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The Meaning of Travel

August 17, 2010 7 comments

I’m not sure how or when I became a travel addict. Certainly there is an allure in going to new places, encountering unpredictable situations, and seeing unfamiliar things, but understanding where that feeling comes from takes a bit more thinking. Here’s what I came up with.

To start with, I think the opportunity to escape from daily worries is a major reason. Whether we know it or not, every day is filled with anxiety about trifling things that needn’t be worried about in the first place. As I pore over documents every day, wracking my brain for new ad copy, elegant translations and smoother rewrites, I become physically and mentally exhausted. After work I worry about what I need to do, what I haven’t done, what can’t be done but should be done. The amount of things to do in a day is simply overwhelming. However, the moment I step foot on the train or bus bound for my next destination, all of that is forgotten. Whether it be a day- or a week-long excursion, the time is my time, and I can think about things like the future, my humanity, the world around me, and the little things that often go unnoticed–things I don’t have time to consider most days. The lack of small worries lets me finally see the world clearly.

Next, there’s one of the most basic concepts in travel: movement. I truly believe that movement, both literally and figuratively, is freedom. I always bring along books to read on my train trips, but in the end only about five pages or so ever get read, because I just stare out the window at the things whooshing by, at scenery familiar and new. Just the ability to move, whether it be at a screaming shinkansen speed or rickety wanman clunker-train crawl (see photo), is exhilarating. It’s no coincidence that we say life is “at a standstill” when things seem to be stagnating and unchanging; movement, whether it  toward something or just movement’s sake, is liberating.

Movement also means we are going to new places, seeing new things. But why is that important? Because encountering new situations, people, and ideas helps us grow, especially when we don’t have the burden of everyday worries weighing us down, hindering our clear thinking. I have never gone on a trip and come back as the same person: whether it be to a small or large degree, I have always changed and grown through travel. My view of the world becomes different, and my perspective becomes wider yet more refined. Occasionally traveling alone only enhances these aspects further.

Onomichi

So get out there and explore, see everything you can while there is still time. Enjoy not only the destination, but the journey to get there. Appreciate small things, and don’t plan every day meticulously. Go somewhere nobody would ever think of taking a trip to, stay somewhere—a run-down hostel, a capsule hotel, a sleeping bag under the stars—you wouldn’t normally stay. Take every type of trip you can, at any chance you get, and you will not only experience more of the world, but will become a  happier person with a richer set of experiences.

A free mind, movement, growth, and new experiences. That’s the meaning of travel.

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