In a paper published recently in the journal Psychological Science, professors from Stanford and Yale questioned the concept of “finding your passion”—advice that has been commonly dispensed to college students and midlife-crisis sufferers during the last three decades. The results of their research? That such advice can often lead to disappointment. The authors argue that for many people, passions aren’t something we’re born with. They don’t lie in wait to be discovered. Rather, they are born of experience and need to be cultivated.
As I see it, travel offers the most fertile opportunities for developing passions. The more we see of the world, the more likely we are to learn what sparks our curiosity. And once we find those things, they fuel further exploration.
When I was in my twenties, I entertained a fantasy of becoming a cheese maker. My childhood travels to France had exposed me to the delicious realm of stinky, gooey cheeses, and I dreamed of moving to the countryside to make the stinkiest, gooiest cheese America had ever seen. But I was miserable at chemistry. And cheese making seemed like hard work, even for people who were good at chemistry.
But my fascination remains. This spring I visited Toluma Farms, a dairy farm and creamery in Marin County about 60 miles north of San Francisco. I tasted freshly churned butter, held newborn goats, and learned about pasture management. Am I going to start a dairy? Not quite yet. But following my passion let me drop in on another world and reminded me of parts of myself that I sometimes forget in the day to day. Such are the gifts of travel.
We’ve dedicated this issue to passions, and as you read the “Follow Your Passions” package, I invite you to approach the possibilities with an open mind. You never know what you’re about to discover. It might just inspire your next trip. Or maybe even your next chapter.
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Julia Cosgrove Julia Cosgrove is vice president and editor in chief of AFAR, the critically acclaimed travel media brand that makes a positive impact on the world through high-quality storytelling that inspires, enriches, and empowers travelers who care. Julia lives in Berkeley, California.