Sitting on a beach on the Amalfi Coast in southern Italy, three weeks into a three month overseas adventure, the question has come to my mind: what is it we hope to gain from travel?
For some, a holiday is simply a chance to enjoy time with their family/boyfriend/girlfriend/friends in a relaxed setting.
For others, the idea of overseas travel seems to be more about token photos and getting drunk.
But for me, it isn’t enough to see the landmarks a city has to offer; I have to also experience the place and its people.
How do you serve that purpose best, I wonder?
I know it certainly isn’t by sitting in your hotel room or closest Wi-Fi zone.
I think the answer is the local people who experience this place everyday and who live a life completely different to mine.
At least that’s what I discovered in Dubai on our dune safari when the guide spoke of his family dynamic, marriage customs, and what was expected of him as a son, a husband, and a father.
But, that interaction was only possible because we both understood English.
What happens when you are in a place and no one else speaks English?
Can you push past the language barrier to truly experience the culture?
Have I isolated myself from gaining a true overseas experience because I am ignorant of other languages?
I don’t expect myself to know everything, but I’m realising a huge assumption I had: that it should be up to others to learn English and the other way around.
And I don’t want that assumption to rule me any longer.
I suppose I am digressing from my original question: what do I hope to gain from travel?
Maybe the answer isn’t just local people but all people – locals, fellow tourists and travellers, anyone and everyone you meet on the road.
We need to not just arrive somewhere to take photos and say we have been there, we need to explore, wait and allow ourselves to soak up and in our surroundings.
A thunderstorm is rolling in on this sunny day. Will it disappear as swiftly as it formed?
And if the weather can make such rapid changes, then why shouldn’t I?
Dare to ask a stranger a question. Push that boundary.
Dare to leave your travel buddy and do things alone. Do things for yourself.
Discover what will happen when you give yourself a chance to be more than the shallow traveller.
Find the people who will tell you the meaning behind their culture, or a landmark, or an important or traditional food.
Accept that not every traveller is going to immerse him or herself in the same way as you.
Every experience is individual, although it’s nice to experience it as a collective.
Don’t try to find the meaning now – allow that to come when it will.
The rain has started. So must I.
Author’s Note: I wrote this back in 2013 on my first overseas adventure. I wanted to do an article ‘Why Do We Travel’ but struck with a virus (thanks kids), I was looking through my archives and found this. Turns out, I had already written it. Genius.