Geoff and I have been talking a lot lately about why we travel: what does it mean to us, what propels us forward, and why on earth do we agree to the 24-hour travel days and insecure bank accounts inherent in building a nomadic business when it would be far easier to trade in our laptops and backpacks for a respectable j-o-b and a refurbished tug boat?
At the conference we just attended in Minneapolis (TBEX), the closing keynote speaker was Andrew Zimmern. He spoke about a lot of things — food and culture, of course — but the part that stuck out for me was when someone asked him why he travels.
His answer? Travel makes him the best version of himself.
That’s something Geoff and I have both felt for a long time, but have failed to articulate. And it’s a good start.
In our minds, however, there are far more reasons to travel beyond self-improvement.
This beautiful, 13-minute film by National Geographic (and shot entirely on an iPhone 6, proving once and for all, it is the photographer/videographer, not the gear, that makes a shot) offers some alternatives.
Take a look:
Telling the story of Nat. Geo. Emerging Explorer and Adventurer of the Year, Wasfia Nazreen, it talks about how travel and challenging yourself changes you.
In Wasifa’s paraphrased words, her experience climbing the Seven Summits has taught her to speak without words, to draw without chalk, and to be at home when she’s homeless.
Each of those are experiences we’ve had, to different degrees, as travelers. Especially the speak without words and feel at home when we’re homeless parts (seriously: we just moved into a new home in a village in Portugal, where we’ll spend the month of June…this is the 20th bed we’ve slept in so far in 2016).
However, the thing that struck me the most is this:
If you let it, travel will trample your assumptions, unceremoniously throwing them out the door before opening your eyes to the complexity of people and cultures. It will broaden your worldview, and your world, to a size and scope that is far greater than you knew before.
If you let it, travel will change your mind about anything and everything.
Let me explain.
Wasfia, the subject of the film, is a Bangladeshi woman who was orphaned at an early age. She’s since gone on to become the first Bangladeshi, man or woman, to climb the Seven Summits.
So often, we have a preconceived notion of what it means to be “someone, somewhere” based on the media and culture we consume.
If you don’t believe me, ask yourself this: What does it mean to be a “Woman in Bangladesh” today?
For me, media coverage of sweatshop conditions for garment workers, factory collapses, poverty, and sexual/physical violence come to mind. And that’s not even counting the flooding that Wasifa mentions is commonly associated with her country.
And yet, here is Wasfia, who for all intents and purposes began life as a FREAKING ORPHAN, literally breaking records and scaling mountains.
That’s not to discount the experiences of people in her country who do face the challenges we’ve been taught to believe define Bangladesh…just that those problems and stereotypes don’t, in fact, define Bangladesh.
We’ve been duped with soundbites, simplicity, and the stories that make “good news,” rather than those stories that encourage critical thought and understanding. We’ve been duped by thinking we can understand everything from a 3-minute news story, when in fact it’s real, meaningful experiences, and a genuine desire to understand and fight through complexity, that open our minds.
Of course, you don’t have to travel to open your mind and question your assumptions…you just have to be willing to look beyond your backyard, your favorite media sources, your circle of peers, and people like you, who share the same assumptions, colour, religion, and beliefs as you do, and don’t force you to question whether any of it is actually real.
I hope you enjoyed this film as much as I did. And I hope it encourages you to consume media, products, and experiences that broaden, rather than dull, your mind, sense of humanity, and thirst for meaningful experiences.
9 thoughts on “14 Minutes That Show Why Travel Matters”
This is so awesome! Love this post! Traveling is so much fun and a great way to learn about not only the world around you, but also yourself. Very nice work! Thanks so much for sharing!
Soo good Katie!
Isn’t it awesome??? I really want to do this now!
Thank you for your insight and the amazing video, what Wasfia accomplished was amazing. I lived/worked in Dhaka, Bangladesh for just under 2 years and I got to meet some amazing people. The country is really underrated and to the outside world is considered to be a poor and corrupt country with nothing going for it. The garment industry comment you mention comes to mind. I am in no way in favour of the conditions these poor workers endure during the day, no lunch breaks, loo breaks frowned upon etc. dangerous buildings etc. but the majority of them have conditions that are tolerable for most part. We in the west see them as exploited as they earn just $90 per month, but do we cry out for the doctors on $300 or the rickshaw puller on $30? no we dont. Yes the labour is cheap but take into account they earn 25% above the average monthly wage and you start to think about it differently. Would you feel sorry for someone in your home town who does not have a day off or lunch but who earns $35 an hour? Probably not. It’s easy to voice an opinion but we need to see all perspectives to make a valid argument.
You hit the nail on the head when you say the media has duped us. There was an example over here in the UK where a foreign national saved a small child from a savage dog, the dog was killed by the man as it was out of control and could not be handled safely. Most papers reported ‘man saves child’ but one paper, an anti immigrant paper reported ‘asylum seeker kills family pet’. I feel we should not believe anything the media tells us but if they just told us the news without sensationalising it would be continue to watch/read? Probably not.
In closing, many thanks for a well rounded, well thought article. It’s bloggers like you we need to see more of, keep up the great work.
Great Article. I am eligible for retirement in the near future and I am look forward to traveling more.
I cannot access the video. Your description is quite strong and now I am eager to watch it. Can you please give me an alternative link to watch this?
Hey Asad – give this link a try: https://youtu.be/wMqu-nRM-Uc – hopefully it works for you this time :)
Traveling will shatter any preconception one has about a specific place or even a whole country. It’s actually a good thing that people are starting to explore beyond the usual popular destinations, it widens our perspective immensely.
i watch this in youtube and it leads me here!! awesome!
great article!! looking forward to read more here!