why we travel

There are two kinds of travelling.

One, is the kind of traveling that you read in books, hear from televisions, and is glorified on blogs. It’s something that I used to refer as ‘Western travelling’, for it usually involves: going to the unknown, getting out of your comfort zone, bringing a backpack, immersing yourself with the local culture, and being lost.

This travelling makes all other kinds of travelling not legit, as if you aren’t doing one of the things above, it seems that you have not fully experienced of what being a traveller really means. Like, if you don’t talk to strangers and eat the native’s local crickets, well, you’re missing out.

The second kind of travelling is the one where, I guess, is done the most. It is travelling, but it’s less glamourised. This is where going on holidays with tours and travel agents come in. Like, you want to travel, but you make it as comfortable as you possibly can. You stay at well-known hotels. You have your return ticket with you. You use luggages and not backpacks. You know exactly the places you’ll go to see, eat, drink, sleep, and shop.

As an Asian, I’ve always been the second type of traveller. When I was little, holiday with my family means going overseas with travel agents and tours. We hung out with twenty other Indonesians and went to restaurants that served rice. We were never out of our comfort zones, with the exception of being worn out every single day due to such a hectic schedule.

When my sisters grew older (and thus able to conduct their own research), we started to go on our own. This time, we went to the local places more, and ate more like the locals. Still, we were not travellers – we were merely tourists, and there’s still a big difference between two.

And even after travelling halfway, threequarterway, quarterway, putwhateverway across the world, my definition of travelling is still: 1. bungee-jumping in Africa, 2. driving through the savannah, or 3. backpacking through Europe. Me going to Canada with my family, driving cross country and overloading our potato intake? Nah, it’s not travelling. It’s touristing.

Funny, because I always fancy myself as someone who loves to travel.

Or at least an aspiring traveller.

For the past six months, I’ve lived on a suitcase, never staying at one country for more than one month. I’ve spent my days (and months, cumulatively) in Jakarta, Singapore, Banjarmasin, Montreal, Toronto, Quebec, Niagara Falls, Vancouver, and the Rocky Mountains and yet I’m still hesitant to call myself a traveller.

I guess it’s time to redefine what travelling really means. It’s not about backpacking through Europe, or going to the slums to eat grasshoppers. It’s not about being on a plane, nor going to places you’ve never seen before.

Sometimes travelling is about going to the places you’ve already been, only with different eyes. It’s about going away from your loved ones, and going to your loved ones. It’s about being out of our comfort zone, and finding home in the pieces of our journey.

It’s about connecting back to our roots – our humanity.

For the more you the more you travel, the more people you meet. And the more people you meet, the more you realise that we are, really, the same. We are not that different. We are all only humans, and this realisation makes us less prejudice to other people, and slower to be offended.

Travelling means finding the wonder of our short, beautiful, ordinary life. It doesn’t matter where the destination is, or how the journey is conducted. What matters is your set of mind.

We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again — to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.

Pico Iyer, Why We Travel



Photo by fdecomite