Travel is typically constructed as a fundamentally transforming experience and this characterisation is perpetuated by travellers, tourists and travel agencies alike. It allows us to unplug from our daily realities, get unstuck from our university responsibilities and reinforce our willingness to broaden our horizons.
Think of travel as an escape, a search for calm, from the cacophony of daily life. At the root of exploratory travel lies a search for authenticity, a holy grail of modern times. A curiosity and search for both answers and questions alike is at the heart of human nature and often manifests into wanderlust and ensuing travel, as it is the most distinct method of distancing ourselves from our realities. The sense of adventure that comes with travel contributes to the wanderer’s sense of autonomy and search for the unique, unknown and unseen. A search for freedom translates into the quest for broadening horizons, both literal and metaphorical.
Travel reminds us of everything we do not know and has the possibility of being an altogether well-rounded, introspective and humbling experience
The rise of modern tourism in the 1840s, has ultimately transformed the travel experience by scrubbing it of experiences that might cause any minuscule discomfort, limiting its transformative powers. Touristic imperialism directly contrasts the above search for freedom, authenticity and adventure. The paradox lies in the fact that this sense of freedom has diminished the structured nature of the tourist industry, thereby rendering hopeful wanderers trapped within the very thing that was to bring them joy – travel. However, tourism can also be defined as an escape from reality precisely due to its rigid structure.
A traveller, on the other hand, focuses on an independent acquaintance with the destination, its culture and themselves. While the two are often labelled incompatible approaches to travel, they can be understood as complementary so long as the traveller in question experiences a valuable, knowledgeable and eye-opening adventure. Even though the staunch traveller may disapprove of the predictability of modern travel, which strips it of its ethereal benefits, the ease of travel has made it accessible for more people to enjoy the relaxation of an adventurous getaway.
Fundamentally, the circumstances of the travel industry are unimportant, so long as the traveller bears in mind that the true voyage is not simply in chasing new sunsets, but in seeing the world and our individual realities with different eyes
As the travel and tourism industry accommodates to its growing demographic of millennial customers, it is likely that travel itself will take a turn for the better, becoming even simpler, more affordable and accessible. The technological literacy of modern society, combined with the zeitgeist of globalisation, extensive interconnectedness and an underlying desire to transform well-earned funds into worthwhile experiences points towards a metamorphosis of the travel industry. Fundamentally, the circumstances of the travel industry are unimportant, so long as the traveller bears in mind that the true voyage is not simply in chasing new sunsets, but in seeing the world and our individual realities with different eyes.
All things considered, there is no wrong choice in terms of travel. Whether you focus on ensuring that your travel experiences transcend tourism and possess some spiritually transformative quality, or focus on sightseeing and having a good time, the exposure to new environments, cultures and horizons is yours to claim and cherish. As Craig Storti comments in his novel Why Travel Matters, “each act of seeing informs and enhances all subsequent acts, the more we have seen, the more we are subsequently able to see.”
Ultimately, it can be agreed upon that travel reminds us of everything we do not know and has the possibility of being an altogether well-rounded, introspective and humbling experience.