I read a quote a little while back that summed up why I find such comfort in travelling. It goes like this:
“Not all those who wander are lost.”
For the past couple of weeks since I’ve been back from Cuba, I’ve been trying to outline what it is that makes me so liberated when I’m away.
What is it that I can’t seem to find here in my daily life that is so emphasized when I am on different soil?
What am I in search of that I can’t find here, in my present location? In other words, why do I find such peace in wandering?
I have a great passion for travelling, and I know it has something to do with the way it makes me feel: mixed sensations of triumph, freedom, exile and independence. But there’s more to it than that. I don’t travel simply to get away from a busy lifestyle. Nor do I want to sit on a beach for a week and soak up the sun.
What I seek, what I desire is interaction.
I find by connecting to people, I no longer feel like a tourist, or a foreigner. I feel like I belong, like I have conquered this new place as if it were my own. I can find comfort in its streets and refuge in its homes. These interactions lead to a sense of awareness that I find extremely hard to find in a place that has become part of my everyday life. And maybe there’s something wrong with that, because sometimes we travel long distances to find what is near.
But for me it’s a time where I can reflect on the past, and choose to leave it behind. It’s a time where I can imagine a future that I want for myself, but decide to press the pause button. It’s a time where I am whole-heartedly invested in seeking the moment and embracing the present.
And for me, there’s no better way to do that than to talk to people and hear their stories. To listen to a complete stranger tell me about her daughter, or their youth or their home. We say hello, and we say goodbye. But that’s never the whole story. There is always something to hold on to, a memory, a glance, a touch, a moment.
Not only am I extremely fascinated abut what other cultures have to offer, but I am genuinely interested to get to know people as they are, independent of their background, their upbringing or their families. To disassociate an individual from everything that might identify them, and to see them as who they are, bare naked and alone. That interaction between two naked souls is an interaction that is priceless. That is what I constantly crave and go back for.
There’s a quote by the great Mark Twain where he says:
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
I treat travel and vacations as mental enlightenments rather than physical getaways. To see how others live and behave is by far the most interesting and worthwhile way to spend one’s time. I find that I learn much more about myself as an individual and my place in this world by observing and exploring other places and people.
You learn that people are giving even when they don’t have much to give. They are vulnerable even when they have something to lose. And the most important thing I have learned is that wherever we come from and whatever we believe, we have common hopes, common dreams and a common understanding that is universal.