Is Travel an Escape?
Here is the question: Is travel an escape, or is it more than that? Is traveling running away, or is it instead something very different, in fact, a running towards something?
Some people find travel to be an escape. To me, this does not ring true. In travel, I find the most real me: where at home I can be more guarded, and at times, judgmental, in travel I am more open, curious – more in love with the world. And nowhere but in travel do I find myself in such an overwhelming state of awe: turn the corner of a Parisian street at night, and there is Notre Dame! Fly over Dubrovnik – witness the dazzling turquoise of the Adriatic Sea. Enter the northern jungles of Thailand and behold the wild elephants that, until now, you’ve only imagined in your dreams. Climb the temple’s white steps and gaze out over the hazy glow of Thailand’s lost capital: Ayutthaya. Run through the streets of Vienna – and find yourself stopping, in awe, before statues that bring poetry to everyday life, and make you wonder why you ever started running in the first place. Hop on the boat in Hvar and be guided over azure waters to a string of luscious islands which exist for no other purpose but to bring pleasure to us mortals. Pass the windmills of Mykonos as they spiral lazily through yet another sublime sunset – one that the tourists fawn over, but the locals say, “This – this is just life.”
Through travel, we expand the limits of what our minds thought was possible. In doing so, we expand our very minds themselves, and in being stretched thus far, they will never quite return to their former limits.
This is why, in a perfect world, my wish is that everyone had the means and ability to travel. And the desire. Because I know plenty of people who have all the means in the world – and yet, they choose not to travel.
So again, I ask: is travel an escape? Or is turning our life into a predictable routine the ultimate escape?
What we seek in travel is the shared moment – the authentic – the realization that life, and as a result ourselves, are so much bigger and grander and more gracious than we realize. Life is not meant to be a drudgery of routine but is in fact quite beautiful, and when we travel, we seem to realize this fact so easily, whereas at home, it seems easier to forget the beauty as we get lost in the details of our lives.
We tend to be and to play it “smaller” at home, whereas when we travel, our minds and souls seem to expand; we become closer to the infinite.
It helps that when we travel, we bring less stuff with us. If travel is an escape, then perhaps it is an escape from our stuff. If we are identified strongly with that “stuff,” then travel may turn out to be a quite painful process. But if we give in to that process, then maybe without this stuff, we are able to see ourselves more clearly. Or we are simply less burdened.
Ask yourself this question: how much time in your life is spent taking care of your “stuff?” How many hours in your day – in your week – to fix things such as the following:
“I’ve got to take my car into the shop!”
“I need to get my watch fixed!”
“The damn air conditioner broke again! Can you get our handyman to come over?”
“I’ve got to go return some things to Nordstrom – turns out I just don’t like them very much.”
Taking care of our “stuff” takes up much time, and even provides a framework for our days, in some cases. We take such good care of ourstuff – but is that stuff really taking care of us? And does accumulating MORE of it help you – or hinder you?
Living without that much “stuff” – even for a little while, can be extremely liberating, both in the literal sense, but in the deeper, more figurative one as well.
- With less “stuff” to manage, your time is freed up. Instead of seeking to fix things, you now have time to seek the things that really bring you joy.
- With less “stuff,” your physical space is freed up. Do not underestimate how much clutter affects you.
- With less “stuff,” your mental space is more free as well. Less stuff to worry about = more mental freedom and peace.
- With less “stuff,” you are better able to listen to the callings of your soul.
To travel, often times, is to have a calling. And to follow that calling is to follow the yearning of the soul.
In America, we don’t talk all that much about the soul. And yet, we expect to find our “soul mate,” even when we haven’t yet discovered the nature of our own soul.
Travel is one of the best and most immediate ways I can think of to discover that very nature, that of our truest self. Travel is something I have come to think, not as a luxury, but instead as a most imperative and necessary act, particularly for people who are incorrigibly non-complacent, unsatisfied with the status quo.
Travel, in its best form, to me is not an escape. Far from it. For travel is a process of discovery – a magical, curious thing that changes us in ways that few things can, forever. It is something I know will always be a part of my life.
And so I will leave you with these words, which came to me shortly before I left for South America, bubbling up as they did from somewhere in my subconscious:
I travel not in order to find myself.
I travel because I know who I am.