This post was created in collaboration with Kayak.
What does travel mean to you?
For many people, the purpose of travelling the world is relaxation, to make the most of precious time off of work and to recharge the batteries.
Their goal is to make travel a vacation, to spend time by a pool, sipping on cocktails and letting the responsibilities of everyday life be taken care of by someone else.
For others the meaning of travel runs deeper.
Those curious about foreign cultures use travel as a way to discover more about the people and customs found in faraway lands.
Lovers of nature seek out tremendous landscapes, towering peaks, sprawling beaches and dense jungle. Arriving isn’t always easy, but the reward is always worth it, for travel is a journey into this planet’s most remarkable scenery.
Some people use it as a tool to escape the realities of everyday life. When pressure gets to be too much at home, the allure of travelling to somewhere distant provides a pleasant respite at a much-needed time.
For me though, I travel to get outside of my comfort zone.
Of everywhere I’ve been, of everything I’ve done, the most rewarding experiences have always come after stepping away from what would I would consider to be an easy option.
My fascination with different cultures has led me to the far corners of the globe, and created scenarios that have altered my perceptions and changed who I have become as a person.
While I learnt a lot about the lifestyles of Vietnamese people in Hanoi, it was only when I ventured deep into the jungle and spent time with a tribe in a village of 300 that I felt like I truly understood them.
A passion for nature wasn’t satisfied with simply driving to a viewpoint and seeing a glacier in Patagonia – It took trekking for 8 days with all my supplies on my back to make me truly appreciate the beauty that was all around.
Sleeping on the floor of shepherd’s huts in Tajikistan, bouncing over crumbling mountain roads in Myanmar, swimming in freezing waters in Antarctica – All of these rough experiences eventually yielded enormous personal rewards, once I accepted that getting out of my comfort zone would be worthwhile.
I still remember the butterflies in my stomach as I stepped off a plane in a foreign land at the age of 20, completely on my own and with no real idea of what lay ahead.
I was nervous. I had always said that one day I would travel the world, but they would remain empty words until I finally took action.
Then suddenly there I was, on the other side of the planet, all alone, and it scared the hell out of me. I had left behind job security, friendships, family, a relationship, everything that society told me was required to live a happy life, and now I stared into the unknown. Had I made a huge mistake?
Over a decade later I’m still on the road, and that initial fear of boarding that plane turned out to be the best decision I had ever made.
Where the road has led me over the years has shaped who I have become as a man, but it was that first step outside of my comfort zone that allowed it all to happen.
From a narrow-minded youth to a global citizen, I’ve seen the world and its people at their best and worst, and now feel prepared for almost anything.
These are the rewards that travel grants us – an education and inspiration that transcends institutions. And it is the journey outside our comfort zone that allows it to happen.
I watched a movie made by Kayak featuring Mattias Klum, an award-winning wildlife photographer and documentary film maker, who talked about how escaping his comfort zone has allowed him to pursue his passion around the world.
A dream to be a professional photographer had led him to remote destinations, putting him face to face with some of the most dangerous animals on the planet. It wasn’t comfortable, it wasn’t easy, but it fuelled the fire inside him and allowed him to live his goals.
His message resonated with me, because I’ve always believed that few things in this world worth chasing come easy. There’s a reason Mattias is one of the industry’s best wildlife photographers – it’s because he’s willing to get out of his comfort zone and go where his peers dare not. He accepts the pain to reap the rewards.
When I look at where life’s journey has led Alesha and I, from being broke backpackers living out of a campervan in Canada to running a successful online business from our laptops in places as remote as Mongolia and Brazil, it’s easy to think that luck got us to where we are today.
The truth is it took a lot of hardships to reach this point. And I wouldn’t change it for the world.
I could have stayed in Australia, kept the same friendship group, settled for a job I was good at but didn’t enjoy, frequented the usual restaurants and bars for the rest of my days, and it would have been an easy life. But would I have always wondered what could have been?
Instead I’ve lost far too many friends, had more jobs than I can count and put myself in situations that are not just stressful, but also dangerous.
In return I’ve lived a fulfilling, exciting and varied life, have followed a path that continues to open new doors and lead to different opportunities, and opened my eyes to a world that I never would have seen otherwise.
This is why I travel. Not for relaxation, but for the experience of it all, both good and bad, and the journey that breaking out of my comfort zone creates.
A ship is safe in harbour, but that’s not what ships are built for.
What does travel mean to you?