Why do we travel?

Why do we travel? To be honest, no idea. Perhaps as a status symbol: my mind goes instantly to travel being one of the staples of Instagram influencers. Many trips with friends are spent taking pictures that are worthy of going on the ‘Gram. Or maybe because, like me, you’re a (language) student who just wants to soak in culture.

It is very hard to define the tourism industry, as there is not one clear product. Tourism incorporates many industries- hospitality, attractions, transport, etc. Yet, according to statistics, it certainly contributes a fair amount with travel being 10.3% of the global GDP in 2019 (World Travel and Tourism Council, 2020). Sure, things are skewed slightly because of COVID-19, but travel has become an important part of our society.

It is clear that travel is an integral part of our lives and as stated above, there are a few valid reasons as to why we do it. But do we actually appreciate it? I empathised greatly with an article in The Guardian, which states that ‘we are sadly ignorant of the art of travel’. We know where to go but not how to enjoy ourselves, often finding ourselves still occupied with the struggles of our day-to-day lives. I, for one, cannot remember a holiday since my GCSE years, where I haven’t taken some form of work, (be it an actual essay, some reading, or the endless admin emails), in my suitcase with me. 

I think the closest I’ve ever got to a ‘real’ holiday is whenever I go away with university mates (usually on tour). One particular occasion is when I spent New Year’s Eve 2018 in Goa. On that occasion, I did take books but hardly looked at them because there was so many of us and we were always doing things together. But even with uni mates, we sometimes end up coming back to work. 

In a world where we are becoming more and more wrapped-up in our individual lives it’s nice sometimes to just take a step back

I think it’s fair to say that if you travel, it’s for a break – anyone who says they travel for culture is correct, but that’s more like a side-effect of travelling. So how is it that our lives follow us and we can’t switch off when we’re abroad?

Learning to appreciate the places we are in, taking in their beauty, (sure, you can still put up photos, but don’t make it your focus/obsession),  and actually being present in the moment. This might allow us to reap the healing and relaxing benefits of travel, but it’s a case of being able to switch off. Perhaps that’s something we should account for when travelling. For example, build a trip around a museum or natural area that you really want to see or try a food that you want to experience. 

In the aforementioned Guardian article, it talks about painters and paintings helping us to see when we travel. Now I don’t know about you, but I would struggle to draw even a circle. The principle remains, however, that it’s a question of observation and taking in your surroundings. This can be done in many ways: writing, filming (one of my friends makes excellent montage videos), or however you feel comfortable expressing yourself.

But this expression might make you appreciate the experience more and also teach you a bit more about yourself: “oh, I can write”, or “my painting is really improving”. 

In a world where we are becoming more and more wrapped up in our individual lives, (through no fault of our own), it’s nice sometimes to just take a step back, to really try and disconnect, and find ourselves. I don’t know why we travel. Honestly, I don’t. But I think this is a decent idea of how we should travel.

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