“The real voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
My CV used to list travelling as my main hobby. Indeed, nothing makes me happier than breaking from the familiar, exploring new countries and having heart-warming conversations with people from all over the world. My first solo-trip at age 20 was incredible and until this day I refer to that summer as the best summer of my life. Recent trips, however, have left me doubting why I once enjoyed traveling as much as I did. I still enjoy seeing new sites, meeting wonderful strangers and tasting the local cuisine of a foreign land. Yet I have noticed that the exposure to the unfamiliar has become somewhat familiar to me. Breaking away from routine has become part of my routine. And most annoying of all, wherever I travel to, I take myself with me.
For me, travelling will likely always be an important aspect of my life, as it is for many others. That being said, I have started becoming aware of some negative aspects of travelling on my recent trips. Most people would agree that one of the main issues with travelling is the pollution that comes with flying off to faraway destinations. On a personal note, the popularisation of exotic locations often leaves me feeling that I am not truly travelling unless it is to as far away as possible. Renting a cabin in the Yorkshire Dales, albeit nice, sounds too uninspiring to me. So I always try to ensure that my next travel destination is a distant place with an unfamiliar culture or landscape. As an environmentally-minded person, this has been gnawing at my conscious.
Morocco vs. the gong bath
Earlier this year, I went on a 10-day trip to Morocco, travelling throughout the country from place to place. I had been anticipating the trip for months and with a hectic work life, it was all I could look forward to. The trip ended up being lovely and Morocco blew me away with its beauty and charm. Yet for the first time in my life, I found that all the problems I had tried to leave in the UK, had followed me to Morocco. The reason for that was because all the problems were actually in my head. The week after I returned from the trip, I attended a gong bath session. Laying on a comfortable yoga mat, listening to the soundwaves of the gong, I quickly found an intense peace and feeling of wholeness I hadn’t felt in a long time. The problems in my head disappeared for that hour and a half, something my trip to Morocco had failed to do.
This experience made me realise that travelling might not be the answer to my restlessness (anymore). As a student, my travels represented endless possibilities and new adventures. Now they have become the perfect breeding place for feelings of self-doubt and worry, as I leave the distractions of day to day life behind. I have thus pondered long and hard about if and how I should continue to travel. I have decided to take a different route going forward. A road that is less traveled (because it is less comfortable, yet more worthwhile). A road that will hopefully enrich me deeply, just like the well-beaten path of backpacking used to do. It is a road that will lead me deeper within rather than wider into the world.
During my pondering, I asked myself why I love travelling so much. I have come to the conclusion that it is because travelling enriches me, calms me down, inspires me, gives me new energy and puts matters into perspective. That is the essence of travelling to me and when taking a physical airplane doesn’t do the trick for me anymore, it is time for me to take a different path. This means that going forward I will focus my travels and life more on such enriching, calming, energising and inspiring moments.
This might include taking more meditation and mindfulness courses in my area rather than spending weekends jet-setting to cities in mainland Europe. It might also mean going on frequent day trips into the surrounding countryside rather than waiting for a holiday to spend time in nature and it could also include making my actual travels more about the experience than the destination. For a while now, I have been thinking about walking the Camino de Santiago. It would likely not be a hotspot destination with Instagram worthy photo opportunities, but it might just be the trip that will allow me to travel deeper inside myself and renew a fire for life and the world that backpacking once used to give me.
I began this post by professing my love for travelling. I will end this post in much the same way. Travelling has given me so much depth and richness in life and I foresee that continuing to be the case. Yet whereas travelling used to be about exotic destinations and meeting new people, for now I would like to turn my travels into a (more local) means to connect with myself.
What is your view on travelling?