Rajesh Kumar

Optimizing life, one day after the next

Why I Like Travel

04 Jul 2010

Some people travel because it's a break from their normal flow of life.

Some people travel because they like to expose themselves to new places, new food, and new cultures.

Some people like to travel because it makes other people feel jealous.

Some people like to travel for the sake of traveling. Just because they can.

But recently I realized that I like to travel not for any of the above reasons but because I like feeling lost. I like the discomforting feeling of not knowing where I am. I like having to figure things out by looking at a map. I like not knowing where I'm going to be having lunch or dinner until it's time for lunch or dinner. I like losing track of time and not knowing the day of the month or the week of the day. In short, I like not having an agenda.

I actually like maps a lot. So much that I once considered becoming a cartographer. That explains why I like spending so much time on Google Maps. There was once a time in 2006 when I used to spend more time on Google Maps than on Facebook. And on every Google interview I've had, when the interviewer would ask me what team I'd like to be on, I'd instantly reply "the maps team!"

The other reason I enjoy traveling is because I like it when I have no idea what people around me are talking about. I guess this is a feeling I'm really used to having grown up in Dubai. Everywhere I went in Dubai, people around me used to speak in Arabic, Malayalam and Sindhi, none of which languages I actually have any knowledge of.

So I guess I can't really tell people I like traveling. It would be more appropriate of me to tell people that I like visiting foreign places instead. Because visiting foreign places puts me outside my comfort zone. Except this means that I wouldn't want to spend more than 2-3 days in any city while traveling since after that I will have accustomed myself to the city, figured out my bearings, and figured out the public transit system. At which point things get boring quite quickly.

That's why I'm glad that when we went on our tour of Europe this summer, we only stayed in each city for a maximum of 2.5 days. Constantly changing cities every third day was fun. And by the end of the trip we got really good at figuring out new cities, really good at reading maps, and really good at figuring out how the public transit system worked.

There's nothing like being lost in a random city half-way across the world where everyone speaks a language you don't. And that is the true experience I get from traveling.

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