Growing up, I relished the idea of travelling. Family trips were a big deal. I hardly caught sleep the night before a major trip. I loved the journey; bus or train. I preferred the window seat, which allowed me to take in as much of the scenery as possible. It was fascinating. I always thought I saw trees, people, and buildings dashing by as the transport moved. For most of the journey, my head remained turned to the window, eyes and mind engrossed in the unfolding magic outside, thinking about where the road would take me then, even in the future. Though my body was in the transport, I let my mind and soul wander out, in the wild.
Back then, travelling was more about the journey itself, but now, it is mostly about the destination. See, I always dreamt of the day when I could afford to travel wherever and whenever I wanted. With a map on the table and a pen in the hand, I would close my eyes and blindly point anywhere on the map; then immediately start planning my journey to the place the pen pointed, regardless. Well, you see, this dream is slowly unfolding, I already have the table, the map and the pen.
I know sometimes you’ll be having this conversation with your bank account about your desire to travel more, and your bank account will suggest you go visit the nearby park. Well, listen to your bank account, just go to the park! Now, seriously, travelling is great. It does not have to be expensive. You can start by going to a place you have never been to. This may be within your city or town, or that neighbouring small town you have never been to. If you work on an 8-to-5 schedule, Monday to Friday, remember, once-in-a-while weekend getaways or road trips are great! Bottom line, do not put travelling on hold until you are ‘rich’ or have more free time. That time might never come, it is a matter of priorities.
Working as a field researcher let me travel to almost all parts of my country. Admittedly, the travelling part was one of the best things I loved about my job. It took me from loud cities with glaring night lights to small remote towns and villages with pitch dark, still nights. I always marvelled at the beauty of my country and its people. Oh, and the magnificence of the different cultures and diversity. This job brought me to the realisation that there was something about remoteness that I loved. The allure of remoteness. I still do. Maybe it is a Malinowski thing? So, who else is currently skipping city breaks and touristy spots in their travels?
I am going to talk about culture shocks. This takes me way back to Anthropology 101. Culture shocks are weird. However, there are things you can do to avoid culture shocks. So, you are planning to visit a foreign country, or a place with a different culture? Good. First, it is advisable to read about the place beforehand. There’s a plethora of information online today, you can do it. Learn about their way of life, language, food, law, e.t.c. Once you arrive, try as much as possible to blend in the new culture. Eat their food, interact with the people, and respect their customs. If you are not planning to do this, isn’t it better if you just stayed at home? Let’s say I am travelling outside my country; I will not be hell-bent on looking for restaurants that serve my country’s staples. I don’t mean it is a bad thing, but I will only be limiting my experience of the new culture. I also cannot overemphasise the importance of learning basic phrases of the language spoken in the country you are visiting. Do not rely on your translator app, you may lose your phone or find yourself in parts not supplied with the internet.
What is my point then? If you can, travel. Do it as much as you can, as far as you can go. Remember, no place is ever as bad as some people might tell you. Do not listen to people, just pack your bags and go find out for yourself! You will learn, collect lifelong experiences and memories. The best part, you will smile watching the sunrise, sunset, and moonshine on the other side of the world. Above all, travelling will change you and open up your mind some more.
Nowadays, the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single click. After reading this, I hope you will slowly crawl out of that little corner, buy that bus, train, or plane ticket you have been putting off, better yet, fix your bike or car and hop onto that adventure. You’ll be surprised what is waiting for you out there. In the end, you will return home, and reflect on how the journey has changed you, even in the smallest of ways.