This is why we travel
I’m sitting on the dirty floor of the departure hall of the airport in Paris. I’m so exhausted and jet lagged, I barely know what day it is. I only know that I have a flight in 4 hours, and that time is moving so slowly it feels like it is standing still.
My body is in constant agony. I’m shivering. I feel nauseous. And I have this flowing sensation moving through me, like the way you feel when you are back on land after being on a boat. Except this isn’t from a boat. I have spent the majority of the last 24 hours on various planes.
It’s in moments like these that I seriously question why I do what I do.
I’m a traveller. Apart from some minor annoyances such as master level law exams, a clinical psychology degree in motion, and some serious auntie duties – my life is totally location-independent, which means that I can pick up and leave at any time I wish. Which, I occasionally do. Nowadays much less frequently than before, but I still spend about 4 months a year on the go.
However, as I grow older, I am noticing an unfamiliar craving for home, stability and comfort in a way I have never felt before. This trip has been no exception. Over Christmas and New Years, I have flashpacked my way around Thailand, Cambodia and Malaysia, with a nagging question at the back of my mind: Is this what I really want to do?
And then, on a dirty airport floor – it hits me:
We travel because we can’t afford not to. We go, because we just cannot bear to stay.
This is why we travel. To experience the width and the depth of life, not just the length of the years. To experience the highest of highs and the lowest of lows – the miserable and the magical – all in a matter of hours.
And as the world shrinks at our feet, we grow. We grow on a sense of comfort in the realization that we really belong nowhere – and thus everywhere. We grow when we realize that belonging isn’t really the question, that it’s about something much bigger than that. That it’s a matter of having a truly extraordinary human experience.
We travel to learn how small we are, so that we can truly comprehend our vastness.
We learn it in the extremes – the mornings we see the sun rise over the holiest of places, or in the split second when the motorcycle we are on is about to crash into a very large and heavy Indian truck – fully decorated with intricate paintings and blinking fairy lights. And we learn how incredible life is in the exhilarating aliveness we feel in the moment when we realize that we escaped death by a hair’s breadth.
We travel to learn how fragile life is, and thus how strong we are, and we find it in all the moments we don’t tell our parents about; the near-death experiences and all the times we feared the journey would end before it’s time.
But we also learn in the truly mundane. Like having a cup of coffee when the Saigon morning traffic mayhem floats by like a river. Or the moments when we blend in and get taken for a local and asked for directions. Or the times when we come to a new place and immediately think «yes. I could live here forever.»
We grow, not with the length of life, but with the depth of our presence.
That is why we leave. That is why we roam. That is why we keep going.
And we travel, so that we can truly, truly know what it feels like
to come home.