Confessions of an Ordinary Traveler


There’s a certain comfort in leading an ordinary life, slipping into the cozy habits of everyday routines and donning the familiar masks of personal and professional identities.  

But no matter how snug the habitual may feel, how secure the career, house, or marriage might appear, now and again life’s Big Questions (e.g. Who am I? What is my purpose?) simmer to the surface, casting a nagging net of uneasiness over my ordinary contentment. 

So, with the hope of better understanding life’s deeper meanings, I open my heart and travel beyond my comfort zone in search of answers, different ways of thinking and universal truths. 

Make no mistake: I am not a spiritual seeker. I profess to no extraordinary wisdom or transcendent awareness. In fact, I’m as flawed as they come. I enjoy eating more than exercising; I can be as lethal as a raging wildfire when all the right buttons are pushed; and I’m more resistant to trying new things than I like to admit.  

Nevertheless, looking back on the past year and with twenty months of nomadic living under my belt, I’ve learned a thing or two. Here’s what I know now…

1. Travel is not about getting away, it’s about getting in touch.

I subscribe to the theory that no matter how far we travel, we take ourselves with us. At home, however, that self is often submerged in an ocean of duties and roles. New places, for me, inspire new habits that connect me with myself, and others, in meaningful and novel ways. The world is a mirror if I’m willing to see.

2. Home is not a physical place, rather something we carry within.

Whether we’re living like locals in Mexico or settled-in for a three-month hotel stay in Nicaragua, I feel at home wherever we go. It helps, of course, that my husband, Hank, is with me. But home is more than a physical place on the map. It’s a feeling of belonging, a grounded internal existence that we carry with us no matter how transient and diverse the exterior. 

3. Answers come in ordinary moments.

We risk missing out on the answers to life’s Big Questions when we get too busy chasing transformation. While Bucket-list adventures and epic challenges may hold the promise of enlightenment, it’s been my experience that the most profound insights are found in those small, ordinary moments - striking up a conversation with a stranger in an unfamiliar language, observing life from the seat of a park bench, or taking a walk in nature - that are so easy to overlook.     

What about you? What insights has travel revealed for you? Please use the comments box below to share. 

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Ellen Barone has been creating words and images for travel and tourism since 1998. She co-founded and publishes the group travel blog YourLifeIsATrip.com and is currently at work on her first book "I Could Live Here".