Travelling is one of the sublime pleasures of life. Everyone has their own reasons for travelling. Some venture out on vacations, others on business and still more take a joy ride to capitalize on some cheap flight and accommodation options. In his landmark essay titled ‘Why We Travel’, the British-born American travel writer Pico Iyer put it aptly, “We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves.” We humans obsess about travel and actually bite the travel bullet because we feel deep down that there is something magical out there: travel bestows us with a sense of accomplishment and makes us better and smarter.
Travel can assume varied forms. We may visit the same destination multiple times, but see it from a different perspective each time depending on our travel style. The ‘how’ of travel can radically transform the travel experience.
Solo travel is an ideal first experience for a person who has never travelled alone. The beauty of solo travel is that one can go to the obscure place of one’s dreams without needing to consult anyone and make detailed plans. No matter, solo trips are becoming the norm worldwide.
The family is often the starting point of a lifelong romance with travel. A trip with the family members helps us to discover who we are and what we want out of the travel experience. Some may realize the need for greater freedom, while others may prefer the structure and security of a family excursion. Travelling with friends to a new location can also be a memorable experience and an encounter with our innermost selves.
Package tours is about choosing your destination and relying on the travel agent to work out the details. Although diehard travelers look down on package tours, every person deserves at least a short holiday without being enslaved by planning and other obligations. Travel agents can deal with the nitty-gritty of visas and international travel, whether it is about seeking a Schengen visa appointment or booking a hotel in picturesque Venice.
Weekend travel is a skill by itself. A weekend travel freak has to get many things right, ranging from picking cheap flights to choosing an appropriate destination. A weekend affair is also a whirlwind journey as one is expected to be back in time for that Monday office meeting. A weekend break is still one of the easiest ways of escaping the humdrum of daily existence, albeit momentarily.
Backpacking is the ultimate travel experience. It is not only devoid of the mundane worries of life, but also the demands of travel itself as a backpacker goes with the flow of the journey. Backpacking is no longer considered the preserve of students alone as one can catch the bug at any age and get going.
A monotonous existence shrinks our worldview although a 24-hour news cycle ostensibly keeps us updated about global happenings. Travel instantly wakes us from our slumber, broadens our notions about the world and provides a new perspective on everything from politics to entertainment. As we assimilate various cultures, we become more aware of cultural diversities, let go of personal prejudices, learn to respect others and transform into better individuals.
New and exciting experiences in the form of new sounds, sights and smells spark the creativity synapses in the brain. Immersion in an alien environment opens the mind to exotic foods, notable landmarks and enduring friendships, thereby catapulting creative abilities to new heights. The more a person engages with hitherto unexplored cultures and ideas, the more is the likelihood of looking at the same issues in a refreshingly new light. Planning travel and imagining oneself in unfamiliar locations improves creativity and creates a feeling of self-awareness. According to William Maddux, an American social psychologist, people who live abroad return home in a more creative avatar. Travel molded the work of Ernest Hemingway and Mark Twain. Hemingway’s novels were hugely inspired by the time spent in France and Spain, and Twain’s ship journeys through the Mediterranean are documented in his travelogue.
Travel provides a major boost to mental health. It prevents dementia and Alzheimer’s disease among the elderly. Travelers are generally more satisfied with their lives compared to the ones that do not travel. Travelling also spurs language skills by exposing the traveler to a language different from his own. The process of learning new words and phrases broadens the attention span and revitalizes short-term memory.
A traveler is solely responsible for everything, right from personal well-being to a safe return back home. This inculcates a sense of responsibility and a self-sufficient attitude, which are excellent for personal growth. Travelling improves and helps a person to stay in touch with reality.
Travel demands quick thinking i.e. the ability to think on one’s feet and problem-solving skills. For example, the hotel of one’s choice may be over-booked and the flight may have been cancelled. In such eventualities, one needs to think quickly to find alternate accommodation and travel options. Travel also enhances decision-making as one may be required to make constant choices regarding accommodation, financial management, time management, et al.
To conclude, travel is both a journey and a destination. Travelling is both relaxing and elevating. There’s a famous quote from Robert Pirsig in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance that goes thus, ‘It is the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top.’ Travel consists in the hard uncomfortable bits, rather than the breezy view from the summit. And it makes a person smarter at the end of the day.