Why do we travel?Posted: March 25, 2011
“There is psychological pleasure in this takeoff, too, for the swiftness of the plane’s ascent is an exemplary symbol of transformation. The display of power can inspire us to imagine analogous, decisive shifts in our own lives, to imagine that we, too, might one day surge above much that now looms over us.” P. 38-39”
— Alain de Botton (The Art of Travel)
Travel is my middle name. I obsess about travelling on a daily, no, hourly basis. Where I’ve been, where my friends have been, where I want to go next, how much leave (and funds) I have. I could probably say it’s a borderline addiction. I’ve been very lucky to visit a lot of the places I have, but I always feel like there’s more to be explore.
I’m in the middle of reading Alain de Botton’s “The Art of Travel”. It’s not a travel guide about the outward journeys that a traveller takes, but more an inward reflection and analysis of the psychology of why we travel.
I’ve endured hours of bus, plane and train journeys and often contemplated during these journeys of why I have such a neverending thirst for seeing the world. People travel for all sorts of reasons – to learn a new language, meet new people, to surround themselves in history, to live for the moment. For me, travel has always been a part of my life. I’ve lived in 5 different cities in four different countries and have visited every continent. My recent jobs have been involved in travel marketing. I write about travel. I photograph my journeys. I dream of my next destination. I live and breathe travel. I love the feeling of knowing I’m about to embark on a journey into the unknown, into an unfamiliar situation, far away from every day comforts.
With travel, all my senses are heightened. I relish at the thought of tantalising my taste buds with foreign spices and flavours; inhaling scents that range from the fragrantly delicious to the mysteriously repulsive; straying off the beaten track and challenging my map-reading skills – only to discard the guidebook and follow my (pretty impressive) sense of direction.
As de Botton describes in the book, the excitement and anticipation of a new destination occurs at the precise moment that you step into a foreign airport, bus or train station. You see a sign. The sign is foreign, may be in another language or bilingual, probably with strange fonts and embellishments; but the sign delights you because automatically it serves as the first physical and mental signpost that yes, you have now arrived elsewhere. How many times have you seen ‘Exit’ signs in local language in the foreign airport you’ve just landed in and tried to mouth the pronunciation to yourself as you wait for your bag to come around on the carousel? Uscita. Ausgang. Salida. Sortie. I would try to roll each strange syllable off my tongue as coolly as a local, and make a mental note of my newly discovered word in the hopes of using it when trying to converse with locals later. But its not just about the foreign signs.
I travel to experience the magic of living beyond the every day. I travel because I want to feel.
I’ve felt insignificant when I’ve looked up into a clear night sky in the middle of the English countryside and watched all the stars shyly wink at me from a thousand light years away. I’ve felt empowered and inspired when I soaked in the changing twilight hues of a mighty African sunset melt away into the horizon in the Botswana wilderness. I’ve felt energised and immortal when I’ve strapped on my snowboard at the top of a snow-covered slope in France, drawing in a breath of crisp mountain air to ready myself for the exhilaration of carving through deep fresh powder. I’ve felt peace and tranquility as I listened intently to the soothing rhythms of crashing waves reaching the shore as I lay in my hammock outside my beach hut in the Pacific Islands.
All these little moments are gentle reminders that I am a living, breathing, human being. That I can see, feel, hear, taste and smell things in their simplest yet most magnificent forms. And all these moments and feelings are carefully stored in my memory bank – fiercely guarded by my subconscious in an effort to never forget – because in times when I’m frustrated, helpless or stagnant these memories remind me to feel as close to true happiness as I know it.
This is why I travel. What are your reasons?
All photos in this post were taken by the author and subject to copyright.