When you put yourself out there, when you leave the comfort of what you know for some strange and foreign land, you open yourself up to learning not just about heretofore unknown cultures, but to learning about yourself.
Suggested song: Telling Stories by Tracy Chapman
The experiences that you make — the smells, the sounds, the sights, the strangers that you meet — make you richer in a way no job or lottery ticket could ever do.
While all of this might sound like mere platitudes, knowledge so well-worn that it has become commonplace, all too many people still never dare to leave. Which is unfortunate, not just for them, but in a small way for everybody. Travel makes you a deeper and more interesting person, giving you the ability to transcend your own views, prejudices and limitations. It puts a check on preconceptions and makes you, most importantly, more human if you travel with an open heart. Sure, not all the experiences that you make will be pleasant, but they will color your life in a way that sitting in front of your TV or computer screen could never achieve. Travel is unmitigated and direct, it is a no-holds barred assault on your senses and your endurance — if you forego luxury vacations and all-inclusive gatherings of the same sort of people that you see everyday at home.
And yes, jumping into adventures inadequately prepared — the way I jump into any adventure — you are an instant idiot; incapable of speaking the language of the locals and unfamiliar with their customs. But that’s ok. Because idiocy is wide-eyed and full of wonder; it is the three-year old kid seeing an elephant for the first time. It is the adolescent suddenly seeing the other sex with a new-found desire. It is the high-schooler doing stupid things just because he can. It transports you back to a time and a place where you are not jaded and numb, but impressionable and eager to feel.
And in that place experiences dwell if you take up the mantle and accept your calling, your quest. A quest from which you will return transformed, even if it is just in a minor way, with stories to tell all those that have stayed in their comfort zones. Stories of discovery, of daring and timidity, of lazy days on the beach, of people both magnificent and mean, of the wind blowing through your hair, of feet so blistered you could hardly walk — and still did because it was worth it. And that will bring happiness, to you and to them. And it’s ok to be happy, it really is.
So, go, have an adventure! It’s your duty to be irresponsible, it is the responsible thing to do: For the stories, for happiness.