“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travels’ sake. The great affair is to move.”
— Robert Louis Stevenson
What is travelling?
My first independent travel abroad was in 1970, when I hitch hiked around the British Isles. On two pounds a day I was going to find my way around, look for somewhere to sleep and feed my hungry stomach. I went north to look for the Loch Ness monster, I crossed the sea to witness the civil war in Belfast and I got lost on my way to Tipperary. It was a great journey.
After completing my college in England and hitch hiking around Europe, I followed the so-called Hippie Trail across Asia during the latter part of the seventies. “As much as it is a journey to the East, it is a journey to my own inner self,” I wrote in my diary on the 26th of June 1976. It was some sort of pilgrimage, a journey to unknown places for the purpose of coming to terms with my motivation and beliefs. I would come with an open mind, partly unprepared, but with a minimum of prejudices.
Until the last century, travelling was expensive and typically uncomfortable. Most people did not travel for fun, but with purpose; aristocrats embarked on arduous journeys to survey farming lands, discover new plants or inspect architectural models. Travelling, like the French word ‘travail’ was hard work, but deeply valuable.
Many philosophers, particularly in the Age of Enlightenment, saw the benefits of travel as strengthening human society through the practice of commerce and interaction. With the introduction of trains and planes, travel became a leisure activity that for some developed into a passion. The purpose of travelling was not the destination itself, but the reposition of the physical body. Travel became an extension of the journey of life and the freedom of movements became a way to travel into your inner level.
Travelling became a means of self-exploration, and a source of collecting memories and experiences. But somehow also an escape from the commonplaceness of our daily lives. With today’s low cost of travelling, at least if you live in a high-income country, we’re in perpetual motion. We can go anywhere, at any time, and the momentum builds. Before long, we’re planning another trip and packing our bags to go–somewhere.
Travellers are not tourists. Or so we thought, like-minded people and me as we traversed through West Asia on our way to the “Home of Eternal Truth” as India was called. We didn’t see the world in Kodachrome colours, and if it was Tuesday it definitely wasn’t Belgium. We deceived ourselves of course, the locals could not tell the difference–naturally.
But I am still travelling.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.
Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”