I’m just back from 3-week holiday with the girls, conquering 3 countries and 9 cities, but I have been planning to go away again by end of this month. This time I do have a valid reason, a friend will have her baby baptized somewhere in England, and mr.mck and I are invited to witness the historic moment, so we decide to go around the country a bit for a week or so. I also have October trip planned out, as my ticket to go back to Indonesia is still valid until end of this year.
I honestly didn’t realise that I do like traveling until recently. Back in Jakarta I traveled for work and despised it. When we were signed up for branches projects in Bandung, Semarang, Surabaya and Bali, I could spend the entire week working in different cities each day. Woke up at 4 AM in Jakarta, spend a day in Semarang and back in Jakarta late at night, flew to Denpasar for a couple of days, back for one day work in Jakarta the next day, before heading off to Bandung to check the project on a weekend. Then another job required me to travel abroad at least once a month, which, although people think I lived a glamorous life, still involved waking up at 3 AM to catch an earliest flight, getting stuck in Hong Kong because Jakarta airport was closed, and abusing my credit card and mobile bills up to their sorry limit.
But then now I don’t have to travel for business and merely for pleasure, the desire to go away and see the world is as strong as before, even though it means I have to drag my 20-kg suitcase alone or finding myself at the wrong train station somewhere between Germany and the Netherlands without a map or ability to speak local languages.
Maybe because when I started reading at 4, Tintin brought me to exotic places like Tibet and South America and since then I want to know what the place would look like in reality. Maybe because when I started reading Agatha Christie novels, she took me to Iran and Egypt and since then I wonder if the food she described would be as good. Maybe, as my mum said, I have got ants on my feet and I’m always itchy to get away.
I am certainly one in 600 million people who travel annually – although in my case it is more often than once a year. But why? Why do we travel despite the notorious discomfort we have to endure during our journey?
I ask the question to the holy Google and hit some interesting answers.
Dispenza says we travel to find ourselves, as a trip is the journey of life in miniature. He also says that we travel to complete ourselves, to understand how all the pieces of our lives fit together. Take Off EH says we travel because we want “to escape the everyday, to feel rejuvenated, to acquire status and prestige, and to socialize.” Concierge.com says we travel “to open our eyes to other cultures and the differences between them and us, hopefully with the result that we become better citizens of the world.”
Pico Iyer in his famous travel essay says “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. The beauty of this whole process was best described, perhaps, before people even took to frequent flying, by George Santayana in his lapidary essay, “The Philosophy of Travel.” We “need sometimes,” the Harvard philosopher wrote, “to escape into open solitudes, into aimlessness, into the moral holiday of running some pure hazard, in order to sharpen the edge of life, to taste hardship, and to be compelled to work desperately for a moment at no matter what.”
To me personally, traveling is about learning and discovering. I love studying the map and planning my next direction and route. I love sitting in a cafe and watch the world go by. I love finding a local restaurant, eating like a local and trying out new cuisine, no matter how weird the taste is. And although this sounds weird, I don’t mind wandering around for two hours before my boarding time, I could peacefully read my book or do a last-minute window shopping. Just like Ben Groundwater who says, “I get a kick out of counting out change in a foreign currency. I get a bizarre buzz out of mastering just enough of a language to be able to read street signs, or ask someone how much something costs, and be able to understand the answer. I even like discovering that different countries have different shaped toilets.”
How about you, why do you travel?