While typing up answers for an upcoming interview for Live Unchained, I came across this question:

Do you think that what a traveler stands to gain or contribute varies in different settings?

Got me really thinking way past the question.

The act of travel in itself is so subjective. It touches and transforms us all differently. Experiences range from life-changing epiphanies to downright atrocious situations. One of the reasons I appreciate Brave New Traveler (part of the Matador Network) is that it aims to explore the various dimensions of travel objectively.

As travelers, we usually seek to gain more insight, more tolerance, more understanding of various cultures we immerse ourselves in. In a sense, expanding our views beyond those habitual boxes and situational bubbles we live within each day.

We continually want to gain. In terms of contributing, volunteerism immediately jumps to mind – sharing time, giving tangible items, serving others. We rarely often see ourselves as cultural ambassadors too.

When I travel, I strive to be a sponge readily expanding. Soaking up knowledge and cultural understanding, immersing in and respecting various points of views, sharing my story, serving others and squeezing out generously where needed…while inherently remaining a sponge without somehow transforming into a mop.

In essence, I let travel enrich, not define. For definition, I look to a higher power.

Photo shot in Lisbon, Portugal.

  • Thanks for good read, bookmarked your blog for future referrence

  • Grace

    Travelling should be a right, but it’s often a privilege in the face of harsh reality.

    However…it should be noted that travelling is often more within your reach than you would think. Be determined and strategic, and you can make your way around the world on mere pennies (lots of them, but still).

    http://www.couchsurfing.com was a great help for my student budgets.

    Love your travel photography and writing. Keep on sponging and I’ll try to soak up some of what you squeeze out!


  • gorgeous writing and thoughts lola! i couldn’t agree more. travel is about soaking in and learning. it is also a little bit about giving, leaving something behind, and teaching. a two way street.

  • traveling can get addicting, especially when your the foreigner, you pick up so many things, that come naturally to others. Fun Topic!


  • monneli

    I really liked what you mentioned about how we are also our own culture’s ambassador, and that meeting foreigners in your home territory can be just an enlightening an experience as being the foreigner. I’ve only really begun traveling by myself this year, and what I’ve been able to learn about other people around the world and myself has been astounding. Also – great choice in the photo of Lisbon. Beautiful city.

  • khationarytales

    Your post hits exactly why I travel at all. I love soaking up all there is to learn. Traveling is like an addiction I have to satisfy or feel restless without.

  • Wow, awesome! I love traveling, and I totally agree with your last point: “soaking up knowledge and cultural understanding”. That’s what I love about going to different countries, seeing different people and learning about different things!
    Thanks! 😀

  • smiles

    This post caught my attention. I’m a traveler and reading your post made me think why we travel. As a girl who grew up from a suburb that lives the “American Dream”, I believe that traveling opens my eyes to a new perspective in life…that this world has so much and traveling allows me to improve who I am and what I can do for the future.

  • Congrats on making the WP front page!

    I mostly gain when I travel, but I also try to contribute. As a black woman, I feel like I have a different experience than many other travelers in certain destinations. Especially places where they have not encountered many black women and/or places where black people are looked upon negatively. In such locations, I strive to show people that I am just another human being. Sounds simple, but I think it’s pretty monumental.

  • great text 🙂

    But sometimes traveling isn’t only about absorving and learning. Sometimes it’s just for the plain feeling of fun, seeing new things, forgetting our boring and repetitive work days.

    Maybe our brain misses the nomad days of mankind.

  • I think that there are different ways to travel that can be equally as mind expanding. Books, movies and music can sometimes transport viewers into a place that they may never get the chance to physically travel to but they are given a glimpse of the culture and people so that they come away with a different perspective. I’ve observed this and experienced it many times in my own travels.

  • To see the world is the greatest. Its so enriching to see beautiful places and experience different cultures. Certainly beats 9-5 in the same office year after year!

  • Pretty Project

    I agree with you. I feel it’s important when you travel to leave behind old expectations and customs to truly embrace another culture and way of life.


  • Steven Harris

    Traveling can happen in the mind, but only if we appreciate that every moment is part of a journey. Some people cannot always grasp this in their day to day lives which is why they make epic physical journeys.

  • Steven Harris

    Traveling can happen in the mind, but only if we appreciate that every moment is part of a journey. Some people cannot always grasp this in their day to day lives which is why they make epic physical journeys.

  • “The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” -St. Augustine

    • And what about those who may never have the chance to travel? Those born in abject poverty?

      We are privileged to be able to travel.

    • psychologist1

      great phrase! I agree with it completely!!! i like travels though i visited not as many places as i would like to visit. but life continues. I still have many chances to say hello to many interesting places in our world!

  • I love this! I too try to be a sponge and absorb as much as I can when I travel!

  • @Kate – Absolutely. I think a lot of this sentiment from me boils down to traveling home every year, looking into the eyes of people I know may never have the opportunity to travel, to explore other worlds, and letting them know that there are other more important qualities that define them as individuals too. Not an undying lust for travel which we all naturally have.

    Hope this adds more context.

  • “inherently remaining a sponge without somehow transforming into a mop.”
    Great line. I guess that’s why even people who are unable/unwilling to travel are ultimately still fascinated by it.

    Very interesting.