I’ve been rotated to the travel bench. Im sitting out the next play.
I find myself in a situation where I will not be able to travel for the foreseeable future. It’s not a complaint but rather an observation- having your first child is a more than valid reason.
That means that over the last few months I’ve had the chance to think and there has been a particular question wracking my brain. Now, I’m not a notoriously deep thinker. Ask most of my friends. To me the meaning of life depends on my appetite and a black hole is the awkward period of time in between sporting seasons where tennis is played. These philosophical types of topics don’t keep me up at night and the answers are never life defining.
But curiosity has got the better of me- why do people choose to travel?
Thoughts generally drift towards the age old adage of “finding yourself”. How often have you heard that one- “I just need to get away and really find myself, find out who I am and where I am in life.” In terms of travel excuses, it sits at number one in the “cliché reasons to go on a holiday” play book.
I have met many travellers who have thrown this term around. It is these same people who seem to think that the answer is at the bottom of a bucket of homemade Asian spirits mixed with Red Bull syrup, which I am fairly sure has been a banned substance on the Olympics anti-doping list for some time. They tend to travel until they realise that this isn’t a sustainable way to live. When internal organs start to shut down, that’s a fair indication that you have not only found yourself, but you have probably done irreparable damage to your soul.
That being said, both points are valid reasons in their own right, but together they are flawed and vulnerable, like some kind of misdirection.
There is no argument that there are people who need to get away from things in their everyday life, requiring them to relax and regain focus. The monotony that so many people feel, at times, can be overwhelming with the urge to rectify the situation too significant to ignore. The simpler way to describe it would be as experiencing life.
Similarly, there are people who want to get away and party where the booze is cheapest and morals are loosest- shit, there are reality shows based around this very concept. Itineraries can easily be set to encompass events and locations that specifically cater to the excesses a large portion of society revel in, easily leading to bad decisions, hazy memories and wild times. Destinations like Thailand’s Koh Pha Ngag, home to the famous Full Moon parties are classic examples. I once caught a boat from the smaller island of Koh Tao to Koh Samui. On the way we made a brief stop here to pick up the remnants of one of these parties. I watched as a girl was helped to her seat complete with saline drip and a look on her face that only cheap cocktails and minimal sleep can provide. She became my poster girl of the party traveller; going hard then going home. The term “you can sleep when you’re dead” springs to mind.
There are a few who like to visit places because of the history and culture- more than are given credit for. Walking in the footsteps of people long gone or living a culture so vastly different to one’s normal life is fair reasoning. The Tower of London, Colosseum in Rome or anywhere in Vietnam are such destinations. You always seem to find “experts” at these places- people who find the information boards and relay the information like they always knew the answers. I also have a few friends who love to homestay in remote communities. In terms of culture immersion, it is second to none, although I’ll readily admit that some of the meal and bedding options are not five star luxuries. The term “local delicacies” can often be interpreted as “the offal the locals won’t touch but enjoy a laugh when the tourists gag, making an attempt”. Mmm, taste the culture.
All come under the blanket banner of experience. It is hard to replicate the lessons learned and the sights seen when travelling, regardless of country. Being able to say you survived situations, suffered through others or attempting to describe events and locations in a way that does them justice is reason enough to go. It is far more exciting to visit places instead of imagining violent ways to harm the people who send you postcards, having fun without you, doing the things you want to do.
What baffles me the most is that people will readily come up with reasons to travel like it is required. It is not. If you want to trek mountains, experience traditional lifestyles and immerse yourself in culture, do it. Do you want to visit World War One battlefields? No problems. If you want to go on a three month booze cruise throughout Asia, buying opium from strangers in hostels, go for it- sure, it isn’t legal, you could die or, even worse, end up in an Asian prison- but if that’s what you do to enjoy life, go for your life.
There should never be justification for travel. Travel is experiencing places and people that interest you, however you see fit.
How’s that for deep?!?
Wayward Tip: who cares what reason you have to go, the only person you need to justify it to is yourself (and maybe your bank account). Everyone has opinions, but you should not have to explain yours. Just go.