Ma-Sa,

Ma-Sa, 30, a Karen hill tribe woman, plays an instrument with a French tourist at a village near Mae Hong Son province, north of Bangkok, Thailand. Ma-Sa has lived in this village for more than 12 years after fleeing Myanmar. The long-neck Karen hill tribes are one of many ethnic minorities living in the mountainous regions of Thailand's far northwest. (REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom)

Some people just won't budge.  They'd rather hole up their whole life in the one place that feels like home for fear of what they might find on the other side.  Some think it's too hard, too much work, too stressful, too much money, too (fill in the blank).

You don't have to be Christopher Columbus (underestimating the circumference of the Earth and dying thinking he found India).  Or even Gulliver (lashed to the land by little people).  And we're not all Amelia Earharts (rising to fame and mysteriously disappearing into the Pacific Ocean).

There are a thousand reasons not to travel.   Here are six reasons why you should.  Why it's essential. Why escaping somewhere, anywhere, is important, and a vital part of humanity! 

To open our eyes

You can read about the problems in the world in the news all you want.  Until you see it in person, it's hard to put things into perspective.  My mom always made me eat all the peas on my plate because there were starving kids in Africa.  I never really knew what that meant (and it didn't really make me want to eat my peas) but now, I think I understand what she was getting at.  Traveling gives you that perspective, to see the world through someone else's eyes.  When you understand how little someone else has, it makes you more grateful for the things you have and reminds you to be less wasteful. 

To learn about new cultures

So much of the hatred in this world stems from misunderstanding.  How can you hate someone if you have no idea of their background, their struggles, and their aspirations?  Traveling introduces us to new cultures.  It broadens our horizons.  It questions, and it challenges us to defend our own beliefs.  As we delve into the unfamiliar, it's our responsibility as foreign travelers to respect other cultures and to not leave too firm of a footprint on the land that our presence creates a monumental change in an age old tradition.

To teach ourselves to be the minority

Traveling in foreign lands, you suddenly find yourself very different than the people around you.  There are stories of African-Americans who find themselves perceived as just another American foreigner in Africa.  In India, I've found myself the center of daily photos with locals who want a picture with a pasty white man.  A good friend who grew up in China had his ginger-haired face plastered over billboards across the People's Republic.  When you're the odd man out, you learn to become fully aware of both yours and other's insecurities.  Back home, you may be just like everyone else, but abroad, you are an exotic curiosity.

For the conversations

Oh, the things you will hear if you are a good enough listener!  Who cares if you speak their language, some people just want to babble to someone.  Every town has its characters, and they seem to flock towards the wide-eyed tourists.    I, like most travelers, have had some of my most memorable conversations with strangers on the road.

To learn humility

One winter, I was trekking in Nepal near the Tibetan border when I came across a group of women on a pilgrimage.  I asked where the village of Lupra was and they pointed up the top of a snowy peak.  Trusting them, I climbed for two hours until I found one small monastery at the top of the hill.  I followed the lone monk's footprints in the snow around the bend and saw the village of Lupra far below.  As I finally approached the village, cold and wet, the women were there waving and laughing hysterically.  They invited me for tea and lunch and we had an amazing afternoon together under the Himalayan sun.  It's so easy to get upset and frustrated abroad.  What's harder - and ultimately more rewarding - is to find the humble humor in other's acts.

To provide a change of scenery

Travel offers new textures, fresh smells, awing sights, and a change of weather.  The shock to the body after leaving the chill of winter and entering the moist air of the tropics is exhilarating.  It feels naughty - like you've escaped through a time warp to a warmer date, while your friends and neighbors are snowed in back home.  The change confirms that the grass is greener on the other side.  But, it also makes you realize how much you miss what you have back home.