No matter where we go our travel memories tend to group themselves around archetypal events that cross almost all cultures. Part hero’s journey, part fool’s paradise, travel is the act of leaving and returning with memories and stories that define who we are.
Photo by Bob Jagendorf
One of the great things about travel is how it disrupts our regular patterns and cycles. Sometimes the simple act of starting a trip super early in the morning, leaving home at a time you’d never leave normally, seeing things you don’t usually see: This moment can be dreamlike, feeling almost like a memory even as you’re experiencing it.
Photo by Benson Kua
Once you’re on the plane and airborne there’s a naturally epic feeling. Part of what’s so amazing is the sheer number of people — from airplane mechanics to air traffic controllers to engineers to service employees — both visible and behind the scenes, who make this moment of departure seem effortless. And part of it’s just moving tens of thousands of feet above the land.
Photo by Beraldo Leal
One of the most joyful moments of travel is finding a crew of friends. For young travelers this is often at a hostel or campground or through couchsurfing. Half of finding a crew is body language, a certain look in the eye, an onda as you’d say in Spanish. A desire to link up with other people and share your experiences with them.
Photo by Jesslee Cuizon
Conversations with strangers on the road can be arresting, unforgettable moments when you’re not worrying about how you sound or present yourself and as such something spontaneous and original emerges.
Photo by M. Lazarevski
Travel usually centers on some target destination, say Corfu, Greece. But it’s always the unexpected series of events — a new friend’s offer to take a boat ride to Lefkada — that lead to a place that shatters all expectations you might’ve had.
Photo by Tony Hisgett
Despite meeting new friends and visiting new places, traveling long enough and deep enough always leads to moments of loneliness. It’s sometimes in these introspective moments that we realize things about home we may have overlooked or taken for granted.
Photo by Jon Rawlinson
It doesn’t have to be cliff jumping. There are all kinds of heart racing moments on the road. The bus driver in Brazil turning so sharp the bus goes on two wheels, or deciding to get up in front of 200 people and sing “Maggie May.” Chances are if you’re not scaring yourself at least a few times on a trip, you’re not really traveling.
Photo by Armando Maynez
There comes a moment, say sitting in the afternoon sun in a plaza on Calle Defensa after two weeks in Buenos Aires, where suddenly you realize that after days of stumbling around the grid of streets you feel a certain familiarity with the place and, with it, a kind of tenderness.
Photo by Nathan Hayag
It could be Toronto, a small town in Patagonia or the streets of San Francisco. The soaring feeling of travel is almost always brought back down to earth a few times each trip by the piercing reminder that so many others are less fortunate.
Photo by Graeme Law
Beyond seeing impoverished individuals, sometimes the most impactful moments of our travels are when we see people living in places or ways we simply register without comprehending, such as this shantytown built on a landfill in Ica, Peru.
Photo by Robert S. Donovan
After enough flights and layovers and more flights and bus rides and hotel rooms and shuttles and map reading, travel can start to feel as if it exists on its own parallel form of time, blurred and edgeless.
Photo by Christian Holmér
Sometimes it’s feeding off the energy of seeing a familiar band only in a different culture; other times it’s just a poignant phrase from a street musician, the way their rhythm is so unfamiliar but in some way describes your experience so perfectly at that moment in time.
Photo by Ariadna Bruna
It might not happen on every trip, but for most people who travel long enough there are romantic relationships on the road, some near misses, some merely unrequited crushes, some fulfilled, some fully botched. Either way, most of them stay with you forever.