Traveling is an essential human activity - and when I say this, it might not seem essential the way hospitals and grocery stores are. But it is as essential as books and hugs are - essential not for our survival, but for our well-being. It is the food for our soul.
There’s no denial to the fact that the last few months have turned our lives upside down and while there are major restrictions due to the Coronavirus, a mental pandemic has also been spreading like wildfire resulting from a series of disappointments.
Study-abroad on hold. Planes grounded. Beaches deserted. National parks shuttered. Markets emptied. Family-reunions postposed. Weddings called off. Festivals adjourned. The ‘New Normal’ is definitely welcoming us in a dystopian world, making us more aware of the importance of freedom that’s crucial for our existence.
As traveling has been restricted since the beginning of March this year, and we enclosed ourselves within the four walls of our home, we got enough time to take an inward journey – to understand ourselves in better lights, to focus on things that we previously ignored amidst the hustle and bustle of life, to appreciate & be grateful for certain things that we took for granted. Honestly, the pandemic has taught me some valuable lessons.
For the first few months, when my trips got canceled one after another, I felt extremely low and started understanding how I always took my trips for granted. I realized that traveling is a privilege and I am surely blessed to have seen sunsets in different parts of the world or mighty mountains being kissed by floating clouds, or spend days roaming around the streets of an unknown city, laughing with a bunch of strangers.
Recently, while talking to a friend over a call and discussing how the sedentary life has been affecting us, we made an impromptu plan to escape to the mountains for a month. Although unsure of how things would figure out, I felt a sense of joy that triggered my enthusiasm, making me feel energetic to handle the regular chores of daily routine. Over the last couple of days, whenever I feel stuck or low, I’ve been thinking of that mountain-escapade and it instantly boosts my mood.
Thus, I realized all over again that traveling is an essential human activity, for we aren’t born to live a sedentary life.
Traveling is not just about the journey or the destination – but the entire process that begins from the time we hope to see a place and plan to visit there, all the uncertainties and surprises that we experience, and the feeling of containment that stays in our heart even after we return back home.
Aptly put by Henry Miller, traveling is more about “a new way of seeing things”.
Just think of it, I’m sure that even you have spent hours during this lockdown, thinking of the trips you’ve taken and the ones you’ll go for. You must have gone through all your old albums, flipping through the memories of all those summer vacays and winter holidays; scrolled through Instagram checking out #Throwback photos of friends & acquaintances.
As I sit here, writing this piece of article and reminiscing about my old journeys, I have a smile on my face thinking about the mountain flight that took me closer to Mt. Everest, fulfilling a dream that was added to my bucket list for the longest time, and those little kids who ran to me every morning, as I walked into the shelter home in Kenya where I was volunteering. As 2020 kicked in, I was dancing on the streets of Saigon with thousands of strangers, as firecrackers filled the sky – did any of us think then, how the year will turn out to be?
I believe that hope lies in the very nature of travel, which entails wishful thinking. There’s a demand for a leap of faith, and of imagination, to board a plane for some faraway land – hoping, wishing – for a taste of the unknown.
Traveling is an essential human activity – and when I say this, it might not seem essential the way hospitals and grocery stores are. But it is as essential as books and hugs are – essential not for our survival, but for our well-being. It is the food for our soul.
To quote a famous saying – “We travel not to escape life but for life not to escape us.”
Being quarantined for months, I do feel the urge to sit & take a break at a cafe near the Louvre or walk down the alleyways of Tokyo. I wish to wake up before daybreak and set out for a game drive in Kruger, to watch the giraffes and elephants. I dream of strolling by the beaches of Ubud with my best friend, as we discuss how the pandemic has changed our lives. And all these thoughts are essential for me – and maybe, you too have a list of things that you want to tick off, once the world heals. Maybe you’ll board a flight to put an end to your long-distance relationship or take a trip to meet your grandparents.
So go ahead and plan that trip, because as per scientists, it’s good for you. Merely thinking about a pleasurable experience is itself pleasurable. Right now, we’re all stuck in between courses, savoring where we’ve been, anticipating where we’ll go. Anticipation has its own reward, to say the least.
Planning for travel – thinking about it, talking about it, imagining it – may, in fact, be the best thing you can do to stay optimistic and when this is all behind us, we’ll probably be ready to embark on yet another journey, that’ll make us look at the world differently.
The pandemic has taught us to be grateful for a lot of things that we are blessed with. It has made us realize that we should be more responsible for our actions and live more mindfully. While I’d no longer take my trips for granted, the pandemic has also taught me that travel is essential for our soul – it’s a gift that fuels our well-being.
(Photos from left to right: Children practising for a cultural show at Wat Pho, Bangkok; The empty streets of White Town in Pondicherry; The ‘Apsaras’ at Angkor Wat; The Great Ocean Road in Australia.)