Taking the road less traveled in Badlands National Park. (Photo: Robin Bennefield)

Culture + Style

Dear Travel, a Love Letter

Dear Travel,

Your alluring vistas call from afar, bringing whispers of lessons that fill my heart and mind. I have been your faithful student for some time, learning to embrace adventure and spontaneity, patience and grace, hope and humanity.

Fortaleza Canyon and Bayon Temple
Left: Fortaleza Canyon, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. (Photo: Andre Maceira); Right: Bayon Temple, Angkor, Cambodia. (Photo: Robin Bennefield)

Standing at the edge of canyons, from the Grand Canyon in the American West to Fortaleza Canyon in Brazil’s Rio Grande do Sul, I’ve come to understand that the beauty of the world runs deep into cracks and crevices that have been carved into the Earth for centuries, and that one’s perspective shifts when surrounded by such grandeur.

Feeling the mist of waterfalls chased through lush landscapes in Taiwan and Ghana, I’ve passed tests of fear and endurance and been richly rewarded, not just with the perfect picture, but with a sense of pride and strength, feeling alive in the moment.

Foot Bridge in Taiwan and Wli Falls in Ghana
Left: Foot bridge leading to Sandiaoling Falls in Taiwan. Right: Wli Falls in Ghana. (Photos: Robin Bennefield)

I’ve learned that when you are lost in an unfamiliar place, there is always someone willing to help, to not only show you the way, but also share the way they live, dance, work and play.

I have wandered all manner of streets, lanes and alleyways and seen that human creativity comes in all forms, from the gritty street art of London’s Brick Lane to the spirit-filled architecture of Barcelona’s La Sagrada Familia.

Street Art in East End, London
Street Art in East End, London. (Photo: Robin Bennefield)

I have learned that mind-boggling human ingenuity and man-made wonders transcend time, from the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat to the pinnacle of modernity that is Dubai’s Burj Khalifa.

There is no better way to be filled with the world’s lessons than over food, like while learning to make pork dumplings in Beijing, empanadas in Mendoza or cicchetti in Venice. Sitting at a table with newfound friends and sharing stories over a meal makes one aware that the bonds built while breaking bread are the true flavor of any destination.

Dim Sum in Hong Kong
Dim Sum in Hong Kong. (Photo: Robin Bennefield)

I’ve learned that discovery is not just for far-off places. It’s found on roads close to home, in small towns with their own overlooked charms and natural beauty — each new discovery revealing familiar memories and offering the possibility of creating new ones.

Left: Gate to Angkor Thom, Cambodia. Right: Burj Khalifa in Dubai. (Photos: Robin Bennefield)

Because, dear travel, the lesson you’ve taught is that no matter where or how far we travel, we can break free of the ordinary, see something new or see something old in a new way.

You challenge all of our senses, weaving your way into the fabric of our most treasured memories of people and places, and the feelings of joy, gratitude and love that go along with them.

Because of these lessons, I know we will travel again.

What’s your #DearTravel love letter? Share a photo with your love letter on Instagram, use #DearTravel and tag @MarriottBonvoy for a chance to be featured.

Robin Bennefield is editor-in-chief of Marriott Bonvoy Traveler, and prone to embark upon unexpected journeys near and far.