Far be it for me to judge why anyone wants to travel; whenever I hear of someone setting off on a journey, my instinctive reaction is to simply hail a quiet hallelujah and wish them a heartfelt bon voyage. I strongly believe that our world’s greatest problems stem from cultural ignorance, which in turn leads to intolerance and, eventually, conflict. And conflict I despise. Travel is the one tried-and-tested way to combat this primordial human sin, hence my fervent belief that if more people took to the open road, the world would indeed be a better and more peaceful place for us all to live in.
However, after a recent email from a girlfriend, who lamented the demise of a messy relationship (yes, I urged her to book a 6-week holiday to get over the pain); I started to contemplate travel as the multi-faceted remedy it really is…for all sorts of ails.
I’ve personally used a journey as a form of escapism, after a messy break-up, with phenomenally great results. In case you’re wondering, this was way before Eat, Pray, Love was ever published! For this kind of personal dramas it proved to be so effective that I repeated the procedure twice more over the following two years. After the third post-breakup trip, I got the sneaking suspicion I was seeking out hopeless relationships and biding my time until they crashed and burned just so I could get on another plane. Eventually, I skipped the tragic boyfriends altogether and just started travelling indefinitely. That proved to be the wisest decision I could have made for my well-being. 🙂
Truth be told, there are actually countless reasons why people travel, and quite a few of them have absolutely nothing to do with learning about new cultures, visiting impressive sites or collecting souvenirs. Most of them are, in fact, quite introspective…some people travel because of the incredibly beneficial effects it has on their heart and soul. All of these reasons are, in my view, perfectly valid.
Following are just a few examples of everything else vagabonding can be for you…
The Escape Artist
When it comes to escaping all sorts of unpleasant situations, Houdini had nothing on travel. Getting away from the grind of daily life, or taking a momentary pause in an otherwise overbearing personal, family or work conundrum can have an incredibly invigorating effect. However, I would rate this as the most temporary of all effects.
Escaping is not changing; taking a break from problems will not solve them, although it may clear your head enough so that you find a way to do so upon your return home. But let’s be honest, there are some people who really have no options for change; those who are looking after infirm parents or children for example. If you find yourself in an unchangeable spot, you need not despair. A regular dose of escapism can really do wonders for the soul, no matter how long it lasts. Countless research has shown that the therapeutic effects of vagabonding the planet are the same whether one travels for three days ,three weeks, three months or three years…the imperative thing here is not to make your escape last longer, but rather to do it more often.
The Great Revealer
Travel has a sneaky way of forcing you to confront your inner-most fears, unhealthy habits and short-comings. It can also reveal your strengths and aptitudes in a relatively short amount of time. This can be confronting, yet in reality no one’s ever died from a little bout of soul searching.
Travel has shown me to have an aptitude for languages, for example, even though I’d always maintained to be totally useless at learning them. It also proved to me that although I am hot blooded over small, tedious matters; I am surprisingly cool, calm and collected in times of real crisis.
Travel can reveal to you if you have a tendency to be overly-critical (of yourself and others) yet it can also show you to be an ingenious and lateral thinker. The reason travel does this, I believe, is because it gets you away from your home, your family and your friends. Getting away from an established life allows you to discover your true self, and potentials, away from the expectations of others. Travel can seriously redefine how you see yourself and gifts you innumerable chances to actively change the things you don’t like. This is the reason I maintain everyone should, at least ONCE in their life, travel alone.
The Amazing Healer
Travel can really heal all sorts of emotional hurts, for all kinds of reasons. First of all I believe it does this because travel has a wonderful way to slow down time. Time is what heals you…travel is what gifts you more of it.
When you do the same thing day in and day out, the days, weeks and months seem to blend into one confusing blur of fleeting time; breaking away from routine and discovering new places has the priceless advantage of making just a single week feel incredibly long.
Secondly, getting away from the ‘scene of the crime’ can be immensely therapeutic. I went on my first African safari about a year after my father passed away. When I returned to Sydney and took to driving to work on the first day, I realized that one of the reasons I cried every day for the first months, was because I was driving past the hospital where he had been treated on a daily basis. I didn’t even recognize this at the time, (I simply assumed I would or should be crying nonetheless), yet when I returned from my trip I became aware of the unnecessary negative effects and simply changed my route to work. Between the healing and escaping effects, my trip worked on various counts as a precious healer. While it may be true that even a short stint of travel can cost more than a pack of Xanax; when it comes to healthy anti-depressants I dare say journeying is a much better alternative to popping a pill.
The Comfort-bubble Buster
Nothing like a good dose of jumping-in-the-deep-end of the pool to wake you up from a groggy existence!
Pushing your boundaries and comfort levels, no matter how near or far, has an incredibly satisfying and awakening effect on your soul. Overcoming challenges, scaring yourself half to death and achieving something you never knew you could, is the equivalent of a decade worth of therapy for your self-esteem. Tried and tested this one, so don’t even bother arguing. JUST.DO.IT.
The Phase Breaker
Want to find a monumental way to separate important stages in your life? Go travel! Whether in between schools, jobs or marriages, a trip can have wonderful renewing effects on your subconscious mind. It allows your soul to wipe the slate clean, deal with whatever emotional baggage you may still be holding and then gives you good dose of regenerated energy to face a new beginning.
Yes…travel can also be a marvellous spring cleaner.
**Just be warned…although the effects of using travel as a ‘remedy’ are outstandingly effective, this does not mean that they are long lasting. At the end of the day, a happy long-term traveller will only endure the trials and tribulations of continuous journeying if he/she is out there for no reason other than an ardent passion for travel itself.**