In 2009, I got on 15 airplanes and crossed 22 borders. Four months into 2010 and I’ve already been on 4 airplanes and crossed 8 borders. That’s significantly more traveling than most of the world will do in their lifetime.

And yet I keep doing it. I keep jumping on airplanes and buses and trains. But why?

It’s not because traveling is easy. On the contrary, it is more often than not a struggle. Especially in Africa, I struggle with something no matter where I am. Struggle with being ripped off. Struggle with being called mzungu. Struggle with always packing and unpacking my backpack. Struggle with maintaining a regular workout schedule. Struggle with the heat. The lack of water. The lack of electricity. The lack of pretty much everything when you need it the most.

And yet I keep coming back. Actually, that’s an understatement. When I go home, I can’t wait to go back. I crave the unknown. I crave the struggle.

Why? Because those are the easiest times to learn. Because hopping on an airplane is almost a guaranteed ticket to some sort of profound life realization or change. Sure, I can have the same discoveries back in the States. In fact, if I make a list of the top 10 things that make me happiest in life, I can find them all in the US. But somehow, I’m left unsatisfied.

My friend Brendan once told me that it’s easy to be a good photographer in Africa, but its much harder back in North America. Many things will catch our eye in Africa, make us stop, think, admire, and snap a shot. Back at home, the best shots are hidden in the fabric of our everyday lives, which no longer catches our eye when we look at it. It’s not that the fabric isn’t beautiful; it’s that we have to work a little harder to find that beauty.

After about 2 years of being on the road, I think I’ve finally figured out why I travel. And with that, I’m ready for the struggle of finding good shots and profound realizations from my home country for a little while.

(This post was inspired by my friend Kaitlin.)