What is it about travel that draws people to it? Is it the prospect of going to a new place, trying new cuisines, meeting new people and experiencing a new culture? Sure, but is that it… or is it much more?
While some of the experiences can be measured objectively, it’s the ones that can’t be measured that give true meaning to travel. It forces you to open your mind, be less judgmental and experience a different culture. It’s definitely more about the journey than the destination itself. Travel can be a humbling experience when you realize that the roads you are taking have been treaded on by millions of people over thousands of years. They stand witness to the motions of time, as people come, experience, live and die. It also enhances your own understanding of humans and civilizations and how people and cultures have evolved differently and resulted in societies which are so distinct from one another. And while individual traditions may vary, the underlying theme of most cultures is the same. We all love, respect, connect, honor, hate, live and die differently. We humans are definitely capable of variety.
If you visited a family in Assam in NorthEast India, you will be offered homemade pan- and to refuse will signify disrespect. In Mongolia, upon entering a yurt the host will pass around tobacco that everyone sniffs. In central Asia, the left over grease on plates after dinner is rubbed between hands and smeared on faces. Bizarre. Interesting. Different traditions, but all trying to achieve the same goal: To connect. And that’s exactly what travel allows you to do. It allows you to recognize that we are all essentially the same, and we can connect despite barriers of language, culture, ethnicity and race. Nothing cuts across those barriers more effectively than music. Wherever I go, I make it a point to check out the local music.
Travel also lends a sense of freedom. It can take you to places where no one knows you. You can be how you want and not care about being judged. If you go to cities which are populous and streets are full, it is interesting to just wander, and absorb your surroundings.. the sights, the smell the noise.. it’s nice to feel lost. Meeting people from various walks of life also makes you appreciate what you have. When a poor family opens their door to you and greets you with a warm smile and offer whatever little food they have, or when you see children sitting on the floor in school because there are no chairs and desks it makes you grateful and count your blessings. And hopefully when you come back, you will be more cognizant of the abundance of what you have: food, free high school education etc.
Travel affects you in so many different ways, but most of all, it makes you step out of your comfort zone. Its a journey of self discovery and expression as you explore and experience things you have never seen before. And if your mind is open enough to not judge and accept people the way they are and appreciate their practices and lifestyle then and only then can travel truly enrich your life.