The Art of Travel – A Love Story
Nothing in the world relaxes me more than the acceleration of a jet plane prior to take-off. The sudden change of pace as the engines roar with that definitive seriousness as I’m vacuumed to my economy (hopefully window) seat. The natural recline as the plane lifts at an incalculable angle which has something to do with physics, engineering, mathematics and weight distribution, explained once upon a time in classes I have long since failed and forgotten if not entirely misunderstood altogether. The closest thing to magic, an illusion the Wright brothers manufactured all those years ago. I drift to sleep knowing I’m on my way to somewhere better, at peace at last while cocooned inside a missile. A temporary escape from early mornings, spreadsheets and the veritable rat race that is my life Monday to Friday, nine to five. I read once that if you miss a rung on the ladder, the ladder may no longer exist. While that may be ringing all too true in my working life, I use the glass half full approach with travel, not seeing a ladder but an ever-moving escalator that lets you jump on and off as often as your heart desires and wallet permits.
I land in a place where English is not the native tongue, I cough as I breath the intoxicating aroma of pollution, I endure the thrill of a highly efficient total bowel collapse upon venturing to the bathroom and subsequent squat toilet, I’m at the edge of the world, yet I have never before felt more at home.
I drink local hooch like there’s no hangovers, eat questionable food with ill-regard for scales or my lower intestinal tract. I sleep in, I go to bed late, I do nothing at all. Where am I? Is it Asia, South America, Europe? It doesn’t particularly matter.
As I recall the tales of my travels to my inquisitive friends, the looks of indescribable confusion stare back at me with steady left to right, right to left head movements. The illusion of stability controls their lives. Career, family and life goals to accomplish as if being shepherded along like sheep.
Lambs to the slaughter, my interpretation.
The undiluted pre-packaged excitement of a Balinese sunset they tell me. Sipping mojitos on a private five star hotel beach they boast. ‘Good for a day’ I say….but, ‘don’t you feel like you’re in a glorified compound?’
‘Oh, you mean safe’ they reply with a bemused chuckle and smirk of contempt.
Life without risk is a life without adventure. If I wanted to be bored, experience the mundane comforts of the first world, I’d stay at home and lay on the beach there. Reckless abandonment aside, the greatest destinations are more often than not, the unregulated, the unusual, dare I say, off the beaten path.
Get away from the orderly, the regular, the predictable and try something outside of the constitutional normalcy. Something inconveniently blissful. Sail to Antarctica, climb an active volcano, eat a spider, step outside the zone of predictable comfort, fend off those voices of overpowering negativity and see something you would usually only imagine behind the protected screen of immediacy on Google Earth.
Will you find spiritual enlightenment? Maybe, but probably not. Will it all go to your perfectly planned itinerary? Definitely not.
Get lost, find yourself, test yourself and push the limits.
Without getting too sentimental I will revert to a few classic lines, messages of philosophy from the movie Fight Club –
The things you own end up owning you.
How much can you know about yourself, if you’ve never been in a fight?
Without pain, without sacrifice, we would have nothing.
Dream big, the end of the rainbow – that life changing experience is really not as far away as you think. Do something that scares you, break some rules. Laugh, love, release something buried deep inside yourself and go beyond what you think is possible.
That is the art of travel.