“Travel; it leaves you speechless, and then turns you into a story teller.”
I was very fortunate to grow up being able to travel around the world. From a young age, I was whisked off on a plane with my parents, experiencing new cultures, tasting new food, meeting new people. And so sparked something inside of me, something that once you have can never be satiated, and something that will have you wandering the planet, never truly being tied to one home. In a modern, social media sense, we call it the travel bug.
There are infinite reasons to travel, and I bet that whatever excuse someone gives me I could give them a counterargument as to why it wasn’t as important as the reason they should go. Travelling to me, is the most eye opening education I have received. I have learnt so much about different customs and cultures that allow me to look at the world in a different way. It is interesting talking to well travelled people, compared to those who have never travelled. I believe you gain so much insight, experience and knowledge to be able to bring to, and enhance, every day life. It makes you aware of the world, and the different people in it, and gives you a global understanding of universal issues so you can have educated opinions on them.
It opens your eyes to how people live outside of your country, and brings home the reality of how lucky you really are. I recall riding a bike through the rice fields and outskirt towns of Ubud in Indonesia. We stopped by a local school in the early afternoon, just as the school kids were waiting to be let out for the day. Their school was one classroom; bare walls, basic chairs and tables. Their play area was a concrete 10m by 10m courtyard with a broken basketball hoop. I remember thinking how sad it seemed that these kids came to such a disheartening place every day. However, when the doors open and they came pouring out to see our group of travellers, their faces lit up with the brightest smile. We played basketball in with their broken hoop, and their happiness radiated through everyone. Without travel, I would never have had this experience to be as grateful as I am for the privilege of Western education, and I would never have seen the value in being so happy for having so little.
Travel teaches you more about the world’s past than you could ever learn in a history book. You learn about why society is the way it is today, across many cultures. I thought I had learnt the history of black segregation in America, until I visited Memphis, Tennessee. You can never truly appreciate the history of a location until you have walked the streets yourself, and experienced how its past influences its present. The Civil Rights Museum in Memphis is one of the most brilliant, harrowing and thought provoking places I have ever been. As I walked around it dawned on me that I knew nothing about black segregation and black rights until right now. Located at the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered, it shoves you into the centre of human rights. It was not until I walked through the preserved rooms of the Lorraine Motel, with a heightened sense of awareness that I was walking through history did I fully appreciate everything Martin Luther King Jr, and the civil protesters stood for. To me, that is the meaning of travel.
Travel opens your eyes with wonder as you see how beautiful the planet we live on really is. I don’t think I truly had an appreciation for how incredible Earth is, and her sheer size until I visited the Grand Canyon. I was fortunate enough to fly in a helicopter over the incredible landmark. As we approached the rim, the ground suddenly disappeared from underneath us and in an instant we were engulfed by the sheer mass of the Canyon. I have never been brought to tears at the sight of anything on Earth until that moment. It makes you feel so tiny and so enormous at the same time; and makes you truly appreciate the world for what it is. To travel and discover the planet we live in gives you a completely different perspective on life, and appreciation for our home.
Travel is amazing because it teaches you about yourself. It pushes you to limits you never knew you were capable of. It throws you out of your comfort zone and tests you to see how you deal with life. And you come out stronger, and wiser than ever before. It propels you into different cultures and scenarios where you have no idea how to act, but the greatest thing about it is that you learn. And you start to believe you can do anything you set your mind to. Whether it be physically or mentally challenging, travel teaches you that you can do it.
However, I don’t believe you never actually find yourself. People travel to go in search of the meaning of who they are, but you always come back with more questions than answers. Because travel opens your eyes to so much new information, you start questioning everything you take to be true about yourself. And while you might not find the answer to who you are, you gain the ability to discover more and more pieces to put it together.
Finally, travel brings you a sense of pride and accomplishment that you have conquered a small part of the world. For months you dream about these places and save up every last cent to get on that plane. It consumes you and its all you talk about. You long to experience new cultures and meet new people and leave your footprints somewhere new. And all of a sudden you’re standing at the top of the Empire State, completely unaware of how you got there. And you’re taking in the incredible view, amazed that this place actually exists and isn’t a postcard daydream in the back of your mind. And you feel a sense of purpose for being there, and seeing it. A sense of responsibility to encourage others to see it too. And suddenly every single hour slaved away at work, and every night skipped out on is worth it for that moment.
And for a moment, just one moment, you feel like you’ve seen the world.
Until you step off the plane back home.
And realise you’ve seen nothing. So you buy the plane ticket, and go again.