How do you choose where you’re going?
It depends. Every trip is different. I went to Southeast Asia a few years ago because I wanted to experience it in my 40s and see how it compared with my experience in my 20s. I got married during the pandemic, and we went to see my wife’s family in Norway. There’s this vernacular in the travel industry of going to places because it’s hot or fashionable. It’s strange to me. Why not channel our passions and hobbies into our travel? Why not go to New Zealand because you love rugby? Why not go to France for wine or ballet? It doesn’t matter what takes you to a place — it’s what you do when you get there.
How do you plan for a trip?
I’m a big fan of research and knowing my options but not my destiny. Part of the charm of traveling to a place is that you get a mediated familiarity with it. You’re smarter one day, one week, one month into your travels than you were sitting at home planning the trip. I think one of the worst things you can do is micromanage your itinerary. Research is great, but it’s equally important to be willing to throw that out and let the journey surprise you.
A lot of people — including you — talk about the journey as a metaphor for life. What does travel teach us about being human?
I think it reminds us that attention to a moment or a place is important, whether that’s on the other side of the world or at home. We don’t dance to get to the end of the dance; each step is the pleasure. With travel, it’s not about getting to a point on the list. It’s about the aliveness we feel on each step of the journey. We’re paying attention in a way that gives us perspective about who we are and who we can be. We’re paying attention in way that can remind us of what’s important. We’re paying attention in a way that reminds us that we can do this at home.
Where or what is home to you?
That was a tougher question for me when I was younger. I thought I’d live in a place that was fashionable — Portland, Ore., New York, overseas. I was living the idea that you leave home to try to find it again. In 2005, inspired by how other people pool resources, I bought 30 acres of land in Kansas with my parents. I had this delightful surprise of coming full circle. It was also where I had my first Bumble date with my wife during the pandemic. Now, home is where she is.
What keeps people from traveling or vagabonding?
Fear. We have a hard time giving ourselves permission. I hear this a lot in the form of questions like, “How do you save your money to do this?” or “Is this place safe?” But what people are really asking is, “How do I give myself permission to do this?” The pleasure of travel begins with anticipation. Even if you’re planning a trip you’re saving for, it makes the work more pleasurable. The journey really starts when you stop making excuses.
I’m not a huge fan of overplanning, but research can be reassuring. Maybe you’re a mother of four in Virginia. Well, Google “family travel,” and you’ll see that other people are already doing what you want to be doing. People who aren’t luckier or richer than you are out there doing it. There are people who have overcome those fears, and you can, too.