Here is the full transcript of travel writer Robin Esrock’s TEDx Talk: Learn to Travel – Travel to Learn at TEDxVancouver conference.
You know what, it’s about time that ideas share the same stage with rock stars, yeah? Okay, my name is Robin Esrock. You know when you watch travel shows, you see these shows on TV and you see some guy, running around the world, doing all these amazing stuff, and you think who the hell gets that job.
Well, I created and I host a TV show called World Travels. We filmed it in 36 countries, you can see it here in Canada on OLN and City TV, and it’s in 21 languages, and over 100 countries on travel channel worldwide. I’m a travel writer, the show follows me as a travel writer. I’ve been the columnist for The Globe and Mail, MSN, Sympatico, The Vancouver Sun, and I’m here to talk to you about how to travel.
I once asked 1,732 people from 46 countries in every conceivable background, three questions about their lives. One of the questions was “Finish the sentence: I regret … ”
Now, a few people said, “I regret not working harder” and “I regret not being more successful.” One guy said, “I regret not driving a nicer car.” No. The most universal, common answer that I received was “I regret not traveling more.” And travel means many things to many people, right? It’s a form of escape. It could be a business opportunity and obligation. the way to connect with cultures and languages and – hey man, sure – it’s definitely a way to bring seduction into your life.
Eight years ago, I set out on a journey that hasn’t really stopped. And along the way, I’ve learned some truths, and it’s these truths that I would like to share with you today. Starting with the fact that those of us who traveled for a long time, well, we’re either running away from something, or we’re looking for something, and certainly, I was looking. Like many of you, perhaps, I’ll stare out the window at my desk job and I’ll constantly daydream about the life I wasn’t living, the places I wasn’t seeing, the people I wasn’t meeting.
I had an OK job, but I really wanted to travel, you know, like I did in my early 20s when I went backpacking, but it just seemed kind of irresponsible to quit my career and going to do such a thing. I mean, society was telling me: okay Robin, you’re turning 30 years old, it’s time to settle down, make some dough and enter the Godforsaken housing market.
Well, my journey began around the corner, literally, on Alberni Street. I was on my way to work, driving my scooter, and this car comes out of nowhere and just drives straight into my bike. I execute this spectacular swan dive over the handlebars, trash the bike and break my kneecap. The pain was excruciating, and it is that moment, without doubt, the best thing that’s ever happened to me. We need these kind of wake-up calls to remind us that we are not getting any younger, and while the world isn’t going anywhere per se, we most certainly are.
That accident made me think, and it literally bought my ticket. 12 months later, I received a 20,000 dollars insurance settlement. Hey! It’s not millions; it was just 20,000 dollars! but, you know, if I was prepared to sleep on floors and avoid expensive countries. I booked one of the best deals going in the airline racket, it’s called around-the-world ticket, and I visited 24 countries on five continents in 12 months.
Now, immediately, the intensity of travel in my first few month in South America, this exposure to new people, new ideas, new cultures began to put some things into perspective. Our lives are mitigated by routine, right? The routine that tells us when we wake up, when we sleep, when we eat, when we work out, when we can schedule some fun in our lives.
Now, for 12 months, with all my possessions on my back, no itinerary and a vague long-term goal about just returning to Vancouver, alive. Decision-making began to take on a new significance, because every morning I wake up, and I think where I’m going to eat, where I’m going to sleep, where I’m going to find a clean toilet.
Now once the base of that hierarchy of needs was met, a deeper, familiar crisis began to settle in. I found myself once again looking out that window, thinking “Well, should I go to that town or this town? Should I hang out with these people or those people?” I’m second-guessing my decisions, I’m smelling that greener grass. You know when there are so many decisions to make, sometimes it’s just easier not to make any, and you feel that acuity when you travel independently, and you feel that acuity when you don’t. I call it a decision paralysis. And then when we do make a decision, we second-guess it, you know, we questioned it, it’s such and I’ve got like an undercooked burrito, okay?