While using the phrase brings a little bit of vomit into the mouth, it is difficult to deny that the art of travel has changed. Instagram is the primary culprit, reducing the magic of visiting new places down to heavily edited photography and wistful quotes, each as superfluous as the next. It has become less about the destination, less about the journey, and more about the validation and verification.
Or maybe we’re just getting old and bitter.
But why do we travel in the first place? In these times of holding hands with an anonymous individual heading towards the horizon and whatever the hell an ‘influencer’ is supposed to be, it is important to take a step back and think about what made us pack a bag and hit the road in the first place.
Human beings travel because that is what we have always done. The word itself is thought to come from the French travail (which means to work) or the Middle English travelen (to labour, journey), and the history of humanity is a history of groups of people moving from one place to the next in search of something. We now do this via plane or car as opposed to by foot and we often arrive to a welcoming culture as opposed to another tribe wanting to murder us with primitive weapons, but the instinct is the same.
Call it ‘sea legs’ or whatever you like, but deep within us is a nagging need to move. With that in mind, we travel because we are in search of something. Does that mean we are inherently lost? We’re not here to discuss deep psychology, but there is something within our subconscious that keeps us moving in search of whatever that something might be.
We travel because we are curious. What are other parts of the world like? How do people act and react on the opposite side of the globe? They eat what now? From the moment we take our first breath our lives are a process of continual learning, an eternal education that is fuelled by natural curiosity. Even the most curmudgeonly of homebodies is intrigued by something or other, and it just so happens that a huge number of people on the planet are intrigued and curious about other places.
The most important thing that a person can learn in life is how to learn, and travel helps us open that up. By opening the window into another culture we chip away at our own lives. Conversing with people from other parts of the world can often encourage us to view topics and situations in a slightly different way. It isn’t evolution, but it is an evolution of the way we think.
Magpies are attracted to shiny things, humans are attracted to beautiful things. There is no point denying it, and there is nothing wrong with it. Whether we grow up in the gorgeous surroundings of Venice or a slightly less glamorous spot like Kidderminster, the desire to experience the beautiful is always there. There are few feelings that match the immediate joy of a witnessing a stunning vista opening up, a blazing sun setting over a glistening lake or the lazy tramping of an animal in verdant nature. Being in the presence of beauty (natural or not) allows us to forget our troubles and wade in calm and contentment.
We travel because we want to escape from the dreary nature of existence. Life is the most exciting thing we possess, but that doesn’t translate to 24/7 thrills. Doing the washing up is not exciting. Putting the drying out is not exciting. Buying groceries is not exciting, paying bills is not exciting. The majority of that which fills up our days is not exciting, so we often travel in order to forget about that and to embrace something entirely new. The weary nature of a 9 to 5 can be eviscerated by zip lining across a canyon, by dancing the night away at a major festival or simply by lying on the beach with a cocktail that contains far too many different ingredients, is named after some risqué fictional character and is a colour that Pantone wants nothing to do with.
It is becoming more and more fashionable all the time to have a cantankerous view on humanity, to believe that ‘people are the worst’ and to generally be a bit down on our species. There are plenty of reasons to back this up, but there are countless more that put forward the opposite argument. People are fantastic, and travel allows us to experience, envelop and encounter more and more of them. Travel is a way for people to connect, to build bridges between cultures and to break down linguistic and ideological boundaries. Cliches? Absolutely, but who said there was anything wrong with cliches? People are truly magnificent, and travel allows us to confirm that over and over again.
No, no, no, not financial or material greed. We’re talking about the greed that keeps you eating long after your stomach has clocked off, the greed that orders one more glass of rakija when the point of no return has long since been passed. Every corner of the world has a different way of preparing and eating food, and travel is the best way to experience that. Food is a heavily globalised commodity in the modern age, but there is still something special about enjoying it at the source. We travel in order to satisfy that other great curiosity, the one that exists on our taste buds.
These are just a few of the reasons why we travel or why we decided to do so in the first place. We travel to discover the world, to fall in love, to experience other cultures. We travel for the negatives as much as the positives, for the disappointing as much as the overwhelming. We travel because few things in life are as powerful at reminding us how vibrant life can be, and no amount of clicks, likes and shares can change that. We travel because travel is freakin’ fantastic, and that is all that truly needs to be said on the subject.