WHY EVERYONE WHO CAN SHOULD TRAVEL
“Do you have any plans over Christmas?” I asked, sipping my coffee.
“I have 4 weeks off,” came the reply, around a mouthful of crusty croissant. “I’m going to spend it relaxing at home and doing some jobs around the house.”
I silently nodded, staring at this strange beast, seeing it unmasked for the first time, and anticipated the punchline to an unamusing joke. Struggling, I gulped a mouthful of hot coffee, resisting the urge to scream “IF YOU’RE JUST GOING TO WASTE YOUR TIME OFF, GIVE IT TO ME!!”
I love to travel. I know that not everyone will have the opportunity to travel and I consider myself extremely privileged that I can. In reality, the vast majority the world’s population will never have access to this luxury.
However, if you do have the opportunity to travel, you should definitely do it. Travel pushes you to do new things, to think about the world differently, and changes you in so many ways. It is impossible to travel and return the same person you left. To sound contradictory, as we know being contradictory has always been cool, I do not think everyone will enjoy travel. Certainly a huge portion of the population will despise it. Some will never take the plunge because of fear. Travel can occasionally be uncomfortable, confronting, and absolutely no fun at all.
I also think people who may despise it are probably the same who would get the most out of travel. If only there were some way to force people to remain on their journey of misery until they succumbed to the realisation that being uncomfortable, confronted or not having any fun at all is probably doing them a world of good.
Some things are good for the soul, and not all of them are pleasant. I learned that watching cheesy movies from the 80s. Here are some reasons why I firmly believe every person who has the means to travel, should do it.
MEET DIFFERENT PEOPLE
By meeting different people, I don’t mean meeting new people. We can meet new people in the street at home; we have only to tear our gaze from the bromidic events on our phones and say hello to the next person we see.
I mean different people. People whose cultures, lives and ideas may be vastly different to our own; whose perception of the world differ as well. They may not have roasts on Sundays, or dodgy kebabs when they’re drunk. They may not own a jacket or even wear pants. Some may think owning a car is the height of wealth, or that cash is pointless. Others may be bored of spectacular mountains or have never seen the ocean.
Yet for all their differences, you will always have something in common. The differences and similarities are hugely interesting.
Bigotry and racism ferments in the minds of the ignorant, people who look through the eye of a needle and believe they have seen everything there is to see. By travelling, and being open to what is around us, we come to understand each other better. I remember the first time I saw what it was like driving in Asia. Organised chaos. People on the wrong side of the road, five cars across a three lane road, bikes and scooters zipping between them to the cacophonic chorus of horns. I will never make a remark about Asian drivers again. I must have looked like a complete idiot staring at the mess.
THINK MORE GLOBALLY
Travel has taught me to think beyond myself, my family, my home town, or my country. I know it sounds like a load of hippie bullshit, and it might be. Before I start trying to convert you to worshipping the sacred goddess, let me say that I try to think beyond myself or my country.
Once you have visited a new country, met the people who live there, and learned about their lives, your understanding of the world expands. You begin to care about more than the small world you have always known. I’m not saying it is impossible without travel, but travel definitely makes it easier.
REALISE WHAT IS IMPORTANT
When we take a step back from our day to day lives and take stock of what we have filled our minds with, more often than not we are concerned with shit that doesn’t matter. The junk you fill your house with, what the people in the office think of you, or whatever “major” catastrophe is plaguing your life right now. Most of it probably isn’t very important.
Travel grounds us. When you have spent some time living out of one bag, you realise happiness is rarely associated with the things most people are striving for. It is a sobering reality when you meet people who have an abundance of happiness, yet possess none of what thought would bring joy.
GROW AS A PERSON
I’m an introvert. It generally takes a bit of effort for me to be around people for long, even the people I care about. I am also a bit socially awkward so I get nervous talking to strangers. First dates can be rather terrible experiences for everyone involved. I end up nervously babbling for hours and then over-thinking the results.
Travel, especially solo travel, has helped me learn how to get past it all. I’m still an introvert and will happily hide in a blanket fort with a book for several days, but I am a lot better at meeting new people now.
Of course having a blog where I share so much of myself has helped as well. It is an interesting thought that people I have never met are reading, my occasionally private, thoughts.
GET OUT OF THE RUT
There’s a difference between routine and The Rut. Being a routine isn’t all that bad. They’re kind of necessary to make it to work on time, avoid living like a hermit and maintain some form of sanity. Eventually though this routine can become too habitual. Not only the day to day tasks, but also the mindset of being safe and comfortable. Life isn’t lived in the comfort of home. It is lived in the moments of uncertainty and instability. Working the nine to five, in the hope for smooth sailing until death sounds like a life of unfulfilled potential to me.
Of course, you might disagree. I sometimes I disagree with the entire concept myself. I wonder if I’ve made a terrible mistake, one I will live to regret. Then I laugh and carry on with it anyway.
REAWAKEN YOUR CURIOSITY
I’m a curious person. I want to learn about everything. When I travel, I find myself curious about everything going on around me. Some things are mundane, like what is in the bottles on the side of the road in Indonesia? Some of them are more interesting, like exactly how insecure does a man need to be to be buried with an entire army made from terracotta?
Travel can reawaken that child-like wonder at all the interesting things in the world, providing you’re looking. Even if you’re racing through tourist hot spots you can find moments to ponder the differences between this place and your own, no matter what it is that interests you. People, places, animals, technology, history, art. There is something for everything to learn about.
BOOK IT. GO.
It doesn’t matter whether you want to lie on the beach for ten days while someone else minds the kids, or stay in a yoga retreat in Northern India, or party until you puke every night until you can’t do it any more, travel is awesome. Personally, I like a mixture of them all. Go and do it. Travel.