“Travel far enough till you meet yourself.”
– The Lenon Wall, Prague.
So what exactly is this noise about travelling? What is it about travelling that makes people practically live on the edge? Why do people need to, “Step out into the wild and explore the unknown,” just to escape normalcy, when they can very well engross themselves in pleasures that are more economical? Now, you might consider me to be a girl who doesn’t prefer the “outdoor thrill,” but believe me when I say this: Travelling appeared to me as an idea, highly overrated and overly romanticized.
But it doesn’t anymore. Travelling is a way of learning some lessons in life, especially when you are young, curious and highly inexperienced. When you begin to explore, you learn to be patient. There is an inner voice that tells you to just, “slow down,” and appreciate what is around you, something you might have missed had you decided to just lay back on your couch and while away your time before the television set on a pleasant summer morning.
Rather than just buzzing through life, you learn to appreciate other cultures. You may come from a multicultural society but there is often a lack of understanding or bigotry towards different cultures other than your own. You create bonds with people belonging to different cultures and learn to respect their perspectives. Having travelled eight countries, I wouldn’t hesitate starting up conversations with people from ethnic cultures with whom I otherwise might not have in the past.
Over the past two months, I have realised that most of us tend to live in a bubble- Our home bubble, work bubble, friends bubble and family bubble. While we do bounce from one bubble to the other, we rarely move out of our comfort zone. When you travel, you are forced to accustom yourself to change. While making new friends, finding new accommodations and exploring new places, you are forced to adapt and you soon realise that there are many other people out there in this world- well beyond your own.
The thing about change is that it calls for adjustments. There were times during the trip when things didn’t go according to our schedule or as we had planned them. You need to change your plans at the drop of the hat. This is a painful reality and trust me, it was hard for me to accept. But adaptation and adjustment are key skills that help you reduce conflicts, especially when you are travelling with other people. By the end of it, you will learn to embrace change as a part of your routine life, something people take years to learn.
There is something about travelling that pulls on the strings with everyone, convincing them to do things they would ordinarily not do. Travelling reinforces that spirit of individuality, independence and spontaneity, when your mind begins to think freely, with nobody to judge you. You get out of the closet and start enjoying the thought of taking responsibility for yourself. There are no inhibitions, there is no fear, but a certain kind of thrill that lights a fire in your eyes. You find yourself in situations that you would never dream of putting yourself in, back home. An honest confession here would be that you won’t be able to relive half the life you did while you were travelling. But you will definitely learn how to appreciate the excitement that lies in not knowing what happens next in your life.
When you travel, you are ready to try anything and everything that comes your way. You tell yourself that you may never be in this situation again, so why not live every moment as if it were your last? Travel teaches you to take the leap and try everything. You become a risk taker, but within limits and live life to the fullest. Jim Carrey in ‘Yes Man,’ (or Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara for Hindi movie buffs) should be a good starting point. Learn to say a ‘yes’ to opportunities that you usually would say a ‘no’ to and you will be amazed.
Travelling seems easier said than done? I am pretty sure it does. Limited span of time. Tons to do. The journey could be stressful and rather scary, especially when you are alone out there, with a group of young people who are as nervous as you are. But once you are there and you mentally prepare yourself, nothing really matters- neither your apprehensions nor your fears that have often been successful in holding you back from trying new things and being yourself. It is that point of time when you feel detached from your world and with that detachment comes a sense of freedom. You are the creator of your own path, who doesn’t know his destination but enjoys the journey.
Travel is thus the best life teacher there is. So the next time you have nothing to do for a good 60 days, put on your backpack and step into the unknown because if you haven’t seen enough, you haven’t learned enough.
Note: This post was originally published in Alexis Foundation on 23rd July, 2014.