Why Travel is Awesome!

*7 minute read.*

[Click here to listen to the podcast of this post.]

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.

2013-06-22 17.47.43

Me and Ben Lee hanging in some crop circles near Stonehenge in 2003

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:

Letting Go

IMG_3192

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.

Being Alone

IMG_5516

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.

Being Anonymous

IMG_0847

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

36739_438473811755_3801870_n

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.

Learning Empathy

IMG_0466

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

IMG_5881

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

APTOPIX ICELAND VOLCANO

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!

Christian.

About these ads

4 thoughts on “Why Travel is Awesome!

  1. Hi Christian, a really good read! we share some of the same feelings towards travel and we met on one of my travels to Brisbane. We ride a similar wave :)
    My main difference is when I left Sydney as you left Brisbane, I didn’t think of Sydney as ‘home’ , Home became each place i visited, always thinking perhaps one would become more permanent.
    For me travel, is different to travelling. The idea of returning, was missing from most of my travelling, although for legal visa reasons, returning was necessary i guess.
    I find it interesting though how often people resume their ‘previous’ lives, with only a small sense of the insights they felt when on travel. Perhaps they need to reflect on words they might have written on past travels as you have done Christian. I look forward to reading your continuing story, and crossing paths again somewhere in the world :)

    • Hi Richard. Thanks for your great reply. I love the distinction you make between travel and travelling. It seems perhaps that I travel (I depart and return) while you are travelling. To me, having the home to come back to is a really important point of reference. It allows me to experience what makes new places unique as well as appreciate what’s unique about home. However, I think the more I’ve travelled the more I think of myself as a perpetual guest or custodian in the places I live or visit, even at home. Which I think is more aligned with your idea of ‘home’ being wherever you are right now. I look forward to sharing more of your travel adventures my friend!

  2. Hi Christian. I’ve been meaning to reply to many of your blogs since Be Awesome began as they have become a weekly injection of inspiration and reflection for me.
    In regards to travel, this post reminded me of the lucky experiences I had travelling with my family to Indonesia in 1995 and Africa in 1998. I believe these travel experiences helped to foster in me a child-like curiosity that I try to maintain as much as possible.
    I also traveled to India with my father a few years ago just after getting together with my now wife. I tried to keep a journal on that trip but I was missing my new girlfriend and became increasingly frustrated by the limitations of travelling with my dad e.g. staying in ‘honeymoon suites’ with a dude twice my age who snores. First world problems which culminated in two big moments for me. One, which I wasn’t proud of, when, after a 16 hour train journey from Agra to Varanasi, I swore in crazy, white-guy meltdown mode at a group of tuk-tuk drivers. The other I recorded in my journal which was directed at my dad (and something I said to him at the time) “Throw the pebbles from your pockets, don’t disrupt my lake,my lake is calm.” In hindsight, this ‘revelation’ was my way of blaming others for my choices and anxiety around these but it felt like an aha moment at the time.
    Although I learnt a lot on that trip and had numerous revelations, I didn’t embark on it in a wholly open and positive frame of mind as I was caught between feeling obligated to complete the trip planned with my father before I had got together with my new girlfriend and wanting to be back in Australia with my new partner. I wrote in my journal “there must be some reason why I’m here…” and part of this was an expectation of travel in general but particularly of India as I’d read numerous accounts of people ‘finding themselves’ in India.
    So, I agree travel will always provide what you need rather than what you want and allows you time and space to reflect on yourself and others. Mindfulness is the key I reckon.

    • Hi Rhys. Thanks for the reply and thanks for the kind feedback on the blog. These are really interesting travel experiences you’ve had and probably tough to share. It reminds me how much ‘expectation’ has gotten in the way of enjoying myself when I’ve travelled in the past. I did a similar trip with my Dad around Australia last year and I didn’t realise at the time how much expectation I took into that trip. The awesome thing about travel I think is that it is life amplified. In other words, its never just beer and skittles but lots of challenges, frustrations, aha moments, boredom and delight. Like you said and like I’ve experienced, you might not have gotten what you wanted or expected on that trip, but you got what you needed at the time.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s