Are you living a virtual reality?

Before I traveled to Italy a few years ago, I took the trip virtually.

I was living in Hawaii at the time, and getting to Italy from an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean is quite a trip, so I wanted to make sure the plans I had worked out with my travel agent were good choices.

So I took the time to make the trip virtually.

I went online and checked out the airlines, the transportation arranged for getting from Rome to Venice, the hotels I would be staying at, and the sites I would be visiting.

It was all very appealing online. My virtual travel didn’t involve any jet lag, passports, insane Italian drivers, or the bite from exchanging dollars into euros.

It also wasn’t real.

The sights, sounds and smells of the real places were missing. Conversations with complete strangers that would teach me experientially how much we’re alike, and how people live differently, didn’t translate online.

For my travel to Italy to be of great personal value, I had to get on a plane and go there myself.

I did.

I laughed with the server who pointed out that he had the very same brand of backpack as I had. I soaked in the paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. I walked on the ancient Roman roads, through ruins of a once powerful city, and saw the Colosseum in person. I learned the difference between American pizza and pizza made in Rome, and smelled the stink of the Venice canals.

There’s nothing like experiencing the real thing.

The real thing can change you.

But many people are too afraid to get out from behind their computers and venture into the world where real interactions and relationships happen. Everything is cleaner, nicer, neater, easier when explored via the internet.

Or through the pages of a book or magazine.

Or from the stories others tell.

Yet, one real journey taken by real steps with exchanges with real people can have more lasting impact on your life than any adventure you can imagine while viewing photos on a website.

That’s because life is meant to be lived, not leered at.

Are you living it, or imagining it?