We asked WITS ’16 Global Ambassador Sasha Hoffman to share what it is that she loves so much about travel. She, of course, couldn’t narrow it down to just one thing (and we certainly can’t blame her for that). Here’s what she said.
I was having a heated conversation with a friend recently about travel.
“It just tickles me when people wax poetic about travel. My view — travel is cultural capital for people who don’t have rich inner lives,” said this person, who I may or may not have to unfriend now (kidding).
I couldn’t disagree more. I think my life is fulfilling because I travel. Seventy-five countries later, I can pretty accurately pinpoint what it is I love so much about travel and what it has taught me.
Nature can take your breath away.
From watching the sun rise on Haleakalā in Maui to soaking up the rays on the crystal-clear beaches of Zanzibar, the most beautiful places I’ve been were not man-made, but rather created by mother nature and there for my viewing pleasure.
Seeing life through another lens is so important.
There is something spectacular about watching manta rays mate or lions kill, and these images will be with me forever. I’ve been scuba diving and safariing for years. Being able to watch non-humans in their natural habitat is incredible. I get to be a fly on a really cool wall.
Don’t take the media at face value. In fact, make an effort to disprove it for the real story.
The media has a way of spinning stories so they sell. I was lucky enough to go to Egypt, though at a time when it was supposedly at “peak unrest.” My family begged me not to go. When I got there, all the unrest was concentrated to a few small places.
Your way is not necessarily the only way, or the right way.
We’re all very quick to judge a book by its cover. I’ve spent a lot of time in the Middle East, and have found that Westerners have a lot of viewpoints about Middle Eastern culture. Talking to a woman who was someone’s second wife was fascinating. It taught me to form my own opinions and appreciate learning about other customs and cultures directly from the source.
Bonding on a mountaintop is priceless.
The older you get, the harder it is to make new close friends. We’re all busy going about our lives. I’ve been planning group trips for years and it’s been a great way to get closer to people I didn’t know that well. Six hour hikes and all-nighters by the bonfire can do that.
We are ants in the grand scheme of things.
There are 7 billion people in the world, but it doesn’t really feel like that when your boss is yelling at you. All you have to do is go stand in the Grand Canyon or a new city to be reminded that no one else cares but you, so don’t sweat the small stuff.
Turns out you don’t need money, power, and social validation to be happy.
Here in the United States, we live in a greed-driven society. Traveling reminds you how others define happiness and, more importantly, how you don’t need physical goods to be happy. I’ll never forget a trip I took to Lesotho where I encountered some of the happiest people I’ve ever met. Maybe ignorance is bliss, or maybe these people just learned to be happy with what they had, even if it might be considered little by some.
Travel is not an escape, it’s a reminder to be grateful.
A lot of people travel to take a “break.” After all, work is hard. I like my job and I enjoy making a difference and going to work, but not necessarily every single day of the year. From the slums of India to the Taj Mahal, for every journey I take I like to see the “good” and the “bad.” It’s a reminder that my life could have turned out very different, and also helps me recognize the privilege I have in that I don’t need to work every day. I’m not escaping life, I’m just enhancing it.
Learning is a confidence booster.
From forcing yourself to problem-solve when your car breaks down in a foreign land to making yourself conquer your fear of jumping out of a plane, travel puts you out of your comfort zone. You learn to adapt and often find self confidence when you least expect.
All my fondest memories are from times when I traveled. They make me smile and laugh randomly in public when I think of them. I’m a more interesting person because I have unique experiences to speak of. Travel has made me happier.
To my aforementioned friend, I’d say they simply haven’t traveled enough if they don’t feel this way!
All photos courtesy of Sasha Hoffman.