[Clockwise From Top Left: Manhattan Skyline (NY), Stoneycreek Canyon (PA), Cuyahoga Falls (OH), Great Falls Virginia and Center Lanes (VA)]
I grew up moving, all the time. I’ve lived in places all across the country, from as short as barely a year, to three years, four years, etc. As a kid, it was stressful at times. Sometimes I moved in the middle of the school year. Usually, I didn’t know anybody. Sometimes I would say goodbye to somebody and never see them again. As with anything else in life, it came with a cost. However, it also came with its advantages. Are the advantages of constantly moving and traveling worth the cost? Does it create a “profit” or metaphorical “net revenue” of sorts? Well, that’s rather subjective. But if you ask me, it is a solid, 100% “Yes.”
It seems that wherever I go, there are people who are deadset in believing that where they live is better than somewhere else. “I hate the city,” or “I hate the country,” or “I hate the West Coast,” etc. In fact, I hear this all the time. And to be honest, there is nothing wrong with having an opinion. After all, having an open mind means giving things a chance, not necessarily liking them.
Being open minded means giving things a chance, not necessarily liking them.
However, I always felt that I had a bit of an advantage. I got to see many different geographic areas, climates, subcultures, etc. which, I feel, allowed me to judge things a little more objectively. Personally, I’ve seen relatively few people spend their whole lives in the exact place where they grew up. I’ve also seen relatively few people marry the first person they dated, or spend their career in the first job they’ve had. Fact is, you probably don’t know exactly what suits you, or what is the best fit, and there is a bit of a trial and error process in place. We’re human, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
The question becomes, why are people afraid or otherwise unwilling to give things a try? There are multiple reasons, but one is opportunity cost. In a lot of cases, trying something new would mean giving up something else. And since we can’t see into the future, you are taking a risk by doing so. Other reasons could include complacency, i.e. being happy with where you are and not really desiring anything else. Resources can be tricky (moving and traveling are not always cheap!), economic factors can come into play, and to be honest, somebody could realistically come up with any reason they want as an excuse not to get out and do something new.
Well, I for one believe that virtually any argument has a counterargument. Taking a risk, and possibly losing something you already have? Well that’s a reality. And in many facets of life, success is impossible without risk. However, that’s why risk is calculated. I’ve kayaked over waterfalls, jumped out of airplanes, and applied for jobs I had no prior experience in. Yes, in the end there is a roll of the dice involved. But if you put an amount of preparation and rational thought into things, you mitigate that risk. If the reward is therefor greater than the consequence, the risk is no longer “unnecessary.”
Happy with where you are? Well, that’s fine. But are you always going to feel that way? Is your good situation permanent? Have you even given other things a chance? These answers will vary person to person, and everyone is different.
Are you lacking resources? When people say they lack resources, I turn around and say “are you lacking priorities?” Generally speaking, if you put your mind to it, it can be done. Blind people have climbed Mount Everest and kayaked the Grand Canyon. Other people have lost hundreds of pounds of weight, while others have climbed from poverty to multimillionaires.
Prioritization is a game of sacrifice
If something is important, you will find a way. If it’s not, you will find an excuse. I’m not telling you what your priorities are or what they should be. Do what is important to you, just make sure you find a way.
Packing your bags and moving somewhere new is a difficult thing for anybody. So let’s go ahead and switch gears a bit, and focus on traveling instead.
There are approximately 7.2 billion people inhabiting 57.5 million square miles of land on this planet. Every single one of them has a unique story, and many of them possess knowledge and skills that you don’t (I only say “many” because saying “all” would be a slightly flawed and oversimplified methodology considering that some of them are recently born infants). After all, if you look at history, you will see how the spread of ideas influenced technological development worldwide. When the Inuit were using kayaks decked with stretched animal skin for hunting, did they ever think that eventually the same craft they helped invent would be created from rotomolded polyethylene and taken over 100′ waterfalls? Probably not. But ultimately you could trace the genealogy of this sport back to the hunters inhabiting Alaska and Greenland that created the first versions of the vessels we used.
Ultimately, many skills and inventions are derived from necessity or convenience. Peoples that inhabited wide areas of desert would have little need for watercraft, and peoples in tropical areas wouldn’t have the same need for extremely warm clothing than those living in the northern extremes. Additionally, it always made sense to make the most of what resources you had readily available. In other words, some peoples would naturally be more experienced with fishing, while others would find creative ways to farm on less than fertile grounds. Even more simple examples would come down to things such as local cuisine. As people would move, ideas would spread, creating a wider base of knowledge and skills for mankind.
I am a firm believer that traveling and trying new things carriers more benefits than it does downfalls, and can provide many benefits to your life overall. The following reasons in support of traveling are crafted from a combination of my own personal experiences, as well as the testimonies of others. I firmly believe that they apply in an overwhelming amount of circumstances.
1. Breaking out of your comfort zone
Let’s face it, going somewhere you’ve never been, with different customs and ways of living, in addition to any logistics difficulties, can be daunting, especially if it is a place with near polar differences from what you’re used to. You might make a fool of yourself, you might not like the food, you might get lost somewhere, the list goes on. But when you are pushing through these possibilities, you are breaking out of your own comfort zone. From my experience, breaking out of your comfort zone, and accepting risk, is a skill in and of itself. In other words, the more you do it, the more comfortable you become with it. Who knows, maybe over time making that big business decision or asking out that one girl may become easier, or in the least you might be able to do it in a more clear state of mind
2. Networking and making connections
Many large businesses have their corporate headquarters and various branch locations placed in all corners of the globe. When I worked as an outdoor sales representative, I was offered a job in real estate in a city I’d never been to from a company I’d never heard of. After conducting some research, I concluded that it was a pretty good opportunity, even though I passed it up for a better one. Every single day, you never how who you might meet that could change your professional life forever.
3. Personal connections
Similar to the aforementioned point, but on a non-professional level. I’ve met people out of the blue on all kinds of random trips and adventures, people that I still hang out with to this day. I have very many friendships, and a couple past romantic relationships, that occurred as either a direct or indirect result of traveling somewhere new and stepping out of my comfort zone. After all, how many people live on this planet? And how many of them live in your hometown? You get the point.
4. The stories you can tell
Experiences are worth more than physical objects. Some of the best times of my life occurred in a living room or around a bonfire with some of my closest friends, reminiscing on the times we had. “Hey bro, remember that time we………?” Personally, those are moments I wouldn’t trade for anything. When you grow up, you won’t remember the times you stayed home and did nothing. Time is a nonrenewable resource. Once you use it up, you’ll never get it back. And the time you spend sitting on the couch watching television, does it really do much to enrich and help fulfill the adventure we call life?
5. The food
Let’s be real. There are a ton of deep reasons to get out, explore, discover yourself, and try new things. And there are also the simple ones. Personally, I try to avoid chain restaurants when I travel, unless it’s a chain that’s localized to a certain geographic area (such as Zaxby’s down south). This article is not an advertisement, and I receive no money for this, but I will give out some of my favorites:
- Kilroy’s, Indianapolis, Indiana (one of my favorite pub/grill places I’ve ever been to)
- Planet Pizza, Virginia Beach, Virginia
- Buffalo’s Reef, Fort Walton Beach, Florida
- La Zona Rosa, Montgomery, Alabama
I’ve probably had jerky made from every non-endangered animal species in existence as well, in addition to all other types of things that might be considered taboo or otherwise weird by our traditional culture. As long as it won’t make you sick or kill you, try everything.
6. The ways of life
There are people that life off of way less than we do, and are very happy. There are people that live a busy, fast-paced life (I tend to fall into that category quite a bit), and are very happy. Some people forego cars for other forms of transportation, some people drink moderate amounts of alcohol during the work day. It’s easy to fall into the general culture or subculture of a particular area, and forget about or disregard other options. This, in my opinion, is huge. I’m a firm believer that it is okay to question things, to think outside the box, and to not accept “well that’s just the way we’ve always done it” as the sole justification for the way things are done. This open-minded way of thinking, if used properly and appropriately, can be used to reap many benefits in the workplace, community, and overall life.
7. The mystery
I like to consider myself an “interesting” person, and I’ve always liked and respected people that followed suit. It allows for you to keep a sort of mysterious air around you, to allow people to have an intrigued interest in your life. Even more so, it allows you to be seen as a leader or at least as a motivator and inspiration, for those that want adventure in their life.
8. The bonds that are created
It’s not about how long you know somebody, it’s what you and them go through. Through traveling, exploring, extreme sports, etc. I’ve developed very strong bonds with people, resulting in some of the best friendships and relationships I’ve ever had. Adventure and excitement can bring out a lot in people, and do well to bring them together.
9. The skills and knowledge
I never learned the best way to grill a homemade pepperoni calzone over a campfire until I went camping in a small town out west that I’d previously never heard of. It was a couple days and a thousand miles of trial and error that taught me the best ways to strap down multiple kayaks into the back of a U-Haul motorcycle trailer and tow it behind a four-door sedan. Honestly, the list goes on and on. Some skills are minor and rather specific, some are broad and overarching to many areas of life. This comes down to the whole concept of “there are many people out there that know things that you don’t.”
Also, if it’s safe to do so, try taking a taxi in D.C. sometime. The drivers there have some very interesting stories, and come from all different parts of the world. A very eye-opening experience.
10. The fun!
This shouldn’t need much of an explanation. And it is a subjective word and different for everybody. Maybe you enjoy four-wheeling in a golf-cart, maybe you enjoy parasailing in Outer Banks. It doesn’t matter where you live; you can’t do any activity you want in your hometown. Get out and go do what you want to do!
Now, there is no “one size fits all” with how to travel, what to do, and how to use it to benefit your life. Personally, I see somebody who travels a lot as somebody who has passion, drive, an open-mind, a wealth of knowledge, the ability to take risk, the discipline to make their dreams happen, and a will to always keep learning. These attributes can all be played to your advantage at a job interview or on a resume, or honestly even if you’re trying to impress a woman or be the life of the cocktail party.
It’s okay to step out of your comfort zone. It’s okay to make certain decisions off of impulse. It’s okay to take risks. The key is knowing when and what, to be able to play your cards so that the final result is of benefit to yourself.
The final thing I want to touch on, is technology. We live in the days where everyone’s phone is a portable GPS receiver. We live in the days of Skype, Facetime, Facebook, mobile internet, and telecommuting. Gone are the days where you leave friends and family behind, only to talk to them with the occasional telephone call or snail mail correspondence. More and more jobs can be done partially or even fully while on the move or away from an office. If you want to take a big step in your life, and relocate or travel, this is the time to do it. Resources are out there, and with a bit of preparation and research, you can make big things happen.
Now, get out there, live your life, and remember: it’s passion that keeps us alive.
Article and photos by Matt Jackson. If you wish to use any words or photographs from this article please feel free to contact me. I intend for these types of articles to be open-ended, subjective, and a potential way to create discussion. If you have any comments you would like to add, or any parts of this article you would like to argue against, by all means, I encourage thoughtful discussion. More than likely, I will be writing a follow-up article on some ways to make travel and relocation possible, efficient, and (relatively) inexpensive, that I have learned from my personal experiences. As I think of new things to add, or notice any revisions that need to be made, a revised version of this article may be posted without notice. Again, as I mentioned above, if there is anything you would like to add, by all means, feel free to contact me!