Why I Travel
Table of Contents
“Wow Bryan, you’ve been to so many places. What’s your favorite country and why?” I get asked this question a lot after people find out that I’ve been to 60+ countries. It makes for a great opener on dating apps. I act like James Bond – dropping subtle hints of mouth watering cuisines, nerve wrecking adventures while maintaining a cloak of secrecy.
But as I go through this question and answer routine, a deeper, more introspective question grows inside me – “Why do I travel?”
My first traveling experience occurred in the summer of 2010. Life was mundane at the time – I lived a suburban life in LA and worked at a corporate job that made Office Space a reality TV show of my own life. After I got accepted into a masters program, I immediately put in my resignation and began planning for a 3 month backpacking trip to Europe.
I knew nothing about Europe at the time and couldn’t pronounce many of the names of countries or cities, but it held mysteries for me since I am a major history fanatic. But I was traveling alone, and many challenges arose. How would I deal with loneliness? What if I get robbed or pickpocketed? What if I can’t find the hostel or the bus breaks down? Fears were building up in my head, but I knew I had to confront them in order to grow, to explore my boundaries, and to gain inspiration.
Traveling pushes me out of my comfort zone.
I was very shy growing up and I never felt comfortable navigating through school or college. But as a solo traveler, I had to force myself to engage with other strangers or else I’d eat dinner alone. When I first arrived at a hostel in Madrid, I saw many travelers coming in and out. Some were in groups already, laughing and bonding, and many were chilling by themselves.
I chugged a shot of shamelessness and went up to these strangers and greeted them. We chatted, and soon I found myself going to a soccer stadium and experiencing an once-in-a-lifetime event – Spain winning the 2010 World Cup. I turned Spanish that evening, waving the Spanish red and yellow flag and jumping into rivers like a Spaniard. By pushing outside my comfort zone, I discovered new experiences, friends, and boundaries, and learned that I have a taste for adventure.
Traveling opened my perspectives
I’ve continued my world tours a few years later, this time to countries in Asia. In rural China, the farmers didn’t have flushing toilets and instead was using stalls with holes on the floor. In Bangkok, young boys were manning tuk-tuk carts, laughing and bonding with their fellow drivers during break while waiting for the next tourist bus to arrive at the bus station. In Japan, I saw salarymen rushing from their offices to sake bars with the same precision of the Shinkansen bullet trains to decompress from a long day’s work.
I began noticing subtle details in every culture and the way people lived. Cuisines, languages, standards of living differ across countries and cultures, but deep down people strive for the same things – making a living, seeking pleasures, tending to their families, etc. As I observe these conditions in my travels, I am grateful that I had the opportunities to live in affluent societies in the US and Taiwan (where I am originally from) where standards of living were high. Through traveling, I cultivated a sense of gratitude for the comforts in my life.
Traveling inspires me
Now, as I approach my late 30s, traveling is no longer the same. I’ve upgraded from hostels to Airbnbs (a clear sign of adulting). I began to appreciate the depths of cultures. The artifacts in the Anthropology Museum in Mexico City opened my eyes to the arts of the many subcultures in the Mexican peninsula; the mezcal and tequila farming tour showed me the warmths of the locals in rural Mexico; the romantic partners dancing in the Zocalo town square reminded me the beauty in human relationships. The glaciers in South New Zealand, the serenity of the underwater world in the cenotes in the Yucatan coast, all revealed something inside me that I never thought I had – inspirations.
Like a mirror shining light to hidden gems, I grew curious and fascinated by all the human ingenuity that came before me and the magnificence of natural wonders. Reflecting on these inspirations made me realize all my worries in modern life are just a small peck of sand in the vast wonders of life.
The more I traveled and explored the outside world, the more I journeyed deeper into myself and realized the oneness of my spirit and soul with the world.
This is why I travel.
Bryan Liu Newsletter
Join the newsletter to receive the latest updates in your inbox.