The fear of travel
At a time when ISIS feels so inclined to make threats against a four-year-old future King, it is understandable that the world is living in a perpetual state of fear. However, it is exactly at this time, when travel is imperative.
Following the devastating attack in Manchester, radio stations reached out to their listeners, asking how they would respond.
“I want to call my parents and tell them to cancel our Europe trip.”
“We are going to a football game next week but after that, I think we’ll be staying home.”
“I love to travel but I don’t know if the risks are worth it.”
The fear is palpable. It’s all around; in people’s actions; their words, their eyes. We are at risk of becoming prisoners not only of our own homes, but of our minds.
Risk and regret
The truth is, anything can happen no matter where we are or what we are doing. I could trip walking down the street, fall into a pothole and knock myself out for good. If you know me, you know that is always a possibility.
Is that a cynical view of the world? No, I don’t think so. I believe in being realistic, in recognising that we are not, in fact, immortal. Except for Betty White, she is going to be around forever. In acknowledging our temporal state, we give ourselves permission to live in the moment; make the most of this one wild and precious life.
That being said, I am certainly not advocating the abandonment of all common sense. Please don’t go walking down alleyways on your own because you’ve decided to throw all caution to the wind. Unless of course you are in Melbourne. All the best hangouts in the city are hidden down questionable looking alleyways.
When I get to the end of my life, I want to look back at all the adventures I had, all the places I saw and the lessons I learned. I don’t want to look back and feel nothing but regret at the chances I missed; the risks I didn’t take. Everything I forewent because of fear.
One of Melbourne’s famous city laneways
The importance of travel
So then, what is the solution? What is the cure for the current state of the world?
It’s simple really. We stop letting the media write the narrative. We venture out into the world and reclaim this story.
So, without further ado, here are 5 of the most important reasons to travel:
REASON 1: Travel is education
I was sixteen years old, nearing the end of my schooling years, when I received the most valuable education of all. An exchange to Brittany, France, that would open my eyes to a world of which I had only ever dreamed.
I was terrified. Venturing out on my own, living with a French family for six weeks; it seemed so much could go wrong. However, it was I who was wrong. Not only did I learn a new language; I learned a new way of life.
Before relocating to London, I thought it was a city of grey skies and a giant clock tower. The world had always told me how “unfriendly” the English were; how cold. Cut to 2013 when I landed in a life full of the warmest, most welcoming people I have ever had the fortune of calling my friends.
The education we receive when travelling is not always as tangible as learning a language. Unlike our memories of vocabulary, some lessons will never fade. Respect, patience and an appreciation for what’s different; they will stay with me forever.
“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.” – Aldous Huxley
The colourful classic cars of Havana, Cuba
REASON 2: Travel makes the world smaller
Don’t judge a book by its cover. It is a cliche for a reason. However, it is only through living this adage over and over, that we truly come to realise its profoundness.
Lost on the streets of Vienna, map in hand, a stranger approaches. In near-perfect English he asks where we need to go. He boards a train with us and approaches again to tell us when to disembark, before finally carrying on with his own day.
After a night of indulging in camel burgers and the tales of the master storytellers, we stand, unsure of our abilities to navigate the labyrinthine streets of Marrakesh. Without hesitation, a staff member leaves his post and walks the twenty minute journey with us to our riad.
The world is vast. At around 510 million square kilometres, there is little room for debate on that. However, much like the friends, family and neighbours we rely on at home, there are a plethora of people in this vast world who are always willing to lend a hand.
Whether we are Australian, Japanese, Brazilian or French, we are all human. We cry the same tears and we smile the same smiles.
Of course we don’t all live the same lives. Some people will suffer unimaginable tragedy in their lives and some, like me, will be lucky.
What is important to remember, however, is that every person has a story. Learn their loves, their hates and their passions; and you’ll soon realise how incredibly similar we all are.
Just a couple of the beautiful souls I have met during my years of travel
REASON 3: Travel builds relationships
Whether you travel with family, friends, organised tours or prefer to go solo, opportunities abound for some serious relationship building.
For many years, my sister has been my most loyal travel buddy. Backpacking through Europe, losing our way in the snow, flooding bathrooms, getting locked out of our accommodation; these experiences have tested us. Yet, with life-changing moments come life-changing relationships.
Despite knowing the endless possibilities of travel, I was still somewhat reticent about our Contiki trip through Vietnam. Would we fit in? Would we spend two weeks with our fellow travellers only to bid them adieu and never again cross paths?
Well, since that adventure in 2012, I have been visited in Australia by two of my Contiki travel buddies, visited another in New York City, two more in London and travelled with one through Poland.
“A journey is best measured in friends, not in miles.” – Tim Cahill
REASON 4: Travel conquers fear of the unknown
It is possibly the greatest challenge facing us today. The rampant rise of terror attacks has not only spread fear, it has proliferated hate. Hate for what we cannot control; for those we hold responsible; for the unknown.
What I do know is that, following the horrific attacks in Barcelona, thousands of Muslims marched against terrorism.
I also know that it is far too easy to fear what we do not know or understand. Though, what is travel if not an opportunity to understand and see the world more clearly?
Whilst in London, someone once said to me they would never visit Australia because everything in the country is out to kill you. Well, I live in Australia and I am proud to report that not once has a creature actively tried to end me.
Or perhaps it’s the dreaded Delhi belly that strikes fear into your heart? Or the streets of Hanoi, bustling with cars, trucks, motorbikes, scooters and all manner of vehicles capable of running you over?
How much would we miss out on if we let this fear take control? People may never have seen the majesty of Egypt, the shrines at Gallipoli, the camels of Pushkar.
So, take the trip, eat the food and make the friends.
“The more I travelled the more I realised that fear makes strangers of people who should be friends.” – Shirley MacLaine
The vibrant spices of India colour the streets
REASON 5: Travel changes you
I have been travelling since the tender age of two. Whilst I may not remember every moment, every detail of every trip, I am forever marked by the places I’ve visited.
I will never forget the feeling of seeing the Colosseum looming before me, as though a part of history had come up to greet me. Or losing hours upon hours in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, wishing Picasso himself could tell me the story of his works.
As we travel we learn increasingly more about ourselves. It is as though we are collecting pieces of our jigsaw puzzle until, one day, we finally see the whole picture.
My travels haven’t been perfect. They aren’t supposed to be. They are supposed to change us in some way; change the way we see the world. For better or for worse, we see the soul of a place; its light and dark, its hope and despair, its past, present and future.
“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” – Miriam Beard
Do you agree that travel is now more important than ever? Let me know what you think in the comments below!
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