Appreciation for Simple Travels

Image Source: Cambria Acheson

Travel is often associated with extravagant adventure and excitement– the plane ticket to an exotic island, the semester abroad in Argentina, the luxury cruise in the Mediterranean sea. Surely, these are the kind of trips that people, including myself, dream of daily.

But have you ever considered sitting in the backseat of a cramped Toyota Corolla for twelve hours, staring at endless miles of vacant green farmland? Or pitching a tent on a patch of dirt with three generations of your family?

I have done both of these, and believe it or not, they are some of my favorite travel memories to date. The farmland drive took place on a cross-country road trip with my family. We munched on snacks from gas station shops, booked hotels on the fly, and laughed when free-range cows caused a roadblock on the highway. Most of our time was spent doing…nothing, as it would seem. We sat, we joked, we observed the passing scenery, and we thought about life.

Such activities are common during our travels, and our annual seaside camping trip is no exception. We spend most of our days grazing the sand for seashells, sharing food, resting our eyes in hammocks, and doing “nothing” together. How could something so mundane (and close to home) rank among my top favorite travel memories?

Perhaps we can attribute it to the illusive “magic” of traveling– but what exactly is that magic? Surely it does not just come from extravagant locations, or else a cramped car and a dirt patch would not suffice.

Rather, I think the magic of travel is simply permission to marvel at life itself. It is permission to break free from the chains of everyday busyness, view unfamiliar surroundings with excitement, feel grounded with the earth, be aware of the presence of others, and share meals together (even if the meal comes from a roadside gas station). Such activities are rarely prioritized in a culture of constant productivity. By temporarily removing us from that environment of performance, travel frees us to be “unproductive” without guilt. However, I would contend that simply resting, appreciating your environment, and enjoying the company of others is not unproductive. Perhaps it is even one of the most meaningful things we will ever do.

So yes– keep dreaming big about your travels, and book that Mediterranean cruise if you can. But if you cannot afford the luxury trip yet, or your work schedule is too swamped for vacation leave, or a pandemic has cut your access to international travel– rest assured that your travels do not have to be far and long to be meaningful. There is no exuberant itinerary required; “nothing” is a free, fulfilling pastime that I would happily recommend! Even a bargain weekend away or a quick road trip to a neighboring city can become a cherished memory. In its simplest form, travel provides space for your brain and body to observe, marvel, and appreciate life itself.