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by Charlotte Ede September 18, 2022 5 min read
Thousands of the world’s most intrepid explorers are out there right now, traversing some of the most undiscovered places on our planet. Remote desert plains, rocky mountain reaches and thriving jungle climes. Others, perhaps first-time explorers, will be travelling the well-trodden paths of the backpacker trails that cross Asia, Europe, Australasia. Tried and tested, enticing, busy and thriving.
‘Travel’ is a curious thing. It draws us in and fills us with this pulling urge: to do something, see something, find some thing. As far as what this thing is? For many people along the way, what they’ll really find is themselves. Not that they’re somehow lost and need reuniting with themselves, but rather that, away from home comforts and the structured society we’re raised in, we start to unearth the real person, who we truly are. Underneath preconceptions, long-held opinions, and societal constructs, exists the person who we really are.
Many a traveler will describe the strong, urgent desire to visit faraway places, that seems to be common amongst those with wanderlust-filled hearts. A longing for a place they’ve never been. For faces they’ve never known. This urge pulls us from pillar to post, north pole to south, from white, fluffy snow, to hot, sandy beaches. The destination hardly matters in comparison to the journey itself. For, along these endless travels, we begin to become some thing new.
We experience how others live and perhaps we begin to appreciate our lives a bit more. For probably every single individual reading this journal entry right now on a computer or smartphone, it’s likely you have running water. Food. A roof over your head. Money in your bank accounts or wallet, or both. If you’re reading this, chances are you’re privileged enough to be one of those people who can afford to travel, even if only sometimes. If you’re even luckier, you’ll have someone, or several someone’s, who love you and whom you love. If you woke up possessing all these things today, congratulations, as you’re luckier than 99% of the rest of the world. Isn’t that wild? But, for so many ‘one-percenters’, life is a series of unmet goals, and a fierce longing for something we don’t already possess.
As a species, we’ve evolved to the point where, in the first world, all our basic human survival needs are met. So, what happens then? For the human race, who have spent potentially thousands of years travelling with the seasons, living off the land? Well, we begin to search for something more: It’s in our very DNA. So, does that mean we spend our lives searching, endlessly for this thing, this seemingly out-of-reach achievement, something we find that somehow completes us? I’d like to offer an alternative. What we’re looking for, what each of us is truly longing for, is not endless achievement, physical success, and possession. Deep down, what all of us really want, is a sense of true inner peace. We’re just looking for it all in the wrong places. We insist on having a purpose.
Better paid jobs and get-rich-quick schemes, sky-high mortgages and ‘fifty things to do before you die’ checklists. It’s because we’re blinded by this society of fast-paced, convenience-consumerism, that we’re missing what’s really in front of us. Or rather, inside of us. It doesn’t matter if you woke up at home today, or if you woke up in a five-star resort on the other side of the world. You possess something which all the luckiest people on the planet do. Now, please pay attention closely because I’m going to say something radical now. You, our constant reader, possess the wonderful ability to be grateful. You are capable of making the decision, each and every day, to wake up and be utterly grateful for what you find.
Did you open your eyes today and have full sight? Did you see a tree, a bird, or a flower? Congratulations! Isn’t it beautiful? Is your body able; can you run, walk, or dance? If so, give thanks to the Universe that you can. If you can’t – be grateful instead that your mind is sharp and capable and that you can read and understand this article. Be grateful for every breath your lungs inhale and for every time your heart beats. Because you’re alive, right now, this very second!
Eat something you love and savour every second of it. Hell, eat something weird that you’ve never tried before and mull over what it reminds you of. Wake up and empty your underwear drawers out, wash everything in wonderful, scented detergent and enjoy the process of feeling grateful for being able to put clothes on your back. Wake up tomorrow and juice fresh oranges, because why not? Fry mushrooms and tomatoes in garlic and lemon. Dance, if you feel like it. Read something new, if you don’t.
True travel is really just presence. Away from the pressures of the nine to five, we find perspective. We are able to escape from the confines of the life we’re told we should want: school, uni, job, marriage, mortgage, kids, retirement. Travel gives us time and space to be present in our lives, in our bodies and in our minds. And time spent being present is so, so precious! It means we get to observe ourselves a bit and to observe the world around us. We get to broaden our world view and grow.
I’ve been writing this today, knowing that many people who read this might be facing down the very real consequences of the cost-of-living crisis. So, at the moment, physical travel is not in reach for everyone. While I’ll forever promote the virtues of physical travel, I do also believe that achieving that sense of wonder and presence is possible from home, too. What I’m saying is, if you find yourself not able to physically travel today, embark on a different kind of journey.
Instead of catching a flight, take an internal journey, within yourself. Get to know what you like and dislike. Write, journal, make notes. Close your eyes and just notice how your body breathes. Express your gratitude for every blessing you wake up to. Try to remember that the grass isn’t always greener. It’s our choices that count. Go home and envelope someone you love in a great-big hug. Tell them that you love them, while you can. Go to the library and take out some books about things you’re curious about and read them voraciously. Set up a safari tent in your living room and sleep there instead. Go for a walk in a place you’ve never made the time to visit before now. Walk a different route to work, even.
Simply put, choose to be grateful for the things you do have, rather than exerting energy or directing focus towards the things you don’t. That’s the most important lesson travel teaches you anyway!
Each season in our lives serves a purpose. Those who have known loss understand that once a moment has passed, once a season comes to a close, you never get it back. Make every decision with this in mind: does this help me get closer to the life I want to live? To the happiness and joy and simple contentment you want to feel. If you answer no, pivot, make a new choice. If you answer yes, keep replicating those decisions and feeling grateful for every moment you feel that way. Make the choice today. It’s yours to make, after all.
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