a strong desire to travel.
I love an adventure. Whether it’s exploring far off exotic lands or taking a road-trip around the countryside, I can’t resist the opportunity to discover somewhere new. I’ve travelled alone, I’ve travelled with family, and I’ve travelled with friends. Each travel buddy is different and each group has different expectations of a trip. I’m lucky enough to have an excellent, like-minded travel buddy in my best friend and our annual adventures are filled with fun, laughter, discovery and amazing memories.
Travel has taught me so much about myself, about other people and about this beautiful place we call home.
Don’t sweat the small stuff – it’s all part of the adventure!
After the time I missed check-in in Rome but still managed to get to board my flight after some negotiating and pleading, or the time I was close to missing my connection at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 building and ended up being rushed through the ‘behind the scenes/staff only’ security, or the time I arrived in Prague but my luggage had decided not to follow me there…inevitably things will go wrong when you travel. In many ways, these things that have gone wrong while on my travels have helped me to generally ‘take a chill pill’ in my every day life. My friends will vouch for the fact that I rarely get stressed out about small things. I think travel helps to bring a perspective to the small stresses of life, and helps you to step back and see where it falls in the bigger picture (which is usually relegated to a funny story you’ll tell in the pub in years to come).
The majority of people are kind, helpful and generous.
No matter where I have been in the world, I have always found people to be, on the whole, kind and helpful. As long as I have been polite and friendly, I have been met with the same in return. There was the generosity of the Ghanaian taxi driver who drove us miles out of his way (for what I’m sure was way less than it should have cost) just to help us get closer to the waterfalls we were so desperately trying to see. There was the kindness of the doorman in a Toronto hotel who spotted me looking lost on my first day and showed me around the city a bit, giving me a ‘highly recommended’ list of places to see while I was there. There’s the kindness of the people who will stop and give you directions in the middle of their busy journey. There is the kindness of the people who help you on and off trains and buses with your bags. People on the whole, wherever you go in the world, are kind, helpful and immensely generous.
People are far happier than us who have far less than us.
Now I know this is a cliche, but it’s an important one! Travel teaches you the value of experiences over material things. There’s a quote that said that ‘Travel is the only thing you can buy that can make you richer.‘ This is epitomised by the experiences that you have and the people you meet. By some accident of latitude, I was born in the UK. While not born into a wealthy family, I never went without. I was not spoiled, but I always had food to eat, a roof over my head, a school to go to in my school uniform, and the warmth and reassurance of my family to return to every evening. I was luckier than most. Yet, there is an awful sense of entitlement evident in today’s society, and a sense of dissatisfaction and unhappiness with the lot we have been given in life. Travel changes that. Some of the people you meet are far happier with far less that what we have. When you see the joy that some new paper and colouring pencils bring to a child, it’s hard to not compare it to a child screaming over the latest game for their expensive console. Evenings spent with the whole family, taking time over their small meal, enjoying each other’s company and treasuring the time spent together – something that is so often lost in our busy, technologically consumed lives. Meeting these people brings a sense of perspective that might not have been there otherwise.
There’s nothing more terrifying or more amazing than getting totally, completely and utterly lost somewhere. Many of the places you can travel to will be easy to navigate, with plenty of gorgeous sights to see along the way. There is a beaten track for travellers made by the many who have gone before, and places that are now on that track that were not before. But, it pays to go off that track and to go and get a little bit lost somewhere. You never know what you will discover or where you will end up. Whether it’s driving so far along a road on a little Scottish island that you end up finding the most cosy little pub overlooking the awe-inspiring view of the wild Atlantic Ocean, or wandering through the streets of Barcelona, getting more and more lost until you stumble upon the open door of a local artists studio, or getting more than a little bit lost in Brooklyn and finding an array of incredible vintage stores that you would never have found otherwise.
It’s worth the climb.
While I know this is a bit of a metaphor, I believe it is a great metaphor. Some of the most amazing experiences of travelling have involved more than a little struggle, exertion or even exhaustion. While in Ghana, my fellow travel companions and I had been told we should visit the Agamatsu Falls. We were told there were two options for the falls – the beautiful lower falls which were a gentle 45 minute stroll through the rainforest, or the far more magnificent upper falls, which were a 3 hour steep and exhausting climb through the hills and rainforest. We took the more difficult option – recognising that it would be unlikely that we would get such a chance again – and found ourselves a guide for our three hour climb. Three hours later, as I plunged into the pool at the bottom of the spectacular Agamatsu Upper Falls, I was exhausted but did not regret one second of the exhausting climb. So many things are worth the climb, worth going that extra mile, and worth trying one more time.
Be open but don’t be stupid!
I’m naturally a very open person, and I have found that this is so important when travelling. There is no point in travelling with a closed mind, or being suspicious about every person you meet, or saying ‘No’ to every opportunity for fear it is a con or a trick. In many African countries it is customary to ‘taxi share’ with strangers i.e: if there’s room, and it’s going your way, you get in! The first time this happened, I panicked and asked the driver what he was doing, thinking I was going to get conned into paying for everyone’s taxi journey….until my fellow passenger got out, paid their part of the journey and allowed another passenger to get in. Needless to say, I have since believed this manner of taxi-ing to be highly effective and I wish it was adopted everywhere! It is inevitable that some people may try to trick or con, which is why it is important not to be stupid and fall foe everything – but if we travel in our own little bubble, never interacting with others or being open to experiences and opportunities, we might as well not travel at all.
Don’t forget to come home.
“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
― Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky –