People vs Places: Why Do You Travel?


Why do you travel?

Is it to tick an item off your bucket list? To be able to overhear a conversation about landmarks amongst friends and be able to chime in, “yeah, I’ve been there” like it’s no big deal?

I don’t think so. I don’t think those who truly love travel do it for the “brag-ability” points. It’s not about being able to recite cities and countries and continents that have been explored. That, of course, makes its way into conversation. But it’s not the primary goal.

No, travel is about collecting experiences. Being exposed to the new, whether that’s in your own country or in a far away foreign land. Taking a glimpse at how another culture goes about things. And, if you’re lucky, making friends along the way.

Why do I travel?

To meet these people. Those who will become lifelong friends. Those who no matter where else I flit off to in the world, I know they are always there. If not in person, then in spirit. These kindred souls who may always be off on the next adventure themselves, and who you may or may not cross paths with in the most unexpected places.

Don’t get me wrong, I do love a good landmark. Or a famous city. But what makes those places come to life, for me, is the people I meet while visiting. I may have spent 3 years living in Paris, but without the friends I made there, it’s not the same city.

I travel for people. I travel to visit old friends, and to meet new ones. And if in that course of that I happen to visit a few landmarks, that’s fine too.

It may mean I don’t visit as many places as some, and it most likely means returning to the same places again and again, but I’m fine with that. Because my friends are in those places. And in the end, that’s all that counts.

{Image by Moyen Bren}

  • I travel for friends too! The people you meet in the places they live is something special.

    • They absolutely are! I’ve met some amazing people on my various adventures, and am so thankful for the ease of staying in touch these days.

  • I travel for the experience. I love seeing new places, meeting new people and experiencing new things.

    • 100%!! It’s all exciting, and I live for that thrill of the new. I guess that’s why I keep ditching routine and jetting off on extended-stay visas wherever I can lol.

  • Adina Marguerite

    Such an interesting question Amy. I think about it a lot since it seems I differ from many others out there in that I don’t travel for the people. I actually seek out places to travel to with as few people as possible! For me it’s about experiencing the diverse natural environments and wonders around our planet.

    • It does raise some interesting points on travel! In responses, I have found several people who prefer to travel alone or go to places where people are scarce. And honestly, some of my favorite trips have been to places where there are fewer people. I’m a total landscape junkie myself. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • I travel to see what’s over the next hill and to be inspired by it, to learn how to take the things I see every day and do something different with them, and to stumble over new things and see how people incorporate them into their lives. If anything, it’s just a way of stepping out of my life for a moment and poking around in how other people live their lives.

    • That’s a great approach! I do love poking around and learning about other cultures, and the best way to do that is to know someone who lives and/or is from a place. So many of my friends over the years have moved to other countries and other continents, so I often find myself paying visits. It may mean I see less places, but maintaining those friendships is important to me. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • This is exactly it. Sometimes, my fondness of a city depends on the people I met there, which gives me a lot of biases towards some cities! The city that I spend 6 months in, Grenoble, would actually mean very little touristically without the people I’ve forged bonds with there.

    • Exactly!! I have visited some of the most obscure little towns (on the tourist spectrum anyways) simply because a long-standing, very good friend lives there. I may have missed some of the “big gun” attractions in some countries, but I have collected enough stories that I’ve never felt I was missing out. For me, that’s what life is all about. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Ashley Hubbard

    I travel for all of it – the place, the food, the people….but the people usually do make or break a place. They are what you really remember way down the road. Thanks for linking up to the #SundayTraveler!

    • Very true! Don’t “they” always say you might forget a person’s name, but you’ll never forget how they made you feel. Cultures and people in various places have the same effect. I don’t travel for the strangers of a place, but will make the extra effort to go somewhere if a friend lives there, even if it means I’ll have to skip some big monument or attraction somewhere. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • slightly astray

    Great post! I travel to see famous sites I’ve only heard about my whole life, to taste foods I can never get elsewhere, for the freedom it brings, and to learn about other cultures. But it is the people have make or break a place. If the locals aren’t friendly, I won’t remember the place fondly. And unfortunately, I’m really bad at making friends while on the road but I hope that changes as I’m more comfortable with travel!

    • Thank you!! It’s certainly taken me time to get comfortable making friends while traveling. Much of that came with actually moving overseas for school, when I was essentially forced to create a new social group but had the safety net of the other students. After doing that a few times I’m now pretty comfortable with integrating. You bring up excellent points – food, freedom and foreign cultures are top on my reasons to travel as well! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Mandie Sanders

    Love this!! For me it’s a combination of both – people and places. And food ๐Ÿ˜‰ Landmarks are beautiful but it’s the connections you make that really leave an impact on you! In fact, I actually changed my itinerary from Italy to Croatia so that I would be able to go meet up with some new friends I made while in Greece.

    • Thank you!! And changing an itinerary to squeeze in a visit to friends sounds exactly like something I would do! Or have done actually lol. I love traveling with that degree of flexibility. You just never know who you’re going to meet, or where you might decided you want to go, and it’s great to not be on a strict schedule. If anyone has seen my Instagram feed lately, they’d see how important food is to me as well! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Good question, I travel for the experience, so much going on all around! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Yes Diana this is absolutely true!! There is always so much going on all around, whether you’re in a city, the country, on a beach, or in the mountains. There’s always so much for the senses to take in, and it’s exhilarating!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • This post really made me think. I travel mostly for the people too I guess. I love trying to mix in with the local culture to get to know what the people are really like. What makes them tick. You’re right that this often takes more time but as long as you’re not traveling to try and see as many places as possible, it’s not a big deal. Sometimes it’s better to discover a place more deeply than broadly.

    • Me too Jenn!! I’m often trying to scratch beneath the surface and find the local vibe of a place. I would rather spend 3 hours sitting in a cafe chatting with a friendly local than 3 hours on a bus being shipped around to one monument after another. It’s just how I roll. And as long as I’m aware that I may not see every single thing, I’m fine with it. Quality over quantity. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • I wouldn’t have really thought about traveling for the people, but when I think about some of my more memorable trips, the people that I met there even just for a few moments are what often come to mind! I hope to make some lasting friendships as well!

    • That’s just it! The people are always a surprise. Sometimes a pleasant one, sometimes not. But of all the places I’ve spent time in (more than a few days holiday) I have met people who became friends and made the place for me, even if I had no idea what to expect from a destination. And that’s one of my favorite aspects of travel. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Guest

    I think I travel to delve into new cultures but I am often surprised (which is
    why I probably remember them more) by the kindred spirits I meet during our
    travels. In our last trip, we met a girl from Slovenia who has not only been to
    India (where I stay) but has also visited smaller villages (where I have not
    been). Travelling always makes me realize how small the world really is.

    By the way I recently stumbled upon your blog and am loving it!
    I really like the unique name and the story behind it!

  • Dee

    I believe I travel to delve into new cultures but I am often surprised (which is
    why I probably remember them more) by the kindred spirits I meet during our
    travels. In our last trip, we met a girl from Slovenia who has not only been to
    India (where I stay) but has also visited smaller villages (where I have not
    been). Travelling always makes me realize how small the world really is.

    By the way I recently stumbled upon your blog and am loving it!
    I really like the unique name and the story behind it!

    • Exactly!!! I love that you used the term “kindred spirits,” because that’s exactly how I feel about people that I connect with along the way. It’s these people, both from the cultures and as observers, who make a place come alive and give it a pulse. And it’s amazing what different perspectives you can gain from visitors and locals alike. How cool for you to have crossed paths with someone who had been to your area! The world is truly a small place. And thank you for your kind words – soooo glad you are enjoying my blog!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Heartwarming sentiments Amy. I travel because I just gotta know if the grass is truly greener over that fence. ๐Ÿ˜€

    • Thank you Maria! So many of us travel for so many different reasons, and it’s usually a combination of both people and places. And, as you mention, that persistent need to just go out and see for yourself. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Interesting post Amy! It’s such a simple question, why do I travel, but when I stopped to think about it I found that I couldn’t answer that right away. My first reaction was something like ‘What do you mean why I travel! Why would you even ask such a thing..’. But we’re all different of course so there are many answers to this question. I’m not too sure I travel mostly for people, although it is part of it. For me travel is about making sure that I make the most of my life and that I won’t let life escape me. It would be my nightmare to realize on my deathbed that I have not done a whole lot with my life. So I guess like the famous quote says ‘I travel not to escape life but for life not to escape me’.

    • It does get to be a complex question, doesn’t it? I confess my initial decision as to why I travel has changed repeatedly as I’ve read and responded to comments here! Maybe it’s a malleable concept, and each situation and each trip is unique. I definitely agree with the quote you mention, and couldn’t imagine looking back and thinking, ‘wow, what did I do in my life?’ I’m way more of a “ask why not, and say yes” type of person. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • JustChuckinIt

    Love the post, and great topic of discussion that has me remembering the reasons why I do.

    I always relate it to >> Fernweh: Farsickness. A longing or aching for a place you have never been. Before losing my travel virginity to New Zealandโ€™s ravishing and gloriously naked landscapes, there was something festering in me deep down inside me for a very long time. I couldnโ€™t explain it, but the more and more I ignored it, the more I grew fiercely negative and increasingly unhappy. You see, there is a legacy with my family; sacrifice your body and soul to a labor job until old age catches you, or the back breaking work takes you. There was nothing over the horizon to look towards. Live to work was what I was raised on, and anything remotely fantastical or different was classified as a young boyโ€™s foolishness.

    But once I started humoring myself about a life on the road and exploring the world, a chord was struck. I knew instantly that I was meant for this. The raw desire of adventure, the curiosity of a wayward wanderer, the open-minded nomad searching for knowledge, the backpacker bonds created with strangers. That traveler spirit is what inspires me, the gloves-off-fight-for-it attitude that drives us out of the comfort zones and into the wild. If fate had itโ€™s way I would be in a 9-5 until my last breath, but fate is for those too weak to determine their own destiny, and us travelers are lionhearted.

    And with all of that combined, the most compelling aspect of travel is the human connection. It’s something we lose in society because of pressures or jobs or statuses or stress. And society forces us to see each other based on race, income, sexuality, etc. But traveling, all of those walls are broken down and you can truly experience the culture of the world and connect with other humans with no hinderance. If you let it happen of course.

    • Yes, yes, yes!!! This is exactly the lifestyle and choices that I am talking about, and some people just “get” it and some wonder why you haven’t settled down and bought a house yet. That white picket fence just isn’t for all of us! I think it’s amazing in this day that so many people are breaking out of the mold and going out and seeing and experiencing. And when you meet others out there who share this passion and philosophy, there’s an immediate connection. Those people “get” you, and understand your own need to push the boundaries. All of my closest friends are travelers in some way, whether they are constantly globetrotting or expats settled in one place – they all have that inherent need to live outside the box. And it definitely is something that you have to let happen. Great reply – thanks!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • I jus read your post, and I loved it!! I absolutely love making lasting friendships while traveling – it’s the best sort of souvenir. ๐Ÿ™‚ That thrill of seeing something out of your norm is addicting, and something that drives to keep pushing the boundaries further and further. And then more people are met, more friends are made, and life gets that much more rich. ๐Ÿ™‚ x

  • Megan Hogarth

    This is so true Amy. I spent a week in Nis, in Serbia that didn’t really have much going on but I made so many friends in my first few days that I didn’t want to leave. It is one of the best experiences in all my travels. I think travelling from place to place and not having those interactions and building those relationships would be almost boring.

    • I completely agree with you Megan. I think it’s the sharing of experiences that give them their uniqueness, and without friends or even random strangers to share a laugh with, it does get almost boring. Not that I don’t love my alone time, and have no problem traveling solo, but I do enjoy meeting new people and making new friends along the way. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Genevieve

    I couldn’t agree more! One of the most valuable gifts travel has given me is a network of wonderful friends all around the world.

    • That is so true!! It’s like snowball effect, you meet people in one place, who travel to another, who move to another, and before you know it you know someone in every nook and cranny of the globe. I love it!! ๐Ÿ™‚

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  • Throughout all my travels, I have always been a โ€œplacesโ€ person. So do you tend to be a โ€œplacesโ€ traveler or a โ€œpeopleโ€ traveler?

    • I think I’m a little of both really. I love experiencing places with people, but hen sometimes there’s nothing I enjoy more than heading off on my own and seeing a place however I want to as a solo traveler. Both have their advantages! ๐Ÿ™‚