Why I travel

In a world where physical distancing and travel even to a grocery store can cause harm to you and the community, here is a perspective on why I dream of travel.

Humanity is going through an unprecedented challenge. Across the globe people are under a lockdown. The need of the hour is to strengthen our relationships and values, improve our habits and prepare for the new normal. While we balance our lives between living in the moment and our unexpected new circumstances, many of us miss our outdoor routines of walking with a friend or getting a coffee with a colleague – something we all took for granted.

Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa from Robben Island

As I use my leisure time to meditate and just be and breathe, every day I itch to plan the next travel or wonder about a destination. For 1 in every 10 people across the world, travel and tourism industry is not only their passion but also their means of livelihood, and their industry is going through its worst crisis with the threat of a much slower recovery looming.  In these times when all non-essential travel is banned, and it may take some time to resume (for good reason) I am reflecting on why it matters so much.

As someone who analyses hotel markets for a living, we often classify purpose of travel into broad segments such as leisure, business, conference and so on. However, purpose of travel is very individual. People travel to start and expand their business, watch sports events, reunite with family, take a break from work and spend quality time with loved ones… They travel to switch up, switch off, switch on and sometimes simply switch… Some travels are very personal and become beautiful memories of a lifetime. That journey one takes to come together with a loved one, the meeting that leads to one’s dreams becoming a reality and that dream vacation that one saved up for years… become stories that we love sharing and define us and our aspirations.

Akin to many, my love for travelling started as a child. Getting out for a drive around town or going for a vacation, it was always exciting. But it wasn’t until much later, after a lot of travels, that I realized why I really loved traveling.

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It was after a 23 hour journey from my hometown in India to Cape Town, I had just settled in my accommodation for the next month – a beautiful cottage in a gorgeous family home owned by a lovely couple who offered me a glass of wine and lentil & rice (with an eastern twist), a comforting dinner for my first night on the great African continent. “What brings you to Cape Town” asked my friendly host. “I love travelling” I blurted out. “Why?” he asked with a kind curiosity, almost rhetorical.

That night as I ate my lentils, I thought about that question. I had left a perfectly good life, to unsettle myself and go live and travel a continent I knew little about. I had left the familiarity, safety and security that comes with living on one’s home turf on the promise of travel!

Later that week I borrowed a book from my host who was now a friend and indulged me with his cooking and stories! The book – Winterdance is an extraordinary experience of the Iditarod, a long-distance sled dog race where mushers and their teams of 14 dogs travel more than 1,500 kilometers of challenging Alaskan terrains over forests, mountain passes and rives for a period of two weeks enduring blizzards and gale force winds that drop the temperatures to a bone chilling minus 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The author Gary Paulsen goes through sleep deprivation and hallucinations, bitingly cold winds, stunning views, and tragic disasters as he re-evaluates his life and things that are truly meaningful. As I read through the madness of the journey, with all its extreme incidents that almost lend it a comic character while the relentless author endured, I wondered again about – the why of travel?

It isn’t just about exploring, climbing a mountain, meeting loved ones, visiting a great historic monument or getting immersed in a beautiful sunset. It is about gaining perspective, facing fears, challenging myself, pacifying anger, embracing emotions, sharing, learning, understanding different cultures, interacting with nature, and ultimately, about understanding myself.

Every time I travel, I am humbled by nature, our values, traditions, our similarities and differences, our aspirations, warmth, love, ingenuity, creativity, art and philosophy.

As an evolved species living in a beautiful world, it’s only natural for us to want to explore ourselves and our nature. What we experience through travel is not only essential for us to grow and evolve but it also lies at the very core of our being.

We are incredibly lucky to live in a world of information technology and efficient travel infrastructure as humanity aspires for boundless tourism. As travel and hospitality transform with the next wave of sustainable tourism; it maybe weeks before you take a road trip or a flight to your next destination. Meanwhile as you channel your emotions and values during this crisis, bear a thought for those in the travel and tourism industry and simply reflect, remember and reinforce, why you travel.

To all the heroes in the healthcare sector, colleagues in the aviation, hospitality, tourism industry and our invictus humanity gearing up to brave this global adversity, here is some inspiration that was reignited during a recent visit to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 of the 27 years he served in confinement.

INVICTUS

Out of the Night that covers me, Black as the pit form pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be, For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance, I have not winced nor cried aloud,

Under the bludgeonings of chance, My head is bloody, but unbowed. 

Beyond this place of wrath and tears, Looms but the horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years, Finds and shall find me unafraid. 

It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.

by William Ernest Henley (1849 – 1903)

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