The globe is painted with lines and squares which form countries and continents. The people who live in these lines give themselves a name, organize themselves into a society, live according to various rules and customs and speak different languages. We call these countries and cultures. But what does that even mean? How can travel change our perspective? And where do I fit into it all?
You Understand Yourself, the Forces that Shaped you and How to Shape Yourself
A quest for truth. That’s the most succinct way I could explain the reason why I travel.
When I first looked at a globe when I was a child, I remember thinking about how unfathomably big and exotic the world seemed. The idea of a different land called China or Africa where everyone looks and speaks differently seemed like an alternate universe which at the time I couldn’t comprehend as being a part of my own little world that I was so comfortable in, so accustomed to.
When I grew up and first started travelling, I was never interested in travelling ‘fast’ or ‘seeing everything there was to see’. I wanted to truly understand the people and how they lived, see the variations in the landscapes and learn their language. I even wanted to see the boring, ugly and horrible parts to make sure I was seeing the ‘true’ place and how it really was. My perspective on travel was a relentless search for truth and a way to reflect on who I was. You cannot see the entirety of something if you remain in the same place.
My perspective started to change after travelling through multiple countries in this way, the world started to look whole, not separated by borders or people anymore. I was no longer limited to my home culture or language. I could shape myself how I wanted to be, with a little bit more wisdom and discernment.
It was clear that there were good and bad sides of different cultures, religions and societies and I now had the ability to take the best parts of them and integrate them into who I wanted to be. Travelling helped me become the writer of my own character.
You Are Lucky
Meeting kids who walk over 10km up and down a mountain in Nepal every day just to get to school, seeing starving babies and their mothers on the streets in Kathmandu begging for money or food to survive, seeing the effects poverty can have on the families that live in Peru.
These experiences humble you to the core because when you meet these people and live these experiences with your own eyes and through your own heart, it is burned into your soul. Going back to your old perspective, complaining that your job doesn’t pay you quite enough or focusing on buying that new car, seems like a completely ridiculous idea.
When you meet people who have this perspective and feel they are entitled to such things, it can be hard to relate or explain to them what you have experienced. Sometimes you want to shake them and tell them how, right now, whilst they are thinking about buying some new object to make their lives slightly more comfortable, someone you know is thinking about when they will get there next meal so they can live another week or hiking down a mountain to get an education so they have a shot at an opportunity for a better life.
You become a less entitled person who is grateful for what you have and who gives to those in need when you can. Hopefully…
Everyone is Basically the Same As You
I have made friends with people when neither of us spoke the same language. With a smile, some body language and a brilliant sense of humour you can make friends with anyone.
You realise that humour, music and kindness are universal languages. Before you started travelling, maybe you thought there was no way you could truly relate with someone who hunted for food every day and lived in a hut in the jungle. But, your perspective shifts and you understand that everyone is basically the same as you.
Everyone struggles with love, is a little strange, has their heart broken in various ways and tries to find purpose. You don’t separate people anymore by their culture, language or the way they live. They’re just the same as you.
I Am Not ‘Away’ Anymore
When I visited home after 1 year of travel, my friends and family asked me “Wow, you’ve been away for a long time. When will you come back?” or “How was your holiday?”. I don’t expect everyone to understand, and that’s fine, but I don’t feel like I am ‘away’ anymore. This is my life and my home country is just one small corner of a world full of remote places and wondrous people that are waiting to be explored.
When I am home I am also away from the other 194 countries that exist on planet earth. My home country will always be what initially shaped my perspective and it will always be a part of me, but it doesn’t define me anymore. I am now, a man of the world.
The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.Marcel Proust