It’s 5 a.m. in the morning and your alarm clock has just snatched away an exquisite dream. You attempt to open your eyes, but all you see is gauzy darkness. For a few seconds, you manage to convince yourself that your wakefulness is a mistake, and therefore, you simply go back to sleep. But then, you roll over and your eyes fall on the zippered suitcase that you placed by your bed before getting under the covers. You yawn loudly and let out a sleepy groan: You’re going to the airport.

Outside in the cold, you wait soberly before the orange glare of a streetlight for your taxi to arrive. The taxi is late. Once you’re on your way to the airport, the taxi driver gets lost. Now you’re nervous because your flight leaves in an hour. Finally, you arrive at the airport. You hurtle towards Terminal C, your wheeled suitcase half suspended in the air so that you can wait in a long security line. Your belt buckle sets off the metal detector, and your Dior perfume bottle is confiscated.

You arrive at the gate, but the storm has already come and gone: You missed your flight. Now, you’re stuck in Terminal C for the next 223 minutes, your only source of consolation is a cup of caffeine and a McGriddle sandwich. You’ll miss your connecting flight and wait — in a different city, with the same menu — for another plane. And then, 20 some hours later, you’ll get where you need to be.

Why do we travel? For most people, sitting in a plane, surrounded by another 100 people in the vicinity of 200 square feet of airplane space is cumbersome. Strolling through airport malls selling useless souvenirs and getting X-ray screenings brings out the sad reality of modernity. Yet, here we are, packed in great numbers onto planes that don’t seem to be getting any larger. Sometimes, we travel because we have to. We serve as business representatives or we miss eating our mother’s turkey at Thanksgiving. According to Frequent Flyer Service, three percent of business travelers fly outside of the United States. Thus, most travel isn’t non-negotiable. Instead, we travel because we want to; because the hassle of going through airport security is outweighed by the intrinsic thrill of being somewhere new; because home is boring and Italy will always be Italy.

Travel is a basic human desire: a desire to lose ourselves. In some ways, traveling is similar to reading a novel. Sometimes, when overwhelmed with worldly issues, we turn to books to lose ourselves in its pages. Reading sprinkles a little change in our thoughts and gives us the time needed away from the real world. Traveling has the power to do the same, but to a much greater extent.

When we travel, we open our eyes and our hearts to embrace the world around us. We take in more information about the world than a newspaper can accommodate. Traveling provides us with time to think about our lives and ourselves. It gives us time for the tiny moments in our lives when we can peek into our own hearts and see what’s really there when no one is looking.

My point is that by changing your location, you can convert one single noun into a new web of associations. There is only so much that you can take from a place where you’ve spent your entire life or even a few good years, because sooner or later, you’ll reach a point when none of those places or people will teach you something new or different.

This is what traveling can do for us; it’s an authentic recipe that lets you experience the world hands-on. It compels you to pause, to look more closely and deeply at all the tiny details, it lets you linger and reflect on unexpected situations and to soak up everything that an experience has to offer. There are a lot of different aspects of this world that are unique, but it’s traveling that holds at its heart the spirit of uniqueness.

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