Travel for me is exploration. I think at some level, I'm still pretending to be a little boy playing in the woods "discovering" everything there was to see down by the creek where I grew up.
As an adult, I'm more interested in food, people and places but with an engineer's mentality, understanding is key to enjoying my travels. Normally this is aided by slow travel: spending enough time in each place to understand them beyond a superficial level (and this is why the only travel magazine I subscribe to is AFAR!)
The photo above, which I took in 2007, was made possible thanks to taking a gruelling, overnight non-stop bus to Agra and skipping both meals and hotel in favor of heading straight to the Taj Mahal at 5am. I wasn't quite sure if I was going to arrive in time for Sunrise but the push was worth the effort. With incredibly few people present, this mesmerizing, almost empty scene was made possible while the sun slowly warmed the marble of the 17th century mausoleum. Beginning a cool blue, the first rays of sunlight made the dome and minarets turn pink until the broad morning daylight revealed the bright white color (along with the crowds).
Little sleep, grumbling stomach and a grouchy tuk-tuk driver were all worthy sacrifices for such an amazing morning on the banks of the Yamuna river.