“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” – St Augustine
Snuggly wrapped in soft linen, crying out like a newly birthed orchid would yearn for rain, you and I once, would’ve fumbled for that thirst-quenching milk from our mothers. Is it not strange to imagine that at the beginning of our lives, we were all once so reliant on our caretakers; as reliant as the sunflower is on the sun and as the tides are dependent on the moon to steady their course. As children, we saw the world through our eyes alone. We were solely focused on receiving a sufficient amount of food, attention and warmth. We did not even consider then who or how we were taken care of, but we only concerned ourselves with crying for our physiological needs in order to survive.
Have we changed since then? Of course! How could I even suggest otherwise?
We begin our days with the same convenient breakfast we’ve had for years, ready ourselves for the day ahead and the meetings that will follow. We drive to work under the same time limit, deal with the seemingly same stresses that we had a month ago, that tend to wrestle with us in our punching rings at work. Then we eat lunch with our colleagues and perhaps we’ve even prepared the topic of conversation for today – that basketball game that we fell asleep watching the night before. Then we drive home exhausted, longing to watch TV and fall asleep shortly thereafter. Sound somewhat unrefreshingly similar to your day yesterday or the day before? Or are you on holiday blubberingly sleeping in your room from sheer exhaustion, perhaps dreaming about the perfect beach getaway hotel that you’ve been fantasizing about going to since last year?
How have we gotten to the stage where we are mostly always thinking about just getting through today or perhaps just waiting for the holidays to come, so we can get some time off. Yet when the holidays come, they never seem to be as rejuvenating as we had hoped for and always seem to slip from our fingers like salty water. A whisper of a summer promise, but never the expected answer. The world seems to be waiting in overworked anticipation for something to change, but when it does we recoil and pretend that we can’t have anything to do with it due to our exorbitant time-consuming schedules and responsibilities. How did we get here? How do almost 7 billion people accept the feat of replaying the last year over with a yearly addition of stress and responsibilities exponentially increasing?
Knowledge has become a counterfeit to experience. I believe how we approach our interaction with information is vitally important, as we are bombarded with an excessive amount of information daily. If we try to absorb everything that is thrown at us, we will inevitably succumb to fatigue of our own mind and body. Experience has been undermined as schools and colleges are teaching us to seek knowledge above all else and success will soon follow. However, success seems to be at all of our fingertips then, if all we need is knowledge. Is knowledge not the accumulation of information and time? Do we not almost all have access to the World Wide Web of information as well as the time to view hours of YouTube and Social Media sites?
If knowledge is all we need in order to achieve and be satisfied, why has not the Technology Age accomplished this already, or have we missed something?
When I look at my own life, having been born in South Africa, nothing can substitute a real life encounter with a breath-taking lion or a monumental elephant staring at you through his beseeching eyes. Yet, my family and I tend to still watch BBC National Geographic, despite that we are an amiable distance away from being in the wild ourselves. Or I’m sure we can all agree that a sports game in a stadium with 40 000 other people is much more of an exhilarating experience than watching close-up droplets of the players’ sweat on an HD television screen. It has become easier to become entertained and riveted by watching high definition 3D movies, but perhaps we are missing most of the meaning by not going out and exploring some of these things ourselves. It is incredible that we can sit in a dingy four-cornered room and see the world without sitting painstakingly on a plane for hours. Yet we’ll remember a short weekend trip to a nearby town with our friends, whilst we can’t remember the last 10 beautiful pictures we looked at on Instagram. Don’t get me wrong; I believe technology and information are important and can be of great benefit as long as they are not making us forfeit our own real life experiences!
The key to living is to do it together. Maintaining lasting relationships have become a lost art as we see people as unhappier as ever and divorce rates reaching sky-high. We need to sensually experience more and not be deceived into thinking that that means being exposed to more via media. Travelling is one of the most eye-opening and self-realizing experiences one can ever have. Travel takes us out of our comfort zones and forces us to be aware of our surroundings. It turns the self-evaluating mirror away from us and onto things and people that are worth caring about. The mirror then begins to reflect those things and builds up a world that isn’t absorbed in our own depressions, but absorbed in the fascinations of each other and our differences and with the world around us.
Being brought up in South Africa, I travelled throughout the country extensively in my teens and even into the neighboring surrounding countries like Mozambique and Zimbabwe. I remember thinking that at 13 years old, I had already adopted a set of ideals and normalities that I had never questioned before, until I had travelled a little and seen what it’s like outside of my close-knit childhood life. I have also studied abundantly online, engaging with people across the globe and asking them about their experiences and countries. Though I haven’t been to some of those places, I’ve enjoyed listening and engaging with people who are so different from me. I have also had the opportunity of touring Europe as well as studying and graduating in the USA. During times, I have felt so fearless and travel hungry and at other times I’ve wanted to cringe with fear of the unknown.
Travel definitely does broaden the mind and widens our horizons, as our focus shifts to others around us. We lose a sense of selfishness as we realise that learning from people is more exciting then keeping to ourselves. Or that we learn there’s more to life than we could’ve possibly imagined; why should we settle for any less. Ideas like these are reformatory and if we’ve gone through experiences that have trained us to conquer our fears, we have learnt that our horizons are not as inconsolably small as we first imagined. Our careers can blossom if we crave going above and beyond. Travel coaches us to go the extra mile, because we might find something that will forever change our lives around the corner. It keeps us focused on our relationships and in the moment. We more readily deal with difficult circumstances, as dealing with these are inevitably associated to travel, and this reason is perhaps, the one that keeps most of us locked inside our superfluous worlds.
Travel not only readily shares knowledge, but also instills the belief that we can partake in the allure of the experience before us as well. We are taught to be wonderful spectators and commentators through social media, but the idea that we are capable of being a part of that seems to be deemed as mere speculation or piped dreams. No! When we come home and the most convenient thing is to switch on the TV and drown ourselves in entertainment, because we want to numb away the exhaustion of the day; let’s stop. Take a walk down the street and observe. Learn about yourself and don’t be afraid of fear. Give it the opportunity to consume your thoughts and only then will you realise that when fear knocks at the door and you journey the way to answer it, there’s no one there! Fear is an imposter that you would’ve believed in, if you’d never chanced to leave your room. Journey and open the door! Just an endless world of possibilities awaits you!
Travel broadens the mind and widens our horizons by expanding our world, relationships and by showing us what is truly important by reminding us not to overlook it. Life lessons and being in touch with yourself and others is a necessity of travel and a way to live life to the fullest. Instead of looking for an escape from our current lifestyles, travel aids us in being comfortable with trying to understand our layers of emotions and provides us with the tools to deal with them! We can decide to be slaves to our comfort zones, or let travel free and change all we thought we knew!