting money aside for a long holiday, or making plans to leave behind the normal for something new, not knowing when or if you will be back.
This is where I find myself; torn between the love for home and the burning desire for new experiences. But I suffer gladly, as it means I have done something with my life beyond the mundane and ordinary. So I write this in the hopes that others will take the chance and learn something new through travel. I certainly have. I see the palpable difference between those that have traveled and those that stay home. Wisdom lies in the eyes of those that have spent their money on experience rather that on material possessions. Despite the hardships, I choose to be more than myself by becoming not a citizen of one nation, but a citizen of the world. “Home is behind, the world ahead.” Like Bilbo, we all have a little Took in us. And if you are reading this, you are on your way into a world far bigger than any one of us could ever comprehend. But we will try to understand, nonetheless.