Tam with Ted Simon

My chair in foreground, Matt in surf

I spent last week at the beach with my spouse. I enjoy sitting at the water’s edge as I read, write, contemplate and doze, but I’m not often in the water past my knees. When Matt takes his fishing pole out to the surf, I fall into a lull watching him cast, reel in and repeat. It usually induces rumination.

One of those ruminations was the way travel leaves its imprint on you and how a purposeful traveler can leave the world a better place.

Ted Simon, solo globetrotter sans GPS

Lots of folks travel to expand their life’s purpose and find greater meaning in their lives.  Ted Simon is one of those people.  I met this legendary traveler at Overland Expo‘s Asheville, North Carolina venue earlier this month, and it could be said that he both inspired the modern overland movement and defined “purposeful travel” for an entire generation.

Ted first traveled the world by motorcycle in 1973 at age 42, when “it just wasn’t done.” He made his first trip on a 500cc motorcycle, smaller than the one I ride today. And he did it with neither support crew nor GPS.


He did it again at age 69, eight years ago. Here’s what he said about his accomplishments:

People who thought of my journey as a physical ordeal or an act of courage… missed the point. Courage and physical endurance were no more than useful items of equipment for me, like facility with languages or immunity to hepatitis.

The goal was comprehension, and the only way to comprehend the world was by making myself vulnerable to it so that it could change me. The challenge was to lay myself open to everybody and everything that came my way. The prize was to change and grow big enough to feel one with the whole world.

Traveling for a vacation or a purpose, maybe even a cause

There’s a difference between traveling for vacation, traveling for a purpose and traveling for a cause.

A vacation is intended to be a time when you pull away from the everyday duties and schedules of life so you can rest and recreate. As an aside, I prefer to pronounce it “re-create” to remind myself that there’s more to recreation than fun and games.

Travel is a one of many ways to spend a vacation and a great way to re-create your thinking and yourself. I hope to encourage you to travel—somewhere, anywhere—to get to know yourself, your history, your world.

Ted Simon traveled the world solo because he wanted to make himself a better person. I consider this purposeful travel. To get the most of purposeful travel, try traveling alone, when you can really get to know yourself without someone else’s filter or influence (scroll down for tips on solo travel).

Ouma is a grandmother raising six orphans

Ouma is a grandmother raising six orphans

This week my friend Neale Bayly, whom many of you will remember from our  TEDx talk, will lead another motorcycle adventure in South Africa. At the end of their tour the riders will visit the new orphanage his charity is building outside Johannesburg for an 84-year-old grandmother raising six children. Their parents died of AIDS.

Neale travels for a cause: abandoned children around the world. Riders who tour with him raise or donate money for his charity’s projects.

Ride safely, Neale and friends. You can follow this project on Facebook for real-time updates.

Solo travel tips

Solo travel doesn’t mean you’ll be lonely. On the contrary! Here are some solo travel tips to get you started.

1. Become a third wheel. I often find that people traveling with others enjoy having me along for a meal or outing. I give them something new to talk about, to filter their experiences through andto break up the monotony they feel with their traveling companions.  I’ve met some fascinating people by being a “third wheel.” Try it!

2. Put down that phone. Sharing every detail of your trip on Instagram, Facebook and texts allows little time to engage with real people and no time to reconnect to yourself as you wait for the responses to trickle in and respond in turn.

3. Talk to strangers. Don’t sit in a booth at a restaurant by yourself and watch TV. The bar or counter and family-style seating area is the perfect place to talk to other unattached travelers, the locals and waitresses. You can learn a great deal about the people and local history of the place you’re visiting if you keep an open mind and practice small talk.

Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving. ~Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky