The True Meaning of Travel


Kelly Jemal Massry 

According to the dictionary, the verb “travel” means “to make a journey, typically of some length, or abroad.” There’s a lot to be gleaned from this definition, with insightful nuggets that can be used to fully appreciate the unique gifts offered by the travel experience. 

First, let’s consider the act of making a journey. The symbolic undertones can’t be ignored. They beg the question: how will you emerge changed from the process you’ve undertaken to uproot yourself from one place to go to another? How will you make good on the financial, physical, logistical, and even psychological efforts you’ve expended on this endeavor? 

Travel does take a lot out of us. The hassle of baggage check-in, airport security, connecting flights, red eyes, and jet lag is enough to send us spinning. So, before you get on that plane and make your journey, consider why you’re doing so. Is it to spend much-needed time with loved ones? If so, then when you get to your destination, truly look at them. Engage them in deep conversation. Stop to take note of the radiance of their smile and the peal of their laughter. Put away the phones, the computers, even the Kindles – anything that will sink you into the mindless black hole that has no place on your trip. In today’s day and age, “unplugging” may entail withdrawal symptoms, but the detox is necessary in order to get the most out of this time of closeness. 

Consider the next part of our definition – “to make a journey, typically of some length.” Focus on the stretch of time you’ve given yourself to live outside your routine. Make the most of the blissful respite you now have, by relaxing and releasing tension. All trips come to an end, but until they do, they last a certain amount of days. Stretch out those days to the last minute. Revel in the gift of leisure, which really amounts to the gift of time – to sleep, to read, to enjoy family and friends.

There is nothing like these moments Hashem grants us – when the normal rhythm of our lives seems to freeze and we exist in whatever exotic bubble we find ourselves in. Whether the travel is for the occasion of a holiday or a winter vacation, the fact of the matter is, it’s special because it’s separate from our regular routine.  On that note, seal your boundaries hermetically. Draw a clear line between work and play, and do your best not to bring work along with you. Take a similar attitude towards distractions that knock you off-center, that keep you from being in the moment. Unburden yourself of all of it, and let that lightness carry you through to a new state of being. If you’re fortunate, even after the “length of time” has expired and your vacation has regrettably ended, some of that special feeling will remain, and you’ll return to your workplace reenergized and happier. 

Now for the final part of our definition, one word that has us traversing the globe in our minds: abroad. While this may not true for everyone traveling this season – or at least for those who will not leave the country – the term still calls attention to setting. It bids us to look around, to appreciate where we are, whatever locale we’re in. While you’re traveling, observe differently. Walk more slowly. Find the right words to employ to comment on what amazes you.  Get your scenic snapshots, if only to remind yourself of the picturesque images when you’re back home. After all, you’ve planted yourself in a new part of the natural world, and part of honoring that fact is letting it seep into you.

This year, as you make your journey, for whatever length of time, whether it’s close to home or abroad, consider what it is you’re really after. Remind yourself that when you travel, you hope to gain a new perspective, to be someone other than yourself for a while, and to be with the people you love in new contexts. We should view our trip as the grandest of opportunities – to unplug, to relax, to not work, to squeeze the life out of every moment. Seen that way, the act of travel doesn’t seem so exhausting. It seems, in fact, like a cause for celebration – what a gift we’ve been given!

It is our hope that this attitude of hope, renewal, and gratitude will enrich your travel experience – and that you can bring some of that positive attitude back with you, even after you’ve returned home. 

Safe travels!