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With respect to motive:

I occasionally get the impression that it is, or seems to be in the minds of many, odd and somewhat unusual for me to find it necessary to go to new and unfamiliar places. Why is my mind composed in such a way that not only do I not mind the culture shock and disorientation of going somewhere new, but I enjoy it?

It is a fundamental aspect of my personality that I have always found encountering new information to be one of the most enjoyable experiences that I know of. This first manifested itself in my life shortly after I learned to read; once I had the trick of it, I could hardly stop. I read through the children’s section of my library in its entirety before I was old enough to check out books from the adult’s section. I read enough during elementary school that I was personally banned from bringing novels to school. At that point, I started reading encyclopedias. However, I preferred stories to nonfiction; they tended to be more engaging. Even now, I read just under a book per week; the slowdown is more due to the fact that the novels are more substantial, and that I have less free time than I once did, than to any reduction in rate. Additionally, I now have the Internet to provide me with a number of daily comics, journals, and news sites in addition to the fiction reading for fun.

Given that I can be considered something of an information junkie, it is unsurprising that I would enjoy the new experiences and associations formed by moving somewhere new. However, it doesn’t explain why I go as far as I do, why I’ll actually structure substantial portions of my life around the intention of moving somewhere exotic for the simple experience of being there.

The explanation for that comes from two sources. The first is that when you look at the novels and other books that I’ve read, the most common theme about the main characters is that they are interesting people. This makes sense, given that it is very difficult to write an interesting (thus, well-selling) book about a boring main character. Reading about hundreds of interesting people, though, has instilled in me the ambition to become an interesting person myself. Some routes to being interesting are unavailable to me: it is unlikely that I will be granted or given access to magical, mysterious, or otherwise obscure magical powers or advanced technology. Likewise, I’m fairly happy with my past; I wouldn’t really want to trade it in for an interesting but unhappy one. However, there are some routes to being interesting that I can pursue, and among those are ‘acquiring an extensive education’ and ‘doing many interesting things’. I have nearly completed the first step in acquiring an extensive education; I’m certainly not going to stop once I graduate, though I will slow somewhat. That’s because at that point, I can proceed to the second step of doing many interesting things. The easiest of the many interesting things that I could do is to go to many places and experience the differences there. Thus, I must travel.

The second part of the explanation above also comes from the books that I’ve read. Essentially, one can draw many correlations between personal qualitites and success within the scope of books, and one of the personal qualities with the highest correlations to success is adaptability. You see smart characters and dumb characters, benevolent ones and mean-spirited ones, happy ones and sad, all of whom succeed in whatever way success is defined within the scope of the story at hand. However, though you often see successful characters who are adaptable, you very rarely see ones who are rigid and inflexible of thought. Thus, the quality of adaptability must be plausibly an unambiguously positive one. Given that, it’s easy to see why I would strive to achieve adaptability in my own person. However, you can’t just get such a quality. You become muscular by working your muscles hard; you become smart by thinking often and well. Therefore, you can only become adaptable by exposing yourself repeatedly to situations strange, unusual, different. And one of the simplest ways to ensure that you will find things strange and different is to go somewhere with a foreign culture, foreign language. Things seem even more different if when you arrive, you are only marginally fluent in the language being spoken. However, by exposing yourself to the differences, working things out, you become that much more adaptable, and that much better.

I’ve explained a few reasons why I feel like I need to travel, why it’s a good thing for me. However, there are a few more, that don’t appeal to me as viscerally but are nevertheless good and logical reasons to go. These are the icing on the cake, where in this instance the cake is the best thing ever and the icing is this dry cardboardy stuff that is good anyway, for some reason.

You can’t read very extensively about the foreign policy of the United States of late without encountering some description of how the US is perceived in foreign contries. Follow those links, and you start reading about the differences between things here and there, and the relative merits in either place. One topic that’s brought up fairly often is the media; you see people accusing European news agencies of skewing the news against the US, and you see people accusing news agencies in the US of skewing the news in every direction but the truth. You see people comparing public opinion about various issues, sometimes coming to opposite conclusions about what any given public feels about any given issue. The only resolution possible to this issue is to realize that you can’t believe what you read; if you want to know something approaching the truth, you have to go and find out yourself. I know that the world is too large for me to reasonably expect to see it all before my life expectancy catches up with me. However, I have no problem with attempting to see as large a subset of it as possible before that time comes.

The last reason to travel that I’ll give out tonight is simply that it’s wasteful not to. I have been born into a time period in which I have opportunities undreamed of even a century ago, but an opportunity is useless unless you take it. I am attempting to take as many opportunities as possible. My intended profession, the writing of programs for computers, didn’t exist when my parents were born. Blogs like this were impossible when I was born. However, not all developments have been in the field of computing.

When my great-grandfather was getting married, he did so in a church less than fifteen miles from his home. It was two towns over. Nevertheless, his own mother refused to come to the wedding, because it was too far away for her; she didn’t feel comfortable being that far from her house. If someone were to offer that excuse now, they would be at best politely ridiculed behind their back, and at worst go through involuntary psychiatric examination for being unbalanced and unable to cope with the modern world. Conceptually at least, the world really is a much smaller place than it was then. It is far from unreasonable to spend a term of school in a foreign country on another continent simply to have the experience of doing so. To turn down the implicit opportunity, to never go anywhere, would be incredibly wasteful.

The above is only really interesting if you want to peek a bit into my psyche.

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