Now, more than ever, we travel. We pack our suitcases, make sure we haven’t forgotten the sunscreen, stick our passport in our back pocket and head for the door. But so often we take our own little world with us. Working all year round for those precious couple of weeks in the sun, we barely leave the poolside at the hotel where a scrambled egg breakfast is a must and all the other guests speak with the same “normal” accent as we do. What, I ask you, is the point of crossing continents to live life exactly as we do at home?
So what does it mean to really travel? What is the difference between going on holiday and traveling? More than anything it comes down to your state of mind and the reasons you are going in the first place. To travel is to experience, and to have new experiences you must be open to them, invite them. Sometimes this can be difficult, frightening even, as it means stepping out of your comfort zone. It means awkward moments, strange places, strange food and customs and ways of life that seem odd, and often the complete opposite of your own belief system. But isn’t that what makes the world interesting?
So why do it? What is the reward for making all this effort? Why do people go out of their way to travel to strange, hot, dusty, freezing or rainy places to taste odd delicacies made from parts of animals they’ve never heard of, put themselves in uncomfortable, sometimes even dangerous, situations, dealing with the jet lag and the culture shock? The reward is education. The reward is life itself. You might decide you like some of those odd delicacies. You might make some new friends. You will no doubt have some stories to tell, and you will definitely learn something. Your reward will be self discovery, growth, and knowledge. It will be the fact that you braved the world and found out it isn’t so scary after all.
Lonely Planet estimates that by the year 2020 1.5 billion people will be on the move each year. That is over a 6th of the world’s population. The world has shrunk to the point of being a single global suburb. For the more adventurous, this can make travel more difficult, in that cultures are blending at a rapid rate. Countries import not only goods and services, but customs and beliefs. Therefore the human race might eventually become just that: a single race. Great for tolerance, but it would be a less interesting world. So before this happens explore, learn, experience. As the late author James Michener once said: “If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home”.