Friday, December 23, 2011

Why Travel? Because Everyone Has a Story

Everyone I've talked to about my upcoming year of travel has been extremely supportive of it, but I think many people don't quite understand it.

I've gotten the following questions a lot:

  • Are you trying to find yourself?
  • Is it going to be like Eat, Pray, Love?
  • When are you going to come back to the real world?

And my answers are usually:

  • No, I think I know myself pretty well. But I'd love to actually get lost, and, in doing so, find out so much more.
  • God, I hope so, complete with the handsome Brazilian man at the end. (No.)
  • The rest of the world is the real world!

So why am I traveling, then?

It has quite a bit to do with my desire to live an unhurried life — one in which I'm free to wander and wonder and do things at my own pace.

That's why you won't find my travel itinerary packed with specific plans and activities to check off. The mostly blank slate is quite intentional; my goal is to let the journey shape itself over time, and to be open to new adventures and detours at any moment.

But I was reminded today of another reason why I'm traveling.

I'm finally reading Bill Clinton's autobiography, My Life, which I've had on my bookshelf for years.

In it, he writes:

I learned a lot from the stories my uncle, aunts, and grandparents told me: that no one is perfect but most people are good; that people can't be judged only by their worst or weakest moments; that harsh judgments can make hypocrites of us all; that laughter is often the best, and sometimes the only, response to pain. Perhaps most important, I learned that everyone has a story — of dreams and nightmares, hope and heartache, love and loss, courage and fear, sacrifice and selfishness. All my life I've been interested in other people's stories. I've wanted to know them, understand them, feel them.

I feel the same way, and maybe that's why I got a journalism degree but never became a reporter. I love to write, but I didn't want to write dry articles about city-council meetings and stormwater drainage. (That's a link to an actual article I wrote about stormwater drainage — get excited.) That stuff is important, but it's not what lights my fire.

I like to write about people and their lives. My favorite stories to write for journalism classes and internships were profiles, like this one I wrote about Devin Hampton. He went from being an unmotivated kid who never went to class to planning President Barack Obama's premier inaugural ball. I haven't talked with him in a while, but I think Devin is now a part of the Obama administration.

How the hell did he get there? Everyone has a story, and I had the pleasure of discovering and writing about Devin's.

This may sound like bullshit coming from someone who writes not one, but two blogs about herself. But my story is simply the one I know best, and since I'm no longer a journalism student or intern, I'm not forced to step outside of my comfort zone and really get to know others' stories very well.

That changed at the World Domination Summit, where I met tons of different people and learned about their amazing stories. Every attendee seemed to go into the conference with an open mind and his or her guard let down. Swapping your biggest dreams with the near-stranger next to you was the norm, and an attitude that I hope to carry with me throughout my travels.

I may or may not write about the people I meet during my travels on this blog, but I'll hold their stories close just the same. I believe that everyone you interact with throughout your life affects you in some way. Each person can be just a small footnote or an entire chapter in your story. And you never know who will come along and change the plot entirely.

I look forward to learning about others' stories and how they are different from and similar to mine. I can't wait to immerse myself in new surroundings and find out what drives daily life in places that are so foreign to what I've known for 24 years. And, perhaps most of all, I want to discover what it feels like to transcend the boundaries of geography and culture and language in order to really connect with someone.

So, yes, one day I will run out of money and need to return to what many call the "real world." I'll likely be homeless, penniless and seriously lacking a handsome Brazilian man in my life.

But my passport will be bursting with stamps, and my life's story will forever bear the marks left by those places I've visited and people I've met. My wallet may be empty, but I'll be all the richer for it.


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  1. Please never stop writing about yourself! I love watching your story unfold. I'm so glad we met a few months ago so I could discover your blog. And you :)

  2. Thanks lady : ) Yay for connecting through blogs!

  3. Hi Devon,

    I found your blog a few weeks ago and look forward to reading about your travels! I saw that you are planning to hit SE Asia and thought you might be interested in a blog I did when I went backpacking with my boyfriend in that region in 2008 (address is We spent most of our time in Indonesia which I know is not on your itinerary but we absolutely loved it. I'm sure you're aware of this but the backpacker trail through Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam is extremely well-trodden. Excluding Bali, Indonesia sees far fewer tourists and it has some amazing natural sights (such as volcanoes) and wildlife (eg orangutans in their natural habitat). Just a thought anyway!

    PS That 'real world' comment makes me laugh. There is an alternative to the 'cubicle lifestyle' but some people who are stuck in it and who are bitter about being stuck in it don't seem to want to acknowledge this....

  4. Well, I'm from Brazil, and I'm following your blog... I really want to deeply understand your text about the handsome Brazilian man... maybe...maybe... ;)

    Merry Christmas!

  5. @Jennifer: Thanks for the info! My itinerary is ever-evolving thanks to helpful tips like yours... for instance, I may also add Singapore to my list!

    @From Brazil: Read the book "Eat, Pray, Love" and you'll understand : ) Merry Christmas to you, too!

  6. Hi Devon, I'm a travel fan too and spent 4 months of 2011 living and working in India. I loved it and was reflecting on 'Why I Travel' when a friend shared a great quote from Alain de Bottom: "Journeys are the midwives of thought. The furniture insists that we cannot change because it does not; the domestice setting keeps us tethered to the person we are in ordinary life, but who may not be who we essentially are." I posted the rest of the quote on my blog - it's a long one! (

    Best of luck with your travel plans - if I can help or advise, please feel free to reach out. I've love to help. Clare

  7. Love that quote. Thanks for sharing, Clare!


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