Some time ago I made a list called “10 Reasons to Travel and to Read Our Books” and when I came across it the other day, it struck me that the list was still a good one, and if anything, more timely, as people shrink from the risks of international travel. Here’s the list:
- 1. Expand Your Horizons
- 2. Discover Yourself
- 3. Find Love
- 4. Have an Adventure
- 5. Get Mystical
- 6. Break Habits
- 7. Lose Weight
- 8. Become a Storyteller
- 9. Face a Challenge
- 10. Appreciate Home
All of these things have a lot in common, and could in fact be reduced to one main idea: To grow as a human being, you must take risks. (As an old friend once said, “The only sin is to be stuck.”) Risks imply motion, and travel is the most obvious and direct way for us to engage in such motion, all of which might be summed up by another quote, this one from 13th century philosopher and poet Rumi: “Travel brings power and love back into your life.”
And of course, risk itself is an entirely relative and misunderstood concept. We all “know” that the odds of dying in a car crash close to home are greater than those of flying. We all know the odds of dying from heart failure or cancer are greater than the odds of dying from rebel gunshots or the bite of a fer-de-lance. And yet we constantly bamboozle ourselves and end up taking dreadful risks with health and safety close to home, eschewing the “risks” of foreign travel and denying ourselves the rewards.
To these ten things I would add one more, if you’ll excuse a bit of editorial flatulence—Change the World. While most of us feel we don’t have much ability to effect change at home, our power as catalysts is greatly amplified when we interact with strangers in strange lands. So if you want to reduce xenophobia and hatred everywhere, become a stranger yourself, and you’ll find that most often the relevant song playing in your head is “Stranger in Paradise.”
Isn’t it time you once again found yourself agog with wonder, and wept at your foolishness in not hurling yourself into the world?
James O’Reilly, Publisher
PS: And if you must stay home, become an avid armchair traveler and read about the places you aren’t visiting.
About James’s Corner:
James O’Reilly is the publisher and series editor of Travelers’ Tales. He lives with his wife and three daughters in Palo Alto, CA, where they also publish children’s art games at Birdcage Books.