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Why do people travel?

I’m sitting in the San Francisco airport waiting to board a flight. The past month I’ve been traveling much more than usual (even for myself). It’s my first backpacking adventure that’s lasted more than two weeks in over a year. As I sit here, tired and exhausted from a family wedding last night, I can’t help but wonder why do we travel?

This seven week trip around North America has a few different travel purposes for me. Firstly, it’s to see people. I’ve attended two friends’ marriages, visited family and caught up with old friends. The next three weeks will be more of the same: seeing even more people that I haven’t seen in years, visiting family and reconnecting with some of my favorite cities (Boston and New York).

It hasn’t been easy—this month of backpacking with set itineraries and a million things to do and people to see. And yet I’d have to say that this trip is worth every trouble. It’s worth every night of 3 hours of sleep, every time change, every baggage fee, every twisted ankle from dancing. This trip is worth every meal out, every couch I’ve slept on and every time I’ve looked for a power outlet in an airport.

I’m so happy to travel. To be able to travel where I want, when I want. There’s a lot of luck and happenstance involved—a lot of work, too—but I know I’m lucky to be able to travel so much.

The purpose of this travel adventure was to see people, but other trips have had other purposes. Everything from experiencing a new culture, trying new foods, marking it off a list. Here are four main reasons I think why we all want to travel. Please feel free to chime in and offer your reasons in the comments.

To see people

My current Hipster Trip around America was planned around three friends’ weddings, many unofficial reunions and a return trip to my home of seven years: Boston. I’ve often said that people are what make a trip so interesting, so it shouldn’t be surprising that one of the biggest reasons we travel is to visit friends and family. But a lot of us also probably travel to meet even more new and interesting people.

To try new things

Whether it’s skydiving or standing on the edge of a 116 story building in Toronto, visiting new cities often means new experiences. Maybe it’s the foreign atmosphere, the fact that you may know very few people, or just an adrenaline rush from taking time off from life. Travel continually pushes me to my limits, often getting me outside of my comfort zone so I can try new things.

To eat new (and often delicious) foods

Over the summer I finally embarked on a trip to Italy—a country I always wanted to visit but never did (for silly reasons). Besides visiting Italy for the tourist sites, art and museums, I focused heavily on finding the best Italian food (especially pizza)!

Food and culture are often so intertwined it’s often impossible to separate the two. And it’s my guess that many of us (even non-foodies) travel to particular destinations for food, wine and other local specialties.

To learn

The three months I spent traveling around India during my big trip were some of the most intense and interesting months of my life. Every day was a new adventure (and often a challenge), but I learned so much during that time I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I learned more about myself, about the world, about India and about humanity.

With all the newness we face each day abroad in a foreign place it’s hard not to come away with more than a souvenir.


Why do you travel? Before I set out on my round-the-world trip, I made a list of reasons why I was going to travel. While I realize and respect that everyone has a different reason for each and every travel, I can’t help but feel there’s a lot of overlap. Share your reasons below!


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  1. Lizzie says:

    I love this post.. I’m really interested in why people travel and have recently posted a series of interviews on my blog asking travel bloggers their reasons for travelling. The answers were really fascinating as each person seems to have a different agenda and backstory. However, I did find common themes running through each, such as the desire to learn more about the world.

    • Adam says:

      Thanks Lizzie! Surprised to hear such a wide diversity of answers. Will head over to your site now and check it out!

  2. Lane says:

    We travel to educate ourselves, to evolve as people. First hand experiences will always trump reading about it. We’ve discovered new foods, new ideas and had to change our view a couple of times. It broadens. That’s why we travel.

    • Adam says:

      Couldn’t agree more with you Lane that first-hand experiences are one of the best ways to learn and educate oneself! It’s great to be open-minded where you can change your beliefs and ideas as well.

  3. I travel because when I’m traveling I feel the most alive, especially when I’m traveling by myself. I’m out of my element and am forced to meet people, try new things and adapt. I also love living out of a backpack and feeling free from material possessions. I travel because of the people you make connections with and the amazing foods you get to try.. so many good things come from it!

    • Adam says:

      Trying new things is such a big part of travel. I never realized how many new things there were in the world but travel can certainly open your eyes!

      Thanks for commenting Ashley.

  4. Eric says:

    Loving this post Adam…Today I realize I travel mostly to escape the grind of regular daily life. Difficult to completely relax at home when home is your wrokplace! So escaping to the South Pacific or Mexico is just that: finding an environment where you can create a parenthesis from daily life.

    • Adam says:

      Thanks Eric :)

      Travel as an escape works wonders on the mind and the body. I love your description of travel as a “parenthesis from daily life.” Well said!

  5. Jeanette says:

    I travel to satisfy my curiosity, to have new experiences, learn new languages and to meet new people. And to take pictures!

  6. Definitely travel for people I love (or will meet and love) and food!

  7. Josie says:

    Yeah Adam, great post.
    As a house sitter, I am fortunate to immerse in local cultures for extended lengths of time, that no other form of travel allows. That’s what I love. To know the neighbors, shop in the grocery stores — and even getting to know the employees there — and explore off-the-beaten-track areas in depth.
    Been a vagabond all my life!
    Right now, my house sitting assignment in the U.S. is feeling a bit too long. Got itchy feet to be on the road again!
    I wish you happy and safe travels,

    • Adam says:

      Thank you Josie!

      Traveling for extended periods of time, I’ve found, can really affect how we see the world so it’s no surprise that it affects why you might travel more in the future.

  8. I travel to see things. New places, new people, famous attractions, natural wonders. There’s so much to see and experience in this world that I couldn’t possibly stay in one place for very long.

    • Adam says:

      So true Scott! The world is ginormous and there’s so much more of it I plan to explore. Hope to see you on the road somewhere at some point!

  9. Marco says:

    I travel to explore the world outside my “everyday bubble”. There is a lot out there to learn, not only of the destination, but of the people and the culture of the region. It’s a very healthy thing to get out and explore new places.

    • Adam says:

      Marco, you’re so right to say that it’s very healthy to want to explore. I love traveling so much and I just wish more people could (and would!) do it!

  10. Julia says:

    I travel because NOT traveling haunts me… I just feel more like myself when I am on the road.

    • Adam says:

      That makes sense Julia! When I worked full-time for a big corporate company and didn’t have a lot of vacation time…so when I did travel it felt extra special.

  11. Micki says:

    Great reasons for traveling! I agree with Ashley’s reasons. I’m forced out of my comfort zone when traveling, and it’s always such a great experience that forces me to learn and grow…

    • Adam says:

      Travel definitely has forced me out of my comfort zone a number of times, too. It’s a great feeling.

      Thanks for commenting Micki!

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  13. Great stuff Adam…I get freaked out every time I see someone do that CN Tower walk!

  14. Suzy says:

    You have been busy! And that photo of you hanging off the building in Toronto makes me nervous ha! I travel for many of the same reasons you do but I think one of the main reasons I go is just how empowering it can be for the self. I find myself doing things I wouldn’t have the courage to do at home. I also think I am forced to figure out more situations and problems while traveling that gives me a huge sense of self confidence.

  15. Cheryl says:

    I love this post Adam! All are very good reasons to travel.

    For myself personally, I travel to feel inspired, alive and happy …. forget about every day life and enjoy the moment. :)

  16. Joy says:

    Definitely to learn and be surprised! I love it because you learn things you wouldn’t expect to learn. Chinese is an obvious one for me. But I’ve also learned more about myself than I expected to and changed in ways I never would have thought.

  17. Shalu Sharma says:

    Good question, never wondered why people travel. Most ordinary people travel to get away from their day to day job and spend some time doing something else. But as you, trying new things is the real reason for travellers.

  18. Looks like quitting your job and going travelling has been the best decision you have ever made!! Great post mate. I travel to make my every day special and different, to explore the world, discover undiscovered and make friends with people all of the world. I love to eat, learn and experience new things like you do and I feel like impossible’s nothing!!

  19. Travel is such a personal thing for so many people but you’ve pinpointed some of the best reasons why we might want to travel.

    Interesting post!

  20. Tom @ Waegook Tom says:

    Learning is a big point. For me, I travel to satisfy my curiosity about places that I’ve been fascinated with since I was tiny. I’d literally sit and leaf through atlases and imagine what visiting these far away places must be like.

    Food too, of course. My wish list for the USA portion of my trip next year is: Statue of Liberty, Central Park, Philly cheese steak, pizza, grits, BBQ, gut-busting burgers.

  21. Arti says:

    I travel to find myself. To be with the nature in silence. To seek happiness by giving.

  22. Michelle says:

    I really like this post and how different peoples answers are!
    My answer: I travel to satisfy my curiosity about the world, people and life in general. I travel because I don’t want to get stuck in the same routine I create for myself whenever I’m standing still. I travel because I’d rather have an experience than a material thing. But mostly I travel because I love to eat. Lots and lots!

  23. Great post idea! I agree, I travel to learn and to expand my mind. I travel to challenge myself and try new things. I think I also travel because I see things on TV and in books/magazines that make me say “I want to see that! I want to be there!” I keep a bucket list. I travel to see people too.

  24. Molly Nurse says:

    This is awesome. I definitely agree! For everytime I’ve sprinted for a tight connection, stressed over extra charges or scam artists and had uncomfortable naps in odd places I’ve had at least 10 other amazing experiences. To be honest I travel because I get bored easily and can’t imagine missing out on the people/ places/ experiences/ food that I can get from traveling

  25. Saikou says:

    I want to learn more about your traveling, I am living in Africa The Gambia

  26. Lauren says:

    I love to travel to distress myself once in awhile and to gain back the energy I lost for the past year and to enjoy life as well.

  27. John says:

    Travelling opens us up to other cultures especially if we live with the people we visit. For example travelling in africa taught me the Ubuntu philosophy where one cannot be happy if the rest are sad and vise versa.

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