Travel to Live, Not to Escape
Just one more step.
My thoughts quivered like my ankles as they ascended the crumbling stone steps of the Inca Trail. The weight of my pack dug into my shoulders.
The bursts of sunlight through the forest cover momentarily blinded me. My legs ached with satisfying exhaustion.
And then, I stopped.
My eyes adjusted to the shadows of the cloud forest. Before me and behind me, the ruins of the Inca Trail disappeared into grooves of ancient trees.
In the distance, a bird chirp and the faraway laughter of a fellow hiker.
But for now, I was alone.
When I first decided to join the Under30Experiences Inca Trail trip to Machu Picchu, I relished the thought of a vigorous hike, a total test of mental and physical strength.
I envisioned the victorious moment of summit and the first views of the famed archaeological site, drenched in sweat and exhilarated in my own physicality.
I delighted in the thought of temporarily escaping my daily “life.”
Refocusing my eyes on the horizon, I felt a deep calm overcome me.
For days, I hadn’t thought of my day-to-day routine waiting for me back in Nashville.
Wake up, make coffee, go to work, go to the gym, go to sleep, repeat.
My mind had been consumed by the Quechua culture, the emphasis on water conservation, dusting the cobwebs off my Spanish, the mind-boggling mountain views, and getting to know new friends in my group.
It was as if my "old life” didn’t exist - as if I'd escaped it, and it felt liberating.
As I stood alone on the Inca Trail in complete silence, a new thought emerged from the stillness.
This is my life.
My life is not defined as my job, my living situation, or my income.
My life is occurring right now.
As Americans, I feel that the majority of us define our lives by what we do rather than who we are.
A common question on first dates or upon meeting someone new is typically “What do you do?” rather than “Who are you? What drives you? What are your interests?”
Perhaps it's time we consciously change that standard.
Travel to live
Stopped there on the Inca Trail, I pledged at that moment to live my life differently.
To see my life as a collection of its parts, not as a singular situation.
I wasn’t returning to my "old life”, I was currently living my only life - traveling was helping me realize that.
Friends, I urge you to not focus on “escaping” your life via travel, but to make travel a part of this glorious thing known as our human existence.
Let’s change the definition of ourselves, and let's start by changing the conversation.
In conversations with your friends and strangers, start asking “who” instead of “what”.
Start explaining who you are, what motivates you to wake up the morning, and what interests you.
Then sit back and watch the landscape change.
Not to escape.