My wife and I recently left our little blue paradise behind and ventured out on a road trip through Utah’s red rock country. We visited all five national parks in ten days, driving over 30 hours from Lake Tahoe to Moab and back. Along the way, we spent countless hours exploring some of the most surreal landscapes on Earth. After trudging around in the ice and snow every day for the last four months, we were more than ready for a change of scenery. Hiking in the red desert among towering hoodoos turned out to be the perfect antidote for our simmering cabin fever.
Taking in so many incredible sights has deepened my appreciation of the inherent beauty that exists in the physical word. Also, standing on the edge of various death-defying rock precipices has inspired a whole new understanding of the word ‘awe’- defined here as: “a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder.” The word ‘awesome’ gets thrown around a lot these days but, in this case, I believe it is the correct adjective to use when describing this experience. Now that we are back at home, there is a rekindled sense of wonder inside my heart. They say that traveling is good for the soul and, after taking this journey, I can understand why. Here is why traveling is so essential to your overall well-being:
1. Traveling makes you appreciate the world you live in.
The universe is an infinitely weird and wonderful place made up of countless stars and planets. We take it for granted that Earth is our home, but we really should take the time to look around and appreciate what an amazing planet this is. Scientists estimate that there are over 30 billion planets in the Milky Way galaxy alone, and that there are over 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe. When you consider the astronomical odds, it’s clear that we are blessed to be here on Earth. I may be a little biased, but this has got to be one of the best planets out there. We’ve got it all: oceans, mountains, rivers, deserts, canyons, lakes- not to mention all the beautiful flora and fauna that’s here. As far as planets go, it really doesn’t get any better than this. You could spend a lifetime searching the galaxy for a better place to call home, but I don’t think you’ll find a more aesthetically pleasing planet than the one we are already on.
2. Traveling makes you happy to be alive.
Nobody knows why we are alive on Earth right now. Life is the great, unsolvable mystery that we all face. In the end, there’s not a lot you can do about your existence- you’re basically here whether you like it or not- so you might as well enjoy the ride. However, I find that nothing makes me appreciate being alive more than coming face-to-face with the prospect of my own demise. Fortunately, this trip offered me the perfect opportunity to be genuinely afraid for my life.
The moment in question occurred halfway along a tall, narrow rock spine in Zion canyon. There I was, clinging to a metal chain, flanked on the left and right by thousand-foot drop-offs. I looked up at the towering rock spine ahead of me and I couldn’t believe that I had to go up there. An ice-cold liquid slowly spread from my chest throughout my whole body. I felt temporarily frozen in time and space, unable to take a step forward or backward. My legs, already exhausted from the long hike to the top, had apparently turned into rubber.
I quickly recognized that I was facing one of the biggest fears of all- the fear of death. I took a deep breath and considered my options. In a situation like this, there are really only two choices: feel the fear and decide to turn back, or feel the fear and do it anyway. I figured that, even if I did fall to my death, at least people could say that I died doing what I loved. I eventually pushed on, clambering to the top and feeling very much alive and invigorated in the process. Challenges such as this, when death is a real possibility, force you to recognize just how much value you place on your own existence.
I am not ashamed to admit that I was scared up there because I feel like fear is a very natural response to have in those circumstances. Fortunately, in my moment of wavering resolve, I recognized that my fear of death was simply an indication of how much I enjoy my life. It turns out that I really, really like being alive. Fear is always thought of as the enemy but, by recognizing where the fear stems from, you can prevent it from having a paralyzing effect on you. Besides, if it weren’t for the fear of death, getting to the top wouldn’t be nearly as much fun.
In conclusion, the reason traveling is so essential to your well-being is because it allows you to appreciate the miraculous nature of reality. Traveling takes you out of your comfort zone and allows you to see the world from a higher perspective. We didn't come into this world from someplace else, we were created by the Earth itself. The same mysterious force that created the sun and the moon and the stars also created you and me and everything else you see. Perhaps the best way we can honor the Creator is to venture out into the natural world and marvel in wonder at the beauty of Creation.
Nick Hughes is a massage therapist, yoga instructor and co-owner of Well Being.