*7 minute read.*
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This week while I was having dinner I glanced over at my bookcase and my eyes landed on the spot where I keep some of my old journals and photo albums. I decided to pick up one of the journals and start reading from the first page and this is what I uncovered:
“Tuesday 17 June, 2003 – Flight from Brisbane to Singapore
I am finally in the sky and on my way to Singapore. Taking off was a real buzz for me because it marks the start of 3 months of adventure and discovery, as well as a real sense of relief.
Taking off and seeing my country slowly grow smaller and smaller made me realise that today I am leaving behind all of my responsibilities and connections to home and embarking on total freedom and anonymity for the next few months.”
Reading these words from exactly ten years ago set off a little spark of nostalgia and excitement as I recalled what was an incredibly memorable trip and my first ever trip to Europe.
While I spent a really enjoyable first month of that trip travelling with my good mate Adam, it was the last two months, travelling independently that really made it the trip of a lifetime!
Through travel, on that trip, I discovered an inherent part of myself that thrives on freedom, new experiences and exploring curiosity. Travel has continued to play an important part in my life since. While I’ve watched friends and associates my age stick with a steady career path, get married, start a family and obtain a mortgage, I’ve always chosen (or should I say, followed the urge) experience over possession. I’m not saying my way is the right way, but its been the only way for me.
Since my first trip to Singapore on a school band trip when I was sixteen, I’ve since been on 7 overseas trips, and visited 24 countries across the Pacific, Asia, Europe, Scandinavia and the Americas.
I’ve randomly met celebrities in crop circles, hitchhiked, been drugged and robbed, had food poisoning, missed aeroplanes after partying too late and have had to beg my family to send extra money so I could keep travelling.
All of these experiences and particularly the people I’ve met on these journeys are precious to me and far more valuable than a mortgage, a car or a steady job.
But beyond my experiences there are deeper reasons why I continue to travel. Why is travel so awesome? I’ve tried my best to distill the answer to this question into a few key insights:
As that first entry in my journal back in 2003 suggested, every time the plane takes off from Brisbane, in some way I feel like I am able to let go of my responsibilities at home. Travel allows us to distance ourselves for a moment from whatever keeps us stuck in our everyday normal life. Travel gives us both geographical and mental distance.
I was reminded of the beauty of being alone while I was in Madrid recently and reading Robert Glover’s “No More Mr Nice Guy”. In the book Glover argues that when we travel alone we discover who we are, what we like about ourselves and what rules we choose to govern our lives by. When we realise that being alone doesn’t kill us and we can even be quite happy, Glover argues that we may also realise that we don’t have to stay in bad relationships, tolerate bad behaviour or manipulate people to get what we want back home.
When we travel alone there is great freedom in being anonymous. Anything becomes possible! We no longer have to try to win other people’s approval or hide our faults and weaknesses. Being anonymous also means that we’re in control of our own happiness. If we find ourselves in a situation we don’t enjoy we can simply remove ourselves from it, with no obligation to others!
Trying On New Behaviours
Another advantage of being anonymous is the freedom to try on new behaviours. When we are anonymous we can do or be whatever we want! We can dress how we want. We can wake up when we want. We can be social. We can be introverted. We can be adventurous. We can be lazy. We can try on all of these behaviours in total freedom and without judgement. All of these experiments in behaviour allow us to discover new ways of living and we can choose to take the ones that work, home with us.
When we travel we begin to observe the everyday lives of people from different backgrounds to ourselves. In my experience this has helped me to see the full rainbow of human experience and break down the stereotypes of east and west, rich and poor, “good” and “bad”. These kinds of diverse experiences have allowed me to look at strangers with kindness, knowing that everyone has a unique life and story.
Re-learning to Observe
When we travel we move at a different pace and we see things differently. Often we are seeing things for the first time and so there is an almost child-like fascination in observing the mundane and everyday life of a foreign country. This re-acquaintance with childlike curiosity and deep observation gives our travel experiences a magical depth. So often I have sworn that when I return home I will try to see the world like I do when I travel!
Getting What You Need
For me, travel has always been a great lesson in getting what I need, not just what I want. Like my experience with the Icelandic volcano eruption in 2010 that lead to my new career direction, every time I travel I set out knowing in some way that I need a change but not exactly knowing what kind of change. Travel has always provided me the answer that I need at the time. As I’ve said before, travel creates space for serendipity to take place.
So, I’m curious,
- What have been your experiences with travel? Do they align with the insights I’ve described?
- Are you or have you been a solo traveller? What has been the difference in experience for you travelling solo compared to with others?
- How has travel changed the way you live and see your world at home when you return?
Till next week, keep travelling and Be Awesome!