It's all well and good going through life with a 'no regrets' type attitude, but when it comes down to it, many people do express some sort of regret on their deathbed. Perhaps it's only when we reach the very end of our life that we can really appreciate all the things we could have done with it. 'I wish I had travelled more' is a repeat offender on lists of common deathbed regrets shared by palliative care nurses and the like, but why is not traveling such a big regret for so many people?
1. The excuses we make to stay put are put into perspective
Anybody who travels frequently or makes a lifestyle out of seeing the world will be used to hearing the words 'I wish I could do what you're doing.' The list of 'buts' which follows that sentence rarely changes: 'I can't afford it', 'I'd have to give up my car', 'I'd have to quit my job', 'I'd have to move out of my flat'.
But when you're breathing your last breath you're unlikely to regret selling the reliable car you had when you were in your mid-twenties or giving up a job you probably weren't that into anyway. As much as these things seem to make up the fabric of our lives, they are things which can easily be replaced or come back to after you've seen the world. Most of the people you see living it up abroad have made all of these sacrifices and proven it to be worth it.
2. Traveling makes 'one day' today
We might not all have a written-out bucket list but most of us do have a mounting mental list of things we'd like to do 'one day'. Whether it's something like sky diving or bungee jumping or just certain places you'd like to visit, these things are all too easy to put off when you're bogged down by the daily grind. Unfortunately, 'one day' rarely becomes 'today', and sooner or later, it's too late.
Traveling changes this mindset. When you're traveling, you live in the now. Opportunities for new experiences present themselves far more often than they ever would in your home life, and you truly have the freedom and motivation to seize the day. If you've travelled, you're much less likely to end up on your deathbed wishing you'd done all the things you just assumed you'd eventually get round to.
3. Traveling expands our cultural horizons
The world is a big place, and the marvelous thing about it is the diversity of people and cultures that exist within it. When you don't travel, you learn very little about people and ways of life outside your own community. Some people will die in the same place they were born and experience very few of the flavors the world has to offer in the intervening years. And that's not to say that these people won't have happy, fulfilling lives.
But there is always so much beyond what is immediately in front of us, and those broader experiences are enriching. Travel is the opportunity to learn other languages, to experience truly understand foreign cultures. You don't stop reading a book after reading the first page because that first page was really good; you continue reading as much as you can. Life is the same, and if you stay in one place all your life just because you're happy enough there, you're likely to regret not seeing more.
4. Traveling creates memories for life
Often when people are coming to the end of their lives, they say their memories are all they have left. It's a sad thought, but often true. Life is like putting together a photo album; right now is our chance to fill it with beautiful, exotic and exciting things we can look back on when we've passed the age of youth and opportunity.
Again, you'll still have things to fondly look back on even if you don't travel. But being able to look back on years of adventures, of surf camps and mountain hikes and getting lost amongst the winding canals of Venice and Amsterdam has to be more fulfilling than thinking back over years of non-stop 9-5 and the occasional evening in the pub.
5. The friends you make on the road will change you forever
Travel friendships are a strange breed; fleeting, yet, in a way, never-ending. Travelling means meeting people from all around the world, people you never would have met in your normal life. It's impossible to put a value on the things you learn from them or the influence they have on you as a person.
When you travel, you'll meet people who will move you with the generosity they show, or humble you with the suffering they've experienced. You'll meet people who dare you to be spontaneous or reel you in when the risks you take show a disregard for your own safety. These friendships truly mould you; what a beautiful thing to be able to look back on at the end.
6. Traveling will teach you a lot about yourself
...And most importantly, that you can get through anything! Traveling is tough sometimes. Every experience we have whilst traveling takes us out of our comfort zone, and presents us with new challenges. It requires us to push ourselves, and in return, it teaches us that we can achieve a lot more than we thought we could.
If you never travel, you will carry many of your fears, inhibitions and perceived limitations with you to your deathbed.
And it's likely you'll regret not having shed them at that point, because when you reach the end, you'll realize what more you could have done. If you've travelled, however, you know you've allowed yourself to become all you could have.
And who doesn't want to close their eyes to the world with that sense of completion?