A spring-break week in Key West or a Disney Cruise are definitely forms of travelling, but just not for me. Actually, I’d rather poke my own eyes out than do either. What I refer to as travelling is going somewhere off the beaten path where you stick out like a sore thumb, eat food you think might walk off your plate, play charades to communicate, and cross your fingers that whatever shite you managed to get yourself into will work out in your favour. Somehow. And make no mistake, I don’t disregard the pre-packaged tourist vacations if you’re into that; I just define travelling based on where it has taken me and what it has done to me on the inside.
I definitely identify myself as being a traveller. And not just because I dust off my backpack and fill up my passport a few times a year.
I am a traveller because I live to arrive, to see, to experience, to learn, to leave. I especially like the leaving.
Strange? Perhaps. I think I like the leaving because it means I’ve accomplished something and am free to dream up another trip. Always an ulterior motive. And my penchant for travelling isn’t because I’ve been everywhere because I certainly haven’t. It’s because I know how little I’ve done when you consider how big the world is.
I have realized over the years that I actually want what some people find the hardest about travelling – the culture shock. Sometimes, I think I actually need culture shock and relish in all the oddities of a culture. I can only equate what I do with the quintessential girl in horror movies that goes down into the dark basement alone after hearing a random scream. Armed with a butter knife. I’m the girl who walks through a new city alone and actually looks for the dodgy areas to explore and sketchy locals to mingle with. I do these things not because I’m an idiot (although that could be up for debate ), but because I want to prove they’re not so different from what we see in our every day lives. Basically, while the fear of the unknown makes some people not do things, it’s precisely why I do them. How I haven’t given my grandmother a heart attack by now is beyond me…
Often people ask me “How can you travel so much? What are you, rich?” or “Why do you take the sort of trips that you do….by yourself?” Inside I’m usually one part eye-roll, one part head-shake and two parts giggling. I’m convinced that people who don’t get it, never will. And that’s okay. The literal means to travel are of course, whether or not you can get time off work, find a travel partner, and scrape up the money to go. For me, none of these are barriers, not because they shouldn’t be, but because I don’t let them be. I’m fortunate to have summers off. I couldn’t care less if anyone comes with me, and often times prefer going solo. And the financial aspect…well, I just choose not to think about that one. So far though, my pseudo boyfriends named Visa and MasterCard have never told me ‘no’ when I’m thinking about my next trip. In fact, they’re quite generous. Figuratively, the means to travel are far more significant, in my opinion. It’s all about what you have inside that pushes you to go, a bit of gumption and let’s face it, balls. I believe that without these traits, you run the risk of missing out on a whole lotta living and a whole lotta world.
As a result, I’ve had some of the most incredible experiences of my life out there. I swam with great white sharks in South Africa and sat in the jungle with silverback gorillas in Uganda. I visited sacred temples in Cambodia and ancient ruins in Honduras. I’ve eaten my way across Mexico and drank my way across Europe. More than once. Above all, I’ve met the most interesting people who have impacted my life and helped make me who I am today. And the diversity of people, from the inspiring to the nut-job, has taught me tolerance and given me fresh eyes when interpreting the world around me. I think too often people don’t want the fresh eyes. It’s easier not to have them, especially if what you see challenges your belief system or forces you outside of your safe bubble. For me though, I actually welcome and embrace that every time I leave. I love being awestruck, and I fucking hate bubbles.
What does travelling mean to you?