We are all broken creatures, all of us experience the full range of human emotion from pure ecstatic glee to the depths of despair. I’ve written about these topics in the past, encouraging folks to keep in mind this basic fact in all aspects of their lives, not only when they travel. Travel is a positive experience. It is joy incarnate, it is how we escape the realities of our lives and venture out into the great unknown. When we travel we can be anyone we want to be, we can be that daring adventurer or romantic lover, we can be the trier of new foods and purveyor of wisdom. Even if we lead the most prosaic and frankly boring of lives at home, when we travel we can live like kings, dining in the way the robber barons must have enjoyed more than a century ago. Years ago, there was a thread of conversation amongst bloggers as to whether or not we travel as a form of escapism. For some it was a question of Peter Pan syndrome, never wanting to grow up. For others it was escaping darker times at home, personal tragedy they would just as soon not think about. I don’t think it’s specific to writers and bloggers though, I think it can be said of anyone who decides to go on a trip. Travel is escapism at a very basic level. Those bloggers back in the day strongly rejected the idea that they traveled to escape life. How could that possibly be true, they opined, when they were embracing life to its fullest? Looking back at it now though, I do think they were actually escaping something, I think in large part that I travel to escape things as well and I think that those folks who take one trip every year with the whole family travel to escape something. But after years of soul-searching I have come to the conclusion that it’s not a bad thing. It’s all right to escape life sometimes because, frankly, it would otherwise threaten to crush us.
Life is about other people
A while ago I saw a quote that I instantly loved: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle.” The one common denominator when we travel is the people. No matter what we do or where we go, we will at some point interact with other humans (for the most part). And yet many times instead of treating these people like, you know, people, we ignore the aphorism above and ultimately pay the price for it.
Life isn’t easy for anyone, it doesn’t matter if the problems are First World or not they’re still problems that affect us deeply. In my life I have known: alcoholics, cheating spouses, people who have suffered abuse, drug addicts and more. These same people are doctors, lawyers, economists, politicians and other highly functioning professionals. If you met them on the street you would see smart people with families and loved ones, but you would never see the battles they are fighting. Such is the case for all of us, although naturally not to the extremes perhaps in the cases I cited. Hence the importance, no, the necessity of treating people with respect and kindness no matter where you are.
Travel as therapy
I don’t see a therapist, I don’t do drugs and I don’t stay in bed with the covers over my head when things go badly. Instead, I seek solace in the company of others and in the pure and unmitigated joy that only travel can bring. Travel and then writing about it are both so inherently positive, that they in turn force me to be positive, not my natural state of being if we’re being honest. I’m too prone to introspection, melancholy and fear. But one thing I’ve noticed since starting this site is how rare those feelings have been. I used to think that I was happier because I quit my job to follow my passion in life, and that’s probably part of it. But I think I’m also a happier person today than I was 5 years ago because I’m seeking therapy for issues that have dogged me all my life, just in a different way. Traveling the world, meeting all kinds of people in all sorts of situations has given me perspective. I have, slowly, begun to understand what real struggle in life is, I have also begun to understand that all of us, from the CEO of a Fortune 500 company to the beggars lining the streets of Mumbai, we all suffer in ways that may be different, but no less meaningful to us personally.
Travel and sharing my experiences has allowed me to open up in ways I’ve never done before. Raised by stoic New Englanders, bottling everything up was usually the methodology most recommended, one that never served me well. But here, on this site and on my travels, I can be the person I always wanted to be. I can be that daring adventurer, I can be the fearless explorer, I can be the trier of new things. Sure, it’s short-lived and pretty soon I’m back at home, but that doesn’t matter. Because the benefits from travel and sharing it extend well beyond the confines of a single week. They radiate out into all aspects of my life, necessarily making everything better in the process. I’m a much nicer person than I used to be. I stop and help strangers, I never used to do that. I talk to random people I meet waiting in line at the post office, I certainly never did that before. I’m optimistic, I’m in better shape, I’m less governed by fear and just better to be around frankly. That’s what this site and travel have given me and if it means that I seek to escape certain aspects of my life for a limited time, that’s ok too. I think we all need to do that. I think that if we didn’t escape life for at least a week or two every year, we would go insane. For me the ultimate therapy wasn’t just in the travel, but in the writing of it. By reliving those memories and pouring over photos, those trips become eternal in my soul. They’re not finite instances, but everlasting memories that have gone on to shape who I am as a person.
I hope you’ll excuse me for writing this today but I needed to. Not really for anyone else except myself, and that’s fine too. This is a blog, it’s about me, it’s necessarily selfish, but in an altruistic way. For seven years I’ve shared all aspects of my life and travels with you all and while I know many others have benefited, it’s mostly been self-serving. It’s helped me evolve from one person to another, a metaphysical change wrapped in a chrysalis of technology, of pixels and binary code. Thank you for that. Thank you for making me a better man, the man I’d always wanted to be, but secretly doubted would ever become.