Why do people travel? For so long I have never even questioned it. I assumed that it was just what you did. This is in no small part due to me undertaking (or being taken on) a similar journey to this one when I was barely two years old. Australia to England overland though in a much shorter time with a few less stops but none the less a similar path. So I blame my parents for this wanderlust.
But for years it was more than that – it was part of my world view, my fundamental beliefs. It was as straight forward as the sky being blue. The sky is blue, people must travel. So of course I didn’t question it. And like all beliefs when you stumble across someone who doesn’t hold the same belief you do what all humans do…we think that the other is wrong or misguided or just hasn’t quite understood reality yet. As soon as they see how good my belief is then of course they will understand.
I can still recall the first ever time I had a fundamental belief challenged. I grew up in a house with a great appreciation of music – but a rather thin slice of the musical spectrum actually on hand. Lots of James Galway (don’t ask….), Paul Robeson & Joan Baez. Then a smattering of the critical artists – Bob Dylan, Credence Clearwater Revival, the band that sang “Purple People Eater” from the 60’s and of course…The Beatles. I don’t know where it began (it was never explicitly forced on me) but somehow The Beatles began to appear to me as the musical version of Genesis, Chapter 1. One day they were created and then they were just always there. Creating music that broke all boundaries and will never be surpassed. I had an eager, pliable musical mind so this became a belief. The sky is blue, The Beatles are the greatest musicians that ever have been or will be and everyone likes them.
Then one day, age about 8, sitting in a car with Ben Reynolds he uttered these words: “The Beatles are OK but they are not my favourite band”. It was like someone had punched me in the stomach. I felt dirty, confused, upset, affronted, betrayed. I felt sad FOR Ben that things had got this bad. Then the creeping reality wormed its way into my mind……maybe not everyone likes the Beatles.
Of course they don’t. I know that now. The younger generations reactions to Paul McCartney being “discovered” by Kayne West via a duet recently are nothing short of hilarious. But that feeing has stayed with me as the first time something I held as fact was disputed and I was forced to turn inwards and ask the question ”Am I actually right?”
So it has happened again recently but this time with the big, obviously pertinent question: “Why do I travel?”
It was brought to my attention (by a very dear, influential, nameless person) that I approach my world from the point of view that to NOT travel was maybe a sign of some sort of lack of inspiration or desire to seize life fully. I had never even considered the fact that not travelling is a choice that is just as full of life as travelling. So I stood humbled and corrected – but it had the effect of making me think really really hard about WHY I do this.
This is beyond the logical element of exposure that occurs. Of course as you step through another land you see, smell, feel and experience things that are unfamiliar. This adds layers of experience that you then use to reflect on later. This sounds logical but it is not a given. On some of the Russian tour groups we have seen there are guys on their second or third beer before 11am. This is not a guess – this is watching them step off a bus put down an empty pint and go and get another one right in front of your eyes. This is as they get shuttled from one busy tourist location to the next surrounded by other Russians. You wonder how much “newness” you can experience in this context. But then I am viewing this through my belief that people travel to see newness. That Russian guy might be on two weeks leave from a high stress job and all he needs is to unwind, switch off and NOT think. (Thought I often wonder why people pay to cross the world to get drunk in a different location)
So I back to square one. There are obviously multiple reasons for travel. What IS mine?