Many great minds have spoken about the importance and benefits of traveling. Mark Twain said, “travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it solely on these accounts”. I personally like to travel because I feel alive; my senses are heightened when I travel. I am aware of every moment and am able to enjoy and appreciate my surroundings. For instance, I don’t remember what I did last Wednesday, but I remember in detail my days in the Iceland, Kathmandu, Florence...
The book The Art of Travel by Alain De Button and my own travel experiences around the world inspired me to write this blog post. I want to explore why people have always been fascinated by traveling, and how could we be more fulfilled by doing so.
My passion for travel started with art. Art inspires people to travel. Every time I look at a picture of a beautiful mountain range or a beautiful beach. I always imagine myself lying on the beach, or overlooking the mountain range. Sometimes movies inspire you to travel. If the characters in the movie are in Paris and they fall in love, then it obviously elicits a desire to travel to Paris and fall in love yourself. And every time, I imagine myself happy. Travel is the promise of happiness. Oftentimes it delivers, however, there are times when the actual reality of travel is not always as beautiful as your imagination. Everything looks beautiful in an art, because art omits the dull moments and embellishes what is beautiful and desirable. You may experience airport delays; you may feel tired, and even bored at times. The weather may not be perfect. And all these experiences make the actual travel, sometimes, a bit disappointing. The good thing about human memory, like art, does not retain all the minor details. It compresses and omits details that are not so beautiful; more than likely, all you may remember from Paris is its beauty and how you felt being there, despite the rain and airport delays.
Beauty is another major part of travel. People seek and are drawn to visual beauty. John Ruskin spent many years studying what is beautiful and human connection to beauty and art. He came to the conclusion that human beings have an innate tendency to respond to beauty and a desire to posses it, hold on to it, and give it weight in one’s life. That explains a lot to me. When I was young, I liked looking at a beautiful sunset. I was aware of how beautiful it is and felt lucky to be seeing such visual treat. I expected to be happy or be inspired by the magnificent natural beauty of it. But, somehow, it felt more melancholic or sad. I never understood why I choose to stare at the sunset if it didn’t make me happy. It makes sense now after learning about John Ruskin’s studies that if you see a beautiful dress, then you can buy it and wear it, you can show the dress to your friends, but sunsets are fleeting beauty; it doesn’t last, and that was the source of my sadness. Once you realized that, it allows you to appreciate it for what it is.
People also travel with curiosity to learn about something new and search of the exotic. Some people feel like they don’t fit in and they identify more with a different culture. For example, Gustave Flaubert, a French writer, who was born into a French Bourgeoisie family, hated the bourgeois culture; he didn’t like pretension of the upscale lifestyle. He described the French Bourgeoisie as pompous, prudish, snobbish, and racist. In contrast, he shared a great admiration for Egypt. He believed that life was fundamentally chaotic and that aside from art, all attempts to create order implied a prudish denial of our condition. He liked the vibrant colors, and bustling lifestyle of the Egyptians. He wrote, “…each detail reaches out to grip you; it pinches you; and the more you concentrate on it, the less you grasp the whole. It is such a bewildering chaos of colors that your poor imagination is dazzled as though by continuous fireworks with camel bells ringing in your ears.” When you find a place or a culture that makes you feel more alive, then it allows you to be your authentic self.
--How should we travel?
When you travel, you should be receptive, and not carry any rigid ideas about what is and what is not interesting. Learning is an important part of getting the most out of travel. You may think Taj Mahal is just another beautiful architecture and nothing more, however, if you learn the history behind a man who loved his wife so much and built it as a monument for her, then you might appreciate it more. So, for example, read and learn about trees when you go on a nature trail, because if you don't know much about plants, all trees may look the same. But the more you learn about trees, the more you would enjoy the hike. Sometimes you may not enjoy something until you understand it. It could be an acquired taste. You have to learn it to enjoy it.
You should notice things instead of just seeing them. Xavier de Maistre, a young Frenchman, was a travel enthusiast. He decided to undertake a journey around his bedroom, and wrote a book titled Journey Around my Bedroom. He wrote a second volume titled Nocturnal Expedition around My Bedroom. He wrote these books in an attempt to notice what he had been seeing everyday. He described his bedroom furniture with great detail, and the night view of the sky from his window. The point of his efforts was that the pleasure we derive from a journey might be more dependent on the mindset we travel with than on the destination we travel to. Henry Miller’s said, “One’s destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things.”
Travel to satisfy your curiosity, to see beauty, to find exotic. Travel with an open mind, travel to notice things. If you can’t go far, at least, start with your own home, town, country and then venture abroad. And remember, “ life is not measured by the breaths you take but by the moments that take your breath away” – unknown
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