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The Top 10 Reasons to Travel Condensed Down Into 1

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For a while I’ve wanted to write something explaining why people should travel. Having spent a half a decade exploring the world, more and more I find myself not just traveling for my own benefit but using my platform to encourage others to travel. The problem is, to me the “why” of travel is so obvious that it is hard to put into words. It is also something very personal and different people are going to have very different reasons for traveling.

I wish I could write a top 10 list with semi-obvious bullet points about why you should travel. Maybe I could toss in points to pander to different groups and in the end have something which would generate tons of pageviews.

Honestly, I just can’t do it. I’ve done lists of my favorite things and I do occasional lists of trivia, but for something as personal and intangible as travel, I’m not sure it can or should be done.

The more I thought about the subject, the more I realized that when you cut away all the BS there was at the core one and only one reason why anyone should travel.


You are going to die

I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer, but that’s it. That is all there is. I realize that everyone is aware of this fact and it isn’t something we like to think about, but it is true. We are all mortal.

Our time on this planet is limited. We have a finite number of days and we don’t know what that number is.

The world is an amazing place. There are so many things to see, you could spent an entire lifetime exploring and never come close to seeing it all.

The question I faced, and the question which everyone has to face is, “what are you going to do with your life?”

You can spend it accumulating crap that will eventually all be thrown away. You can spend it trying to impress other people that you probably don’t really care for. You can spend it toiling day after day at something you don’t enjoy doing.

OR

You can spend it seeing and exploring all this incredible world has to offer.

I understand that few people if any would want to travel they way I do, but you don’t have to do what I do to make traveling a higher priority than spending money on trinkets and crap.

When my father passed away 2 years ago, at his funeral no one talked about the cars he owned or things he bought. We talked about the trips we took and the things we did. Past family vacations and fishing trips were the first things which came to everyone’s mind.

In the final analysis, we are sum total of our experiences. Who you are is what you’ve done.

The only question is, what do you want to do?

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Comments

  1. Sandi Bird says:

    Wow, so true! Powerful article! As I read this I’m dealing with my mom’s recent diagnosis of lung cancer. She’s never traveled far from home, and though she’s had those “dream trips” that she’s verbalized occasionally, she’s never been willing to go do them. I’ve tried to convince her to let me take her someplace while she’s still able, and she says she’s too old now…and sick…and . She’s left with a life full of many regrets. It is so sad to me. I have traveled around the globe and had some amazing experiences, all in spite of lack of money and lots of responsibilities back home.

    To CheezyK: You should ask your MIL if she can guarantee that by staying home she WON’T die. My take is that if I die doing something I enjoy (traveling, extreme sports, etc), it’s a whole lot better way to go than to fade away in a nursing home like 100’s of patients I’ve taken care of over the years.

    ONE LIFE, NO REGRETS! Una Vita, Sine Paenitentia!

  2. James Abroad says:

    Gary, this is profoundly touching and is something I feel deeply in my heart. I don’t think anyone could put this into words better than you have!

  3. Stephen T. says:

    Love love love this post. In my work and life I am surrounded by people with the means to go anywhere and if they ever leave home it’s for the condo in Vail or the Four Seasons in Maui, period. Crime! You are a constant inspiration, Mr. Arndt.

  4. Stephen says:

    Love love love this post.

  5. cristina says:

    Thanks for writing this Gary. We forget Life is not infinite. It’s too short to hide behind cubicles and not be doing what you love. I think if more people travelled, we would be more at peace (with our self and one another).

  6. LOL! I was not expecting that! But you have taken all of the obvious reasons and stripped them down to the essential #1 reason: death. That’s one you can’t argue with :)

  7. Thanks so much for writing this Gary. it;s exactly how I feel. After I lost both my parents, about 7 years ago, I just decided I have to start living my dreams NOW. I made a conscious decision to ignore money entirely for a few years and just go for it. First, I did a yoga teacher training; then I went to India for six months; then I started Breathedreamgo.com and my full-time travel writing career,

    I am living my dreams, and the only thing I am accumulating is experience.

    ps Sounds suspiciously like meaningful travel to me ….

  8. Kristen says:

    This is so beautiful and true. I’m glad you didn’t do a Top 10, because that would just take away the magic to travel and how personal it really is. Your outlook on travel is exactly the same as mine which is why I can’t understand any other way of spending my life then to use this short time I have to see this incredible planet. Nice post!

  9. I am reminded of the great quote from the book “Tuesdays with Morrie”

    “Everyone knows they are going to die but no one believes they are going to die.”

    Believing you are going to die changes everything.

  10. Ayngelina says:

    My father died when I was five so I grew up with a sense of mortality. When people ask how I was able to leave my career and life at 32 to travel I tell them the exact same thing. I didn’t want to look back with regret.

    I may not have always made the best decisions in my life and I’m not sure I have found what I was looking for when I left but at least I know I’m giving it a shot.

  11. Natalia says:

    Travel is highest priority in my life. And the fact that I cannot travel as much as I want due to my job makes me very upset… I keep thinking about tossing in the trash everything I own and put my feet on the road…. Your article is wonderful!!!

  12. So true! Everybody knows they’re going to die one day and still keep on postponing all the stuff they enjoy doing, being travel the prime example
    LIVE!! You don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow…

  13. Julie Mak says:

    Thank you for putting down to words what I felt for a long time. Life is short, make the most of it now! Because if my children I cannot yet do a long term traveling, but we all sure enjoy our short trips! I may not leave my children monetary inheritance, but I am giving them a gift of the world and they love it. Already both of them are travel junkies like me, always wondering where to go next. World is a wonderful place, and traveling makes you appreciate it and appreciate what you have!

  14. Well said, sir! Mirrors my own life-long mantra: “This ain’t a dress rehearsal, folks!”

    I might also add that you’re never too old to <fill in the blank". At 40 I started my own (20+ yrs.) international tour company (to Belize and Costa Rica), and now in my 60's? I moved lock, stock 'n barrel to Vietnam to teach EFL. Next stop: volunteering in Mongolia.

  15. Suzie says:

    AHH took the words right out of my mouth. I gave myself 5 more years to truly live my life, and it’s been quite the thrill!

  16. Great one Gary…Insightful, Inspiring, and Brutally honest, all at the same time…

  17. Nice and simple. Can’t wait to share this one.

  18. Being aware of your own mortality is so important I find. When I mention it, some people go: “Oh, come on, you can’t think like that!”. But I think we should. It’s how I am able to live the life I do, full of travel and amazing experiences. Sitting in in an office 40 hours a week is like thinking we live forever.
    Thanks for that!

  19. Right on, Gary! My husband and I used this Steve Jobs quote: “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.” to maintain our motivation to go Location Liberated in early 2011. It worked wonders! I left my secure job after 10 years at the ripe old age of 31 and I don’t regret my decision in the slightest. Long-term travel has enriched our lives in more ways than I can express and with every experience (no matter how it forces me outside of my comfort zone), I grow to become a more complete person.

  20. Rah! Rah! Gary.
    You’re right. There’s no point in a bunch of top-ten reasons to get out and live life. There is only one thing to consider…we’re all going to die. So the only question is, how do we live in the interim?
    I believe everyone should have a memento mori on their desk or kitchen table or somewhere prominent (mine is a little Mexican skeleton hanging on my desk light :) to remind them of the brevity of life.
    That’s why my husband and I ‘checked out’ when he was 39 and I was 36. His father died at 49 and my mother at 63.
    Life is short. Live it large.
    Thanks for posting what should be obvious, but so often isn’t.
    Happy Trails!

  21. Jodi says:

    I agree wholeheartedly! One life to live..so live it well!

  22. Mary says:

    “Who you are is what you’ve done”
    I totally agree !!! :)

  23. Well written! You are absolutely right. Thats probably the most direct answer to an philosophic question I ever saw :-)

    Will have to follow your posts!

    If you got time, have a look at my blog (even tough there is not too much content in it but at least some nice pictures..)

  24. Lily says:

    Dead on; no pun intended :)

  25. I definitely want to travel and see the world. Maybe not indefinitely, but at least I want to enjoy life for a while. I also think traveling and exploring different cultures is part of happiness. Stay alive for a long time Gary, and keep sharing this amazing world.

  26. Ha ha… I LOVE it! You’re right on.
    That’s been my motivation. One lifetime, no regrets.

  27. Love this succinct post. I’m also glad that you didn’t use the term “Negative Nancy.” LOL

  28. Bron Smith says:

    I agree that traveling is one of the greatest of human activities. I want to return to my favorite place on earth, Rarotonga, Cook Islands, in the South Pacific, and continue to teach my Painting in Paradise workshop.

  29. Stuart says:

    The bald simplicity of the statement is beguiling Gary. Contemplating mortality is a great motivator for so many things. I was struck and wrote something on a similar theme when one of my kids filled in a post-it note with what I thought were random numbers but turned out to be projections of my life expectancy! Gave me a jolt!

  30. Marvin says:

    Gary, what a breath of fresh air to hear you express this unabashedly. You are so right. There really is no other consideration. “I would have traveled more.” is one of the top regrets heard from people in their last days. My wife and I did exactly what you’re talking about. A year ago, we sold or gave away all our belongings and hit the ground(air) running and have never looked back. We don’t know what regrets might have later in life, but the decision to travel long-term is definitely not one of them!

    Thanks again for reaffirming that we’re on the right track. And thanks for continuing to show the world how amazing we all can be!

  31. Andrew Adi C says:

    You nailed it, Gary.

    Succinct and pure, there is no clearer reason than the fact that we have scarce time on this planet. I completely agree, in fact, “To inspire you to begin your odyssey within Earth’s exquisite tapestry of life while you still can.” has been part of my mission for years now, the key words being “while you still can”.

    While you still can.

    Thanks for sharing this wake-up call, Gary :)

  32. Ed Helvey says:

    So RIGHT ON, Gary! This is and continues to be one of my main focal points in my Living Free blog. The only time we have is NOW! And the only thing we’ll take with us at the end of our roads (the destination is the same for everyone) is the memories we create and gather as we travel the road.

    Would you mind if I reprinted your post on my blog as a guest post? It fits so well. Love to use the photo, too. I’ll, of course, include a link to your blog (you’re already on my blog roll anyway.

    Enthusiastically,
    Ed

  33. Juan says:

    Absolutely LOVED this post, Gary. I’d add a comma and “Why NOT?” at the end, but I suppose it’s already implied. Great stuff, thanks.

  34. Arnaud says:

    Nice article ! We share it !

  35. Eat and drink for tomorrow we die, eh?

    Accumulating experiences can be just as much an empty and futile pursuit as the accumulation of things.

    The legacy you leave behind after you die is not the experiences you’ve had, but rather the contributions you’ve made to the lives of others.

    • 30HomeGames says:

      I agree but I find more experience usually leads to more empathy. This can be useful when engaging with others in need. Travelers like journalists can be accused of not truly embodying the experience because of their impermanent nature but its really all subjective.

      The futility of it all usually dawns on people with riches. Its all relative of course, the gravity will be more noticed depending on who you surround yourself with. Its a personal journey really.

  36. Gary, I agree 100%. My somewhat nihilist take is “we’re all dead in the end”.

    Now – have you heard William Shatner singing “You’ll Have Time”? It is this post, in song form. I think you just might like it.

    Nate.

  37. Nico says:

    Wow, now that’s a very powerful post! I think that it’s very important to remind ourselves of death from time to time – puts things into perspective. It’s kinda strange that thinking about death motivates people to change their life (myself included), but well… anything that works is good!

  38. This is the best article I’ve ever read. Tomorrow I’m moving to Arcidosso (Italy). Thanks to your posts I decided to change everything, sold everything, quit me job, started a blog and now I’m moving to Italy with my son and wife.
    Today I’m reading this words. Just wow. Thank you one more time.

  39. 30HomeGames says:

    There’s a reason ‘Just do it’ is such an enduring slogan. Ironically staring death in the face is where that tag originated from.

    Its human nature to lose perspective, in a way it helps us cope with the bad stuff in life unfortunately it makes us forget the good stuff too.

    When traveling, we get a perspective I wish we could always have – to live in the moment.

  40. Greg Rodgers says:

    Very well said. Most of the people who say to me almost daily “I wish I had your life” or “you’re so lucky” are typically the ones throwing money away on useless trinkets and crap.

  41. Wendy says:

    Exactly! Well said!

  42. Damian says:

    This is very true, and a consideration I’ve been entertaining for a while now. Though not in regards to whether I should travel at all, as I already travel a lot for both pleasure and business, but whether I should travel even more… Because, as you say… life is short, whichever way you measure it, and there is a lot to see… My list grows more each year, not less!

  43. Leila says:

    Gary, what a great write, so very truthfully. Many a country, with my husband, yet this past February, for the first time traveled ( no vacation time, here) by my self….. This at 66 years of age. Started in Nepal,onto Bangladesh, then into Kolkata, India. Many a train ride later….ending in Mumbai… A journey that I as a sole traveler, I plan to repeat in other areas of the world.
    So enjoy reading your travel experiences. May we all need a new passport prior to the present one expiring. Love life……..

  44. Gaelyn says:

    Live is so short. Live Now!

  45. Joseph says:

    Gary thank you for this. You are an inspiration. I just had a conversation the other day with friends about not having regrets in life and I have always wanted to travel. It wasn’t until earlier this week that I have decided to finally get my first passport and soon begin my travels across the globe. Again, thank you!

  46. Annie says:

    Loved this post!

  47. CheezyK says:

    Well said!
    (although if you ask my MIL, the reason she doesn’t travel is because she might die doing it so I guess it’s an argument that still doesn’t work for everyone)

  48. Heather says:

    I could not agree more.

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About Gary Arndt

My name is Gary Arndt. In March 2007 I set out to travel around the world...
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