I have traveled extensively for my age. This is mostly because my mother is big on travelling. So, instead of spending most of our resources on tangible things like a new car or upgrading the house, she took me and my sister backpacking to faraway countries. I’m very grateful for that because it opened my mind to many different things. But it also gave me something else, something even more crucial; it made me realize that closer to home, in my case Holland, there is also a lot to discover.
Most people associate travelling with going to exotic places and interacting with cultures that are different from their own. Or a period of total comfort ( but I guess that’s the distinction between vacation and travelling). However, in my eyes this is not the essence of travelling. I think that the value of travelling comes from liberating yourself from your everyday structure, from not concerning yourself with the trivial things of daily life but living day by day, moment to moment. This is also where all the hocus pocus of ‘finding yourself’ comes from; when your Self is detached from its everyday social environment (family, friends and colleagues), you discover which aspects of this Self are part of the environment and which are truly You. Many people, for example, discover that they become more laid back while travelling – this just means that your old environment molds you into a more stressful person. Thus, the essence of travelling is to become detached from your everyday structure and live from day to day.
This has some consequences for the objections people raise against travelling. The biggest objection is of a financial nature; in order to travel you have to spend a shitload of money, which you either don’t have or could spend on something more worthwhile. Thus you don’t travel. But this is based on the false assumption that travelling involves taking expensive flights to exotic places. This is simply not true. As I wrote above; travelling is about detaching yourself from your everyday structure. This means that you can also experience the thrill of travelling in your backyard, so to speak.
You can take day trips to cities in your area you haven’t been to yet. And, even though they have a negative connotation of retirees wearing out their last years, museums can also be a great day out when you find something that interests you. Or, if you’re a more adventurous type you can also take a bike and tent and explore the countryside for a few days. Hitchhiking and couchsurfing are also good options.
It is way cheaper, more realistic and accessible than taking expensive flights to faraway places, yet we don’t see people massively travelling in their own country.
Why? I wonder. I think that the precise reason that makes travelling so valuable is also what deters people from travelling, namely; it takes you out of your daily slur. Most of us work from 9 to 5 Monday til Friday and get our leisure from activities that give a quick gratification; watching TV, visiting a nearby park or going out. This is totally understandable and a valid way of choosing to live your life. But it also means that those of us who would like to experience what it’s like to travel are missing out on that because they choose to, not because they are not able to.
I have to admit that I am also guilty of this; I don’t travel inside my own country as much as I would like to, sometimes also because I simply don’t have the time. But the times I do so, I again realize that there are so many opportunities, so many adventures, up for grab right here in front of me. Last summer me and a friend of mine took a train to the South equipped with our backpacks, longboards and tents. We did some wild camping and saw the countryside and, even though it was just for a couple of days, we had a blast. I saw parts of my country that I didn’t even know exist and felt the thrill of backpacking even though I was just a hundred kilometers away from home.
Me and a friend longboarding in Roermond, Southern Netherlands
Thus, your next adventure could be around the corner! You don’t have to take expensive flights to exotic places because travelling means to liberate yourself from your everyday structure, which can be perfectly done in your own area. I don’t expect people to massively start travelling in their own area, but I do hope that by reading this article I inspired some of us who aspire to travel but never took up the endeavor because of false preconceptions of what travelling is all about.