Why Do I Travel?

This one’s for you Kelsey. ¬†Better late than never.

An old friend once asked me why I choose to travel. If I could answer her now, I’d say ‘To tell a better story.’

From March 4th, 2015: In a letter to Kelsey:

“An ongoing mission of mine is to answer the question, in as many ways as exist, ‘What is it to be human?’ Traveling exposes me to different ‘right’ ways of life. With a bit of openness, that exposure allows me to pick and choose the best qualities I want to embody in order to create the ‘rightest’ way for me…

…There is nothing in particular that I’m looking for. I’m just taking in everything I can.

…If I have something that can be called a soul that feels vivified, then traveling is how that happens.”

***

I wrote those words less than two weeks before flying across the Pacific ocean for a second world tour. At the time, my purpose for traveling was self-serving and frivolous. I wanted to explore the world to satisfy my own wanderlust addiction. I was still constructing the psyche that would come to define me, and I needed the raw material of diverse experience that could only be harvested from the wide world abroad.

But like everything else that ever was or ever will be, my purpose for traveling has changed over time.

Freshman year at On The Road University (OTRU) was an aimless salvation; pure adrenal discovery injected straight into a flat-lined soul. Broken and lost, I escaped into travel from a poisonous status quo. Like a man on fire sprinting into a coursing river, I let the world swallow me whole. It carried me from the fjords of Norway to the Mosques of Istanbul. From the German alps to the Indian Himalayas. From the filthy sprawl of Delhi to the pristine beaches of Byron Bay. From withered and weak to content and confident. When I climbed out of the rush, I was anew.

If I was a floating feather on the river my first year, I was a swimming salmon my second. Sophomore year was marked by an empowered competence. I knew enough about traveling to plot my course. And I was savvy enough to plan little beyond that. I went where I wanted, did what I wanted, settled where felt right, and moved on when I needed (read:’when my Visa expired’). The world didn’t happen to me, I happened to it. Year two was a dose of purest freedom.

My second year brought on a host of new friends. It conjured new horizons. Its course was stacked with new obstacles to vault, and new gems to uncover. The caprice of travel became second nature. Everywhere I went was home. Everyone I met was family.

The comfort and ease I felt was unnerving at first. I wanted to build strength pushing against the grain, but the grain yielded. Familiar patterns tarnished what was once pure novelty. Sameness, I feared, would lead to boredom. Boredom, to the death of wanderlust. But it didn’t happen.

The block of sameness that at first chipped my silver shovel was a bedrock of substance. It was plain and predictable, as opposed to rich and unique. Unaccustomed at first to its subdued effect, I was therefore oblivious to its immeasurable value.

The cultures of the world are marvelous beyond words for their unique complexities, but it is their sameness that makes them knowable. Out of knowledge comes understanding and tolerance, even acceptance and cohesion.

In year two, my road-bound education penetrated the veneer that divides all humans into race, nationality, culture, language, and religious affiliation. I could peer into what unites us all. And I could see this without the aid of mystic beliefs that claim it.

By the end of Sophomore year I’d come to a broad answer to that question ‘What is it to be human?’

Now I begin Junior year at OTRU. As it is in any four-year curriculum, the first two years lay the groundwork of a specialty. The later two cultivate its application. So this year I want to produce. This year I want to apply what I’ve learned to offer others a resource for the same journey of self- and world-discovery that I took.

Why do I travel? Now, simply, to write. I’m in Melbourne currently, and I work in the library. As I make my way to Indonesia, then overland to Europe, I’ll seek out places conducive to writing: cheap coffee and accommodation, internet access, a comfortable desk and chair, and a fun, nearby diversion.

Right now I don’t know if my writing is profound or unintelligible. I don’t know if anyone will ever read what I’ve written. Maybe I’m a zealous lunatic spouting nonsense from orbit. But it doesn’t matter anymore. I’ve come to the end of everything else, where all that’s left is to put thoughts into words. I have some things to say, and I travel to say them.

After that, let the chips fall where they may.

I know I can tell a more fulfilling story than the mono-cultural babbles of any single nation. I can depict a worldview that escapes the diachronic narrative that forever isolates an individual to his or her story. I can deliver a richer, truer message than the drivel that enormous institutions like religion, academia, and the media spout.

I can offer meaning fine enough to enrich an individual’s life, yet robust enough to reconcile the seemingly chaotic nature of society. A meaning that roots itself in objective truth. I will not advise¬†claims based on intuitive belief systems. I will not build towers on mud.

Stand by for paradigm shattering content. Ha!

Thank you for reading.

-C

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