“Travellers have been a nation of a special kind. Without frontiers, and they are becoming the largest nation in the world.” So wrote, Theodor Zeldin in his classic work, An intimate history of humanity which investigated human emotions and personal relationships. Compared to any time in the past , people are travelling more and a large section of the humanity are realizing that travel can be one of the most enriching experience one can have in this life. The connected world and the immense possibilities of the Internet have redefined the way people travel and made it more convenient to plan. Our phones and computers are beaming a thousand images of this beautiful planet to our drawing rooms at every moment and beckoning all of us to explore it further. Thanks to the Internet, now people can not only travel but can share their experiences too on a real-time basis triggering further interest among the viewers. There are numerous vlogs around with a significant number focused on travels and with a huge following. This has helped many people even to make journeys a profession and to make money. However, there is a vast section of people who haven’t stepped out of their homes. Thousands haven’t seen even their neighborhood leave alone the world. As we age, the biggest regret may turn out to be the travels which we haven’t undertaken, and our only jealousy can be towards those who opted to travel and see the world. The question is, why most of us like to travel and why we must do it even more?
Going beyond the first page of the book of life
The immediate trigger for this post was a vlog (for the link see http://tinpinstories.in/ ) which my wife was watching so keenly these days. The vlog is by a couple from Kerala who is touring the country in their car. They are young, just married and left their jobs recently to undertake this exciting journey. This journey which is still not completed has started in October 2020 and it is taking them to 15 states and numerous destinations across these states. During nights they sleep in their car, take bath in petrol bunks and some travel magazines have already named them as the first car life couple. They drive and cook by taking turns. Through their vlog which has since become quite popular, they are sharing an India which most of us wouldn’t have seen.
Human beings like to travel. We have a sense of life elsewhere and a curiosity to know how the other lives. It is this curiosity that took us to faraway lands and humanity owe it to its travellers for the incredible journey it has undertaken as a species. Perhaps it may be within our genes that we like to travel and of course, we had a nomadic past. Though agriculture made us settle down at one place we never stopped travelling. Demands of modernity ensured that man is on the move and travel acquired a dominant status in everyday life. However, there was always a vast section of people who resisted their urge to travel and were happy in their surroundings. It is also true that in most cases the primary requirement for undertaking a journey is a passion for that. Often it is neither money nor other conveniences which make people move but their instincts. Look around and in many cases, you will observe that, many people who have the means to travel do not go anywhere.
One way to look at life is as an enterprise to gather experiences. Unlike most material goods which lose their charm soon, a good journey is something which you can cherish forever. The best way to enrich our lives may be by adding rich experiences to it. Our resources always give us a choice. What exactly do we want to do with our money, time and health? Do we want to only accumulate things or do we want to buy experiences? Often the quality of our lives depends on the balance we strike between these choices. Among all experiences, travel may easily top the charts. When we look back ,most of us will realize that the most memorable experiences were the journeys we have undertaken. When it comes to a journey, even the most difficult or unplanned one can turn out to be a good story to recall years later. Among my few journeys, the one which still sticks to my memory with all the details was an unplanned, tedious trip I have made from Udupi to Goa along with my friend many years back. A day-long journey during peak monsoon season via train, jeep and by bus. Evening we stayed at Karwar for a night and continued the next day to Goa. We spent only a day at Goa touring its old churches and beaches. Sometimes I wonder why such an unplanned and short journey is etched in my memory so vividly but that’s the power of an experience to linger forever.
The best time to travel
I have seen many people telling that they are waiting for the best time to travel. So many people think that a journey is something to be done when all other responsibilities are completed and when one is free and sufficiently rich. But this rarely happens. Time moves forward and once we are ready to travel we may not be in a position to enjoy the journey. This is why I sometimes feel that as we age, one of our biggest regrets can be the journeys we haven’t gone. Recently I came across a classmate of mine who goes to a new place every year along with his friends. If there is a best time to travel that best time is now. When it comes to travel the best thing can be to know the place intimately, eating the local cuisine and to encounter the soul of that place. Chesterton wrote,
“The traveller sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see. “
More than anything else , travel make us more humane and tolerant. We will perhaps realise our insignificance in this vast world for our own good. The most valuable knowledge everyone requires today is that human emotions, human stories and human concerns have a lot in common and we share one planet and a shared future. When we step out of our comfort zones and homes we encounter a different world and we return transformed. Travel make us more civilized and more open to diverse cultures and possibilities. Ideally, our history and geography books in schools should make us wonder about this world and kindle our passion for journeys. India is an incredible country as its tourism tagline says. How much we all have seen of this beautiful country? Accordingly, your best location can be your neighborhood, your nearby district or the nearby state . All that you need is a pair of eyes which can see wonder everywhere. Greek novelist Kazant Zakis recorded his indebtedness to travel in these memorable lines.
“Throughout my life, my greatest benefactors have been my dreams and travels. Very few men, living or dead, have helped me in my struggle.”
We are here to accumulate non-perishable experiences and not only to accumulate perishable things. That can be the best tribute to our short lives before we fade out.