A few weeks ago I received a twitter message from a girl I went to school with. I don’t think I’ve spoken to this girl since school so it was a pleasant surprise to hear from her out of the blue. I was even more surprised when she asked simply, “how come you’re travelling?” I wasn’t sure if she was genuinely interested in my reasons for travelling or if she was questioning why anybody would want to travel. Either way it made me think, why am I travelling? I’ve been away for nearly ten months now and maybe it is time to think back and reassess. Have my reasons for travelling changed or had they merely broadened?
At university my desire to travel was only strengthened. I spent three years at university knowing that as soon as I graduated, I was off. Aside from my studies I spent a lot of time researching places to visit, trawling through lonely planet guides, reading travel blogs, attending travel talks and watching travel documentaries. At the peak of everything that inspired me and opened me up to so many new reasons to travel were four men. Ben Fogle and James Cracknell presented an alternate view to my current idea of travel. Their documentaries and endurance challenges showed me how much of the world there is to explore and how much there is to be gained from pushing yourself to the limit to grasp a unique experience. Their trek to the South Pole looked like an extremely painful and entirely unpleasant ordeal, but both of them came out of it having fully immersed themselves into a unique and challenging environment. They showed that there is something to be gained from knowing that you have experienced something the average person wouldn’t. Charlie Boorman and Ewan Macgregor, on the other hand, shared many of the same ideas about travel as I did. Their motorcycle trips were as much about the people they meet as the places they visited. They aimed to immerse themselves within a new culture to really get a feel for the place. Whilst I spent endless hours in the library slaving over mind numbing assignments, I found myself becoming increasingly restless with the mundane routine of study. This presented me a perfect reason to travel, to break the routine, to wake up every day and not know how the days going to go. It’s the most rewarding feeling of freedom.
The inspiration for writing this was to explore why I wanted to travel.
I came up with the following basic but definitive reasons.
To make the most of my life,
To experience different
cultures, the people and traditions
Freedom to explore,
To escape routine,
To venture out of my comfort
To make people envious of my
trip and inspire them to travel,
The latter was a big incentive; I wanted people to look at me and my trip in the same way I looked at Charlie Boorman’s adventures. I wanted them to think ‘I really want to do that’. I wanted to inspire them and I wanted them to book a trip of their own after looking at mine. Once my trip began I had new experiences everyday which reminded me of my original reasons to travel.
In Asia I was reminded of my desire to venture out of my comfort zone and experience unique cultures. On a 9 hour night boat trip to Koh Tao I can firmly say I was taken way out of my comfort zone for the first time. It was like a slave ship, wooden, cramped, damp and dark. I slept in a tangled web of Thai families, cockroaches and cargo. In fact I didn’t really sleep; I sat and thought ‘why am I here?’ whilst riding out the woeful experience. At least that’s what I thought at the time. The next night as I got in to an actual bed I thought about how happy I was it was over and how happy I was I’d done it. It was a story to tell and an experience not many others would have. That’s why I was there. I spent Christmas day on Bondi Beach and BBQ’d my Christmas dinner. Bondi had become an oracle for me, the end destination of the first part of my trip. Every time I walked on that beach I could justify to myself that I was making the most of my life. Of course I can always do more, live a little more. But I knew I could just as easily be sat at home in Wigan working a 9-5 job and staring longingly out of the window at the drizzle and thinking, ‘what am I doing?’ On my journey up the coast of Vietnam I met the most amazing group of backpackers; from all over the world, all from different backgrounds, but all with similar outlooks on life. I travelled in this group of 11 for just over a month up the coast of Vietnam and in to Laos. Together we lived our dreams, we ate things we would never dare to at home, we spoke to people who would usually intimidate us, we learned bits of languages we never thought we’d need and we never stopped smiling.
Everyone who puts on a backpack and heads off to discover another corner of the world has their own reasons for doing so. Before I left my Nan told me to make the most of every minute. That has stuck with me ever since, wise words from someone who has lived a full life. So whatever your reasons for travelling are, I say focus on them, use them and direct all your energies into justifying your reasons to travel. Achieve what you want to achieve, see the thinks you seek to see, eat the foods you yearn for and bask in your own satisfaction that you’re living your life the way you want to. Backpack on your shoulders, map in your hand and sands of foreign lands beneath your feet. The road is long and open but it’s waiting for someone to walk it. You don’t really need a reason to do it, you just need to want to and you’ll find your reasons.