Few of us ever forget the conncetion between "travel" and "travail," and I know that I travel in large part in search of hardship - both my own, which I want to feel, and others', which I need to see. Travel in that sense guides us toward a better balance of wisdom and compassion - of seeing the world clearly, and yet feeling it truly. For seeing without feeling can obviously be uncaring; while feeling without seeing can be blind.
Though it's fashionable nowadays to draw a distinction between the "tourist" and the "traveler," perhaps the real distinction lies between those who leave their assumptions at home and those who don't: Among those who don't, a tourist is just someone who complains, "Nothing here is the way it is at home," while a traveler is one who grumbles, "Everything here is the same as it is in Cairo - or Cuzco or Kathmandu." It's all very much the same.
Travel is the best way we have of rescuing the humanity of places, and saving them from abstraction and ideology.
... the great promise of it is that, traveling, we are born again, and able to return at moments to a younger and more open kind of self. Traveling is a way to reverse time, to a small extent, and make a day last a year - or at least forty-five hours - and traveling is an easy way of surrounding ourselves, as in childhood, with what we cannot understand. Language facilitates this cracking open, for when we go to France, we often migrate to French and the more childlike self, simple and polite, that speaking a foreign language educes. Even when I'm not speaking pidgin English in Hanoi, I'm simplified in a positive way, and concerned not with expressing myself but simply with making sense.
Pico Iyer: Why We Travel