Table of Contents
This chapter is written by Pico Iyer and addresses the question about why do humans travel. The writer delves into the reasons that make travelling a pleasurable activity. He quotes some great writers and also cites his own travel experiences.
Travelling as a Liberating Experience
The writer begins by stating that the primary reason for travelling is that it acts as a liberating experience. One loses oneself in travel. There are no burdens of everyday life and no responsibilities of our personal or professional life hold us back. So, there are no inhibitions while travelling.
A traveller leaves his beliefs and certainties at home and opens himself to newer possibilities. While travelling, we are not recognized by our professions or our social standing, that is, we are freed of inessential labels. Therefore, we freely follow our impulses while travelling.
Travelling as A Search for the Self
Travel provides the much needed respite from our busy lives. The hustle and bustle of our hectic schedules drain away our spirit to live. Travelling gives us a renewed spirit to live life to the fullest. We begin to pay attention to one spiritual needs. Each time we travel, we question our beliefs and reconsider our opinions. Thus, travelling compels us to think and reflect on our notions.
Travel, therefore, enriches our knowledge of our own selves as it makes us explore the unexplored recesses of our mind and understand our own moods. The quietude and tranquillity that travel offers helps cause a kind of spiritual awakening. That is to say, that when we travel outside, we also travel inside ourselves. We explore the vast expanse of our inner selves.
Travelling to Enrich our Perspectives
When we travel to unknown places and meet new people, we get exposed to their culture. This gives us a deep understanding of humanity. Travelling makes us more kind and empathetic. The horizons of our thought process broaden and we gather multiple perspectives.
We begin to understand that our perspectives are not universal but are only limited to us. The writer cites words of Marcel Proust who aptly said that travelling is not always about visiting new places but seeing them with new eyes or simply through fresh perspectives.
Exposure to the Realities of the World
Travelling does not only show us scenic beauty and breath-taking landscapes but also exposes us to the harsh realities of the world. Only when we leave the comforts of our homes, do we see the hardships of the other people in the world. Our misconceptions about their lives are done away with.
We come to understand that the terrains like mountainous or deserts which looks so pleasing aesthetically, are actually difficult places to live in. We are thereby prevented from thinking of them as mere abstractions. This way, we travel to rescue ourselves from such misconceptions.
Travelling Enables Cultural Exchange
When a person travels, he takes along with him not only a luggage but also his beliefs and values. This enables a cultural exchange between travellers and the natives. The writer, for example, says that he always takes Michael Jordan posters to Kyoto and brings home woven ikebana baskets. Sometimes, it is not only cultural artefacts but even dreams that get exchanged or transported in travelling.
Travelling as a Return to Our True Selves
Our modern lives and the rat race for success corrupt our visions for life. But while travelling, we tend to carry the basic minimum belongings with us. Hence, we discard all that does not seem essential. This way, we get rid of our obsession for material possessions.
Travelling Makes Us Fall in Love with Life
The writer says that as we travel, we are born again. By this he implies that travelling gives us new purposes and motivation. We begin to appreciate life. Also, travelling brings out the child in a traveller. Thus, the experience of travelling gives us the innocent eyes with which we see the world anew and afresh. The writer believes that each time he returns after a tour, he keeps thinking of that place and revisiting it through the photographs and his diary entries, just like a person in love.
Adventure over Monotony
The confines of our homes make life seem monotonous and dull. Travel provides the adventure and thrill that excites us. In the words of the great writer Albert Camus, “what gives value to travel is fear”. And this fear demands us to be more alert and active.
Travelling Makes us Question the Fixity of Identities
While travelling, a person visits many places and meets many people. He absorbs certain elements of various places and its people. One’s identity, therefore, does not remain fixed or singular. A traveller acquires a curious amalgam of identities of various languages and cultures. The writer quotes Sir Thomas Browne who said that “We carry within us the wonders we seek without us.” This implies that we carry multitudes within us and no human is confined to one singular identity.
This way, Pico Iyer concludes that travelling is essential to keep the human mind active. It prevents the soul from getting exhausted due to the boring routine of everyday life. It keeps a check on our prejudices. Travelling reminds us that the world is too vast and complex, just like the vast expanse of the human inner self.
For life to remain interesting and for enthusiasm to never fade, it is important that one remains wakeful, receptive and willing to face the world in all its strangeness and unfamiliarity. Travelling achieves this end for us.