21 June 2015
Ever come back from a trip, ensconced your head in the comfort of your old familiar pillow and sighed to yourself ‘Ah! Home sweet home!’ Let me confess, i do this each and every time, however wonderful or enjoyable the outing may have been! Yet if someone were to offer me a chance to travel again the very next day, i would be willing to pack my bags and be ready to undertake another journey. Sometimes i wonder about this restlessness, this unquenchable thirst for movement, for touring and travelling that seems to afflict so many of us. Families like mine who are used to a semi-nomadic life due to work-related transfers possibly have wanderlust grafted on to their dna. Even after their organization retires them, they never can ‘settle’ down. As one such friend remarked the other day “If I had to settle and grow roots, i would have been a tree!” To look at it from a larger perspective, human evolution itself is a saga of continuous migration. Homo sapiens have been wandering around discovering new places, settling and re-settling since times immemorial. Our life-as-a-journey is probably the oldest metaphor in mythology. Even our ancestors recognized this basic necessity that people need to experience cultures and societies miles apart from their own…only instead of tourist destinations they set up pilgrimage centres just to get people to move out of their comfortable, routine, at-times-humdrum existence and add some excitement even hardship to their lives.
In a compelling TED-Talk on ‘Where is Home’ by Pico Iyer (just as an aside anyone interested should read his brilliant essays on travel), I was struck by these lines
“…the beauty of being surrounded by the foreign is that it slaps you awake! You can’t take anything for granted. Travel, for me, is a little bit like being in love, because suddenly all your senses are at the setting marked “on”. Suddenly you’re alert to the secret patterns of the world…”
A popular discussion these days centres over the distinction between a ‘tourist’ and a ‘traveller’. Many argue that the current travel-craze is more about touring to gape at the archaisms of alien cultures and less about the spirit of exploring and understanding new people and their social mores and norms. In some ways it’s true and it is tempting to join tour-groups who take you around in a familiar-environment-bubble. Then you realise that “there is wisdom in turning as often as possible from the familiar to the unfamiliar…it keeps the mind nimble, kills prejudice and fosters humour. ” And when you learn to leave behind all your pre-conceived notions and see things with an open mind and in a new light…you’re on your way to becoming an intrepid traveller.