Why do people decide to travel? What is it that drives our wanderlust and attracts us to the idea of stepping out into the wider World, to have an adventure? Let’s take a look at some of the reasons people travel, and why you should definitely do it too.
Why do people travel?
I think this a big question. And not an easy one to answer.
Indeed, I’ve often thought that, in some ways, it makes far more sense not to- travel, I mean.
After all, home is comfortable, predictable…safe; the World outside is generally unknown and altogether more dangerous, unpredictable and uncertain.
If then, as humans, we have evolved to prioritise our survival over almost everything else, why does travel remain so appealing?
I mean, our brains are specifically oriented around protecting us from threat.
Yet there seems to be something about travel that supersedes this intrinsic focus on survival: travel is a daunting prospect, but we still do it.
There’s even an added irony that the safety and security of home is one huge reason why I find travel so appealing!
Simply, home isn’t big enough.
In fact, it’s stifling and restrictive and sometimes almost claustrophobic. The possibility of pushing beyond it has always been overwhelmingly attractive.
But this can’t be everything.
What other reasons do we have for taking the (arguably counterintuitive) decision to travel?
I didn’t want to just pull reasons from thin air.
So, for the purposes of this post I’ve drawn heavily from my experts’ piece about first time travel, where expert travel bloggers from around the World explained what it was that made them go travelling for the first time.
I hope this gives the following reasons a little more substance and authenticity.
But first, check out this awesome video about why you should travel, which will hopefully get you inspired from the outset!
(If you’re at all interested, you can also read about why I first went travelling.)
Reasons People Travel
1) To test themselves
Like I mentioned, travel goes against a lot of what we, as humans, are built to want. Stepping into the World is often scary; the road ahead paved with difficulty and hardship, as well as all the positives.
For some people, this is reason enough to want to go. Simply, they see the challenges that lie ahead and lean into it, determined to overcome them.
I imagine the people who do extreme tests of physical endurance, such as ultra-marathons.
You might ask: “why on earth would anyone do that?” But it’s exactly the challenge, the hardship, the pursuit of excellence and the desire to surpass the limits we set for ourselves, which makes it appealing.
2) To rebel from the norm and take the path less travelled
This is a big one for me. I look at the traditional trajectory through life that many of us take and think,
From school, to uni, to career, to retirement etc…It all just feels too normal, too ordinary…and I want my life to be amazing and full (see ‘Live fully’, below). I don’t feel ready to accept this path and sideline true living until I’m in my 60s.
Travel is a fantastic way to break away from this typical route.
Why not push the boundaries and do something totally different with your time?
You could sell all your stuff and go on an overland adventure around the globe, or convert your own campervan for an ultimate road trip, go by foot to some faraway place, or sail from one continent to another...
...anything to take the pass less travelled. It's one of the reasons travel is so lifechanging.
3) To scratch an itch
Some people simply talk about an irrepressible urge to get out and travel; the travel bug just seems to be inherently there, often from a very early age.
Equally, some people have particular experiences they want to have in life: akin to a bucket list, where travel is the only way to make them happen.
4) To follow in family footsteps
Some people come from a long line of travellers in their family.
Having been surrounded by travellers and raised in a family there travel was part of normal life, it was only natural to want to go out and have an adventure of their own one day.
5) To explore the World
This one seems like a fundamental reason why people travel.
The World is big and there’s a lot to see out there.
For some, the allure of experiencing and exploring different countries and cultures; witnessing novel customs and social practices and meeting all manner of different people from all around the planet, is the biggest motivation to have an adventure.
6) To live fully
This is the ultimate reason for why I travel, which was echoed in the expert’s answers.
For me it comes down to this: life is short and you never know when it is going to end. Keeping this in mind, the thought of living anything other than a full life, packed to the seams with experience and joy, is not worth thinking about.
To paraphrase a travel quote I came across a while ago:
Travel is a truly lifechanging experience that is sure to put the life into your years.
7) To have an adventure
Call it being a romantic or a fantasist, but there’s often an allure to the basic idea of exploration, discovery and adventure!
I have always loved the stories of intrepid pursuits and amazing endeavours of people throughout history, who have travelled far and wide in search adventure.
There’s something special about it.
8) To escape from something
Travel can be an easy way to run away from things that are difficult to deal with at home.
I’m also guilty of this: my desire to travel is often at its highest when I feel particularly challenged by a situation at home; if I’m having a melancholy moment, my immediate instinct is to whisk myself away to some lost corner of the globe.
I caution against using travel as an escape though. It might be a temporary distraction, but constantly running from adversity is to our detriment in the long run. Sooner or later that from which we’re trying to escape will catch up with us.
I think (though there are surely exceptions) that it is far better to confront whatever it is in the moment, instead of running. This way, the issue resolved far more readily and travel is kept as a purely positive pursuit.
9) To develop as a person
Travel is an amazing tool for self-development.
The adversity that you face on the road, coupled with the sheer depth and variety of experience, all come together to grow your personality, strengthen resilience and generally bolster and build who you are.
10) To make themselves more employable
Among all the many benefits of travel, its impact on your employability can be another key reason that some people take to the road.
Contrary to the beliefs of many, travel is said to enhance your chance of employment rather than limiting it. Go travelling, and your chances of employment should not be negatively impacted.
Indeed, your maturity, experience in new cultures and dazzling tales of foreign exploits will only help your bid to secure your next job.
For more on how travel enhances your employability, read this great piece from Save The Student.
11) To gain life skills
Similarly to how travel helps you develop as a person, the skills you can develop overseas are often another key reason people choose to travel.
Think about volunteering with disadvantaged communities overseas, doing an internship/placement that interests you with an organisation abroad, spending time on a farm while working for free accommodation…the list goes on.
The number of life skills you can develop through travelling beggars belief.
Read more about the life skills you develop while travelling from A Wandering Broad Abroad.
So, there you have it: 11 reasons why people travel. And that is by no means an exhaustive list!
In fact, though hopefully I’ve covered many of them, I’m sure there are tonnes of other reasons I could add to the pile!
What makes you want to travel? Do any of the reasons above strike a particular chord? Or are there any more you can think of? Let me know in the comments below.