After wandering around the world by myself for over a year, I wanted to create this article for potential and fledgling travellers. Travel is not about holiday-making or having a break from your normal life. It is about immersing yourself in a foreign culture. As explorers of old, heading into the unknown of exotic worlds.
It does not matter if you are young or old, there is something appealing for all ages. The extent of travelling you can do, however, is hindered by your responsibilities in life. The freshly graduated pups, with their bushy tails and wide eyes, are for the most part free to roam as they please, with no concern for the future. For those with dependents there are particularly structured tours from travel companies that try to fit in as much as humanly possible into two weeks. These are tailored to fit into the busy workaholic’s lifestyle.
There is no right or wrong way to do this. Everyone has their own preferences and personalities. Some might prefer the luxury of hotel rooms while others do not mind sharing dorm rooms with strangers. Some like an itinerary while some like to wander from the beaten track. The following account is WHY you SHOULD travel. So many times I have heard my peers talk of the romance behind heading out into the world; though words are hollow without action. Putting off a dream is simply keeping it a fantasy without any intent of making it a reality. There is no time like the present to do what you so desire. Here are my Top 3 Reasons to travel:
1.) Broaden your Horizons
How are you to appreciate someone else’s point of view when all you have done is lived within the confines of your own personal world? Prejudice and racism, the psychological war that rages in today’s society is most likely a result of misunderstanding. Growing up as a white child in Apartheid South Africa, I was a product of my environment. Not until I left and looked back on as an outsider did I see how unfair and insane the Apartheid system was. That was an extreme example but it shows how we can be victims of becoming self-absorbed in our own world and being oblivious to our fellow neighbour.
Travelling gives you the chance to live a sample life in another culture. Take in the atmosphere, taste the cuisine, listen to the language. It will open your eyes to a new world that you might have only seen in the latest James Bond movie. Seeing the random moments of happiness in the smile of a third-world child might make you think twice about complaining that you do not have the latest iPhone, or walking the streets of a communist country might make you appreciate the freedoms you take for granted.
As a backpacker you may get the chance to meet travellers from all corners of the world. Many nights did I stay up chatting with my new hostel pals, discussing philosophy, politics, love, theology and where to buy cheap food until the early hours of dawn. I am a firm believer that the people with whom you interact shape the person you become. How often do you get the opportunity to interact with those who are so different from yourself? Travelling through China taught me patience, living in Australia taught me how to be independent, and living in hostels…well…taught me self-restraint against drunk roommates bursting into the room at 4 AM.
You most likely won’t notice any changes to your psyche when you step off the plane back in your home country. They are subtle, incremental changes that will blindside you when you get back in the regular routine of the life that you temporarily left behind. If you explore the world with an open mind, seeds will be planted in your soul. What you will notice when you are away from your home is your favourite brand of tea, that special someone who you meet for lunch on weekends or that pet that never leaves your side. It helps you appreciate the important things you may often neglect.
2.) Explore Planet Earth
As Carl Sagan elegantly put it when viewing our planet as a tiny dot in the universe he reflected that “Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives – – there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we have ever known”.
Despite its significance in its cosmic role, there is still plenty to see on this planet of ours. Sunsets from the beach, rainbows in waterfalls, gigantic creations of nature, there is so much natural beauty in the world. Words could not describe the alien world of the Great Barrier Reef or the snow that blankets Eastern Europe in winter. The best flight I ever flew on was Mauritius to Germany back in 2009. The flight started over the turquoise waters over the Indian Ocean, after my movie I opened the shutters to see the infinite grains of the Sahara Desert, followed by the snow capped peaks of the Alps. Are you happy to look outside your window and accept the landscape of your home as the permanent desktop image of your life?
Besides the captivating countryside you have the man-made wonders, the concrete jungles and human feats of architecture. I have a strange fascination with skyscrapers; as where others would find the big cities stressful, there is an element of calmness I get when I am there. The observation towers of the cities’ tallest building have a thrill of its own as you gaze at the ever-expanding city without realising it is a man-made blemish on the surface. How ’bout jumping off the edge at the 108th floor of the Stratosphere Hotel of Las Vegas? There was also a time I stayed in Marrakesh and walking out to the balcony at first light to hear the Islamic prayers rolling off the North African homes and mosques.
It is best to take advantage of what it has to offer as St Augustine says “the world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page”.
3.) Have an Adventure
You see it every day in popular culture in film and novels, documentaries of extraordinary people. As a kid I had a fascination of having a life like Indiana Jones. Sure this is a bit of an exaggeration but there is no reason why you cannot have an adventure. In my experience there is one word that if you use in moderation, could open unlimited doors for you. This word is YES! Making an excuse to decline is the easy and safe option to avoid doing something you have never done before. Trust me, your life will be the richer for it. One night I was feeling down at the hostel and a large group of backpackers were going out for a going away party. They asked if I wanted to come along and I said no! Remembering that I was going to say YES to every opportunity, I changed my mind a while later and decided to join them. It was an eventful and fun-packed night and it was where I met some of my best friends in Australia.
This leads on to the part of an adventure. It is about leaving your comfort zone and going off into the unknown. Daunting to most but where would be the excitement if it was as safe as vanilla in an ice cream shop? Stepping out of your comfort zone not only helps you grow as a person, it sets you up to take on bigger challenges and try new things. Daredevil billionaire Richard Branson said in his own words, “I love to experience as much as I can of life. If I had refused to contemplate skydiving, hot-air ballooning or crossing the Atlantic in a boat, I think that my life would have been the duller for it. I never think I am going to die by accident, but if I were to die then all I can say is that I was wrong and the hardened realists who kept their feet on the ground were right. But at least I tried.”
The final point of an adventure is that is has to be fun! Sure it might be a bit scary but the main point is to enjoy yourself and make some everlasting memories. It may not be just a trip across the globe but a journey of self-discovery.
I would like to finish on a passage from Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. It is the story of Chris McCandless, a young man who gives up his worldly wealth and promising future to live his life on the road. I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who is stuck in a rut. I hope it inspires you as much as it has inspired me.
“So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future”