As a travel blogger, this is something that I have given a lot of thought to recently.
Now that I am self-employed, travelling is not just something I enjoy to do, it is also my livelihood.
Every trip is now a basis to write content for that destination. While I originally started backpacking as a way of seeing parts of the world that I dreamt of seeing since I was a child, I am now in the position where travel is work.
This has led me on to the above question. What is the point of travelling? Do we do it to stretch the boundaries of our perspective, or is it to escape from the mundanity of everyday life?
A mixture of the two answers would appear to be the answer depending upon who you ask.
A cubicle worker will likely see their trip abroad as an escape from their life back home, while someone on a backpacking trip will see it as a way of expanding their perspective on life and the world.
For me, travelling is about something rawer than either of these thoughts. It is the essence of losing oneself’s to the environment.
In short, to feel alive!
Live To Travel
This past August I decided to visit Palermo in Sicily for a few days. After teaching a bunch of students from the city in an English language summer school a few years ago, I decided I wanted to visit this city.
The picture they painted of the city, its people and its food, resonated with me and I knew I had to visit.
Whenever I travel anywhere I never have a plan. The only thing I plan is the flights to my destination and then my accommodation.
I prefer it this way. It allows me to explore a city with fresh eyes, to go places I might not otherwise visit and let my senses soak up my surroundings.
To plan your travels to the minutest detail, is to deprive yourself of this joy.
Once I got to Palermo, I decided I wanted to visit the beach at Mondello. The beach is located a few miles from the city centre and I decided to walk there, thinking it would only take an hour and a bit.
As I began walking and switched on my sat nav to find out how long it would take, I was blown away by the realisation it was a good two-hour walk to get to my destination!
I like walking, so I wasn’t too bothered by this, but I knew I would be knackered by the time I walked there and back.
As my route wandered along the Sicilian coastline and took into the hills above Palermo, a thunderstorm started to brew. If I turned my head back towards Palermo, I could see streaks of lightning appear in the sky.
At this point, I felt alive and apprehensive in equal measure. My senses were on steroids, I was acutely aware of the smells and sounds all around me as I endeavoured to make it to Mondello before the storm caught up with me.
During this time I thought back to what I would be doing if I was not in Sicily walking to the beach. Would I feel alive while I was at a desk, working in a job that left me unfulfilled?
Despite the fact I was panicked about the storm catching me, I felt content. I had no idea how far the beach was. I had no idea what the weather would be like once I got there.
All I knew was that I was living in the moment. Lost in my surroundings and alive to the world around me.
Alert and Aware
One thing I noticed wherever I travelled was how alert my senses were when I stepped off the plane into an unknown land.
This happened the first time I went to Australia. I noticed how I was hyper-aware of everything around me. The sights, smells and sounds were all much more alive and visceral than they had been when I was back in England.
This is the beauty of travelling. You throw off the shackles of your past life and immerse yourself in a new place, live in the moment and become more in tune with nature.
Travelling removes you from your everyday life and thrusts you into the environment of your new surroundings. You have distance between where you were and where you are.
This distance allows you to realise what is important in life. What it is that we need to survive, and what it is that we don’t. You are detaching yourself from what you depended on before.
In all intents and purposes, you are lost. Lost in the midst of a new world and detached from the one you previously occupied. It is in this state that you feel alive.
There are no attachments, no social structures to abide by, no right or wrong way of doing things, there is just you and a new reality.
Whenever I travel, I always feel alive.
This is the simplest expression of why I believe it is important to travel. It is only by taking ourselves to new and exotic lands that we are able to shed the assumptions and misconceptions that populate our minds.
To remain rooted in the same area for the majority of your life is to stagnate. It will lead you to become less flexible and your beliefs, whether right or wrong, they will become ingrained and hard to shake.
Life will not be alive, it will be a monotonous roll of one day into another.
By travelling you are opening yourself up to new possibilities and giving yourself the opportunity to grow.
New experiences are critical in shaping the mind and the soul. We realise that being lost in a foreign land is no big deal. It is in fact, music to our senses.
I felt this in Australia, I felt it in New Zealand, and I felt while meandering my way to Mondello to relax at the beach.
We are no more alive than when we are alert and fully invested in the present moment. It is this feeling, this state of mind, that makes travelling worthwhile.
For to breathe in the air of a far-flung land is to truly feel alive.