Why travel?

I first heard about Remote Year in July 2015 from my good friend Kim. We talked excitedly about how cool it would be to travel the world with friends for a whole year while working remotely. I didn’t think it was likely that I’d end up doing it, since over 25 thousand people applied for the first year’s 75 spots. But I couldn’t stop thinking about the remote possibility, so I decided I’d at least apply so I couldn’t say I didn’t try.

A few months later, I was offered a spot in the program. With only a couple weeks to make a down payment to secure my spot, I felt torn.

I like traveling, and traveling to 16 countries in a year is an epic experience that will change my life. Every single person who I asked for advice told me to travel now, hands down. But I’ve never been “bitten by the travel bug” and there are tons of other things I dream of doing with my life. I want to buy a house, I want to start a business, I want to find a partner and start a family.

People told me, “the other things will still be there later”. That’s true, but as a person with an extremely flexible career in a job market that favors workers, I’ll probably always be able to travel enough for my appetite. And when I want to be saving money for other goals, spending over six times my usual, very affordable, rent to travel for a year felt like it was coming with a huge opportunity cost.

I agonized over the choice and waited until the last possible day to decide. Ultimately, I couldn’t ignore the advice of all of the older and wiser people in my life who told me I should travel, and I figured that even though I’ll probably always be able to travel, I won’t always be able to travel with an awesome community of similar people for a whole year. I decided in favor of traveling, mostly because I knew I’d regret it if I passed this opportunity up.

But I was still emotionally conflicted. In the past, I’ve always traveled with specific motivations, so I felt like I needed reasons other than “it will be fun to get to know new people and cultures” and “I’ll have so many adventures and stories to talk about for the rest of my life” and “everyone else thought I should do it”.

I had a hard time putting words to the vague sense I had of why I want to travel, but while I was thinking about it, a friend shared an inspiring video of Richard Feynman talking about his understanding of the world. What he said resonated with me;

“We’re exploring, we’re trying to find out as much as we can about the world… we shouldn’t pre-decide what it is we’re trying to do, except to find out more about [the world]”.

I realized that my motivation is curiosity, to find out as much about the world as I can. The world is such a diverse place, and I want to grok as much of it as possible while I’m alive.

Ask anyone who’s known me for awhile, and they’ll confirm that I’ve always been a curious person. Since I was a kid, I’ve always had a million questions about how things work and why. Curiosity is an integral part of who I am, and it’s what’s driving me to travel now. The coming year is going to be an exercise in curiosity and discovering as much as I can about the fascinating world that we live in.