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Part 1
Know Thyself

1) Why Travel

2) The First Lesson of Traveling Well

3) How to Travel: Traditional Approaches

4) Threading: A New Approach and Philosophy

5) The Walking Threader

6) Road to Discovery

1—Why Travel?
Goals, purposes, hopes, dreams, ideals

"There are many good reasons to store your futon, pawn off the cat, stuff your rucksack and hit the road. Perhaps you're frustrated by your home life, inspired by dreams of adventure, or enabled by opportunity--any or all of these can get you out the door.

Remember, though, that the reasons that lead you into travel are not the same as the benefits you reap while traveling. Broaden the “why” question to consider the nature and quality of the experience you want to have as you go along, not just why you want to leave in the first place. What do you want from the road? Why will you travel?"
Paul Otteson / The World Awaits / All Rights Reserved

Picture returning home from a long anticipated journey and feeling like you've blown it -- like you wasted lots of time in uninspiring destinations, wasted money on transporting yourself to still more unfulfilling places, and wasted effort engaging in activities that just didn't do it for you. What went wrong?

Chances are, your mistake began as a failure to look in the mirror. As you contemplate your upcoming travels, don't get overly distracted by the details of planning and preparation. The voices of advising friends, potential travel partners, tour agents, guidebook authors, and video adventurers can echo convincingly in your ears. Silence them for a time and think about the ways you'd like to be refreshed, challenged, and educated by your adventure. You might even do something as corny as making up a list of personal goals:

My Travel Goals:

"I want to see amazing things: cathedrals, castles, coral reefs, mountain peaks, platypuses, and the Mona Lisa, to name a few. My list is longer now than ever before. I am inherently interested in the unknown--in my unknown.

I want to meet interesting people--talk to them, share a beer or coffee, exchange addresses, maybe travel together for a bit or plan a rendezvous for later. I'm usually delighted with the way such chance travel meetings work out. I try to spend time in places where the people I'd like to meet also spend time.

I want to get plenty of time and experience for my money. Why spend $50 to go somewhere and stay someplace when I can do something more interesting for $5? Choices abound on the road and many of the best options are cheap or free. A hike to a hilltop to understand the lay of the land may well be more rewarding than a half-day bus tour of historic sites.

I want to walk. Walking is key to my feeling physically and mentally healthy throughout a journey. The walker who exercises medical prudence, eats well, and gets plenty of rest will enjoy heightened energy and awareness throughout a trip. Walking eases stress and primes my mind for fun and adventure. Some people plan on taking time to recover after traveling. I count on travels to help me recover from my “normal” life.

I want freedom--the flexibility to make things up as I go along, follow inspiration, change plans on a whim, stay longer, or leave sooner. The more I can do without reservations, pre-booked tours, carved-in-stone plans, rigid itineraries and the like, the more free I feel. I'm suspicious of even the simplest travel routines and try to break them whenever I'm able. Traveling freely is the toughest challenge on my list--I give this goal plenty of attention.

I want to learn. I want to find old answers, discover new questions, revel in lasting ironies, and gain understanding that is broad and deep. Learning means “personal enhancement”: to be extended, broadened, deepened, refined, corrected, opened, whatever. It's easy to learn once I hit virgin territory and my ego gets flattened by my ignorance.

I want stories and adventures to take to heart. Stories can be forced--they may have to be. A table away at the café, 4 km off the trekking path, an hour before sunrise, potential stories are waiting for me. There's a difference between making myself available for opportunity and availing myself of opportunity. If I desire experience, I get it."
Paul Otteson / The World Awaits / All Rights Reserved

Does that seem to cover it all? Take a closer look -- by noticing what's not on my list, you can see where my emphasis lies. Health, safety, shopping, cultural immersion, cultivating friends, language study, political appreciation, and many more possible choices didn't make the cut. I'm a fast moving generalist who likes to stretch his legs and experience broadly. Often, though not always, that is what satisfies me.

So that's me. Now, who are you? What are your broad travel goals, and how do you express them? What dreams and desires are motivating your grand plan? You have them, even if you haven't put them into words yet. Dissect your desires in order to understand them. The payoff will come in the confidence and stamina you'll need to sustain your spirits during the challenge that lies ahead.
Paul Otteson / The World Awaits / All Rights Reserved

Continue to Chapter 2
Return to Philosophy