The Meaning of Travel

Is travel a meaningful pursuit of itself?

I think we both know the answer is ‘no’.

Nothing is meaningful by itself. Not even things like having children. The fact that many of us find travel and having children meaningful is probably no coincidence though. Both can profoundly change our perspectives on life. Sometimes quite by accident, we can take a trip that leads us to seriously rethink our values and what we want.

But it needn’t be ‘by accident’. We can design things that way. We can consciously use travel to develop and evolve into the direction we want to go in. And that might mean adjusting our selection criteria a little. Changing the emphasis. 

We are all involved in one way or another on ‘an inner journey’. We might be trying to find a sense of purpose in our work. Or maybe we are in between relationships, and learning to be content with being by ourselves. Or maybe we are trying to live in a more mindful way.

The outer journey can, and possibly should, assist us with the inner one. Religions, with the idea of pilgrimage, have long since shown sympathy for this idea. They have acknowledged that we cannot develop our souls just by staying in our houses. 

does it matter where we go?

Does where we travel to matter? 

The places we choose – because of their qualities of (say), vastness, simplicity, remoteness, vibrancy – can salve the hurt parts of us, or activate the dormant parts. They can help restore and integrate.

At the very least, setting our sights on fresh terrain periodically helps remind us that there is life outside of our own limited worldviews. Travel gets us out of our heads. 

When I was 31, I traveled to the East and stayed a while. What happened in my life is that it became a lot more simple, more purposeful. That outer journey tracked an inner journey. Many people find that, following visits to the East, they desire greater simplicity, and a less egotistical way of living.

When I was 32, I traveled to Mexico and stayed a while. What was I seeking then? Probably slightly more pleasure and fun. Nothing too extreme. Mexico re-balanced me again.

Later that year, I spent some time in the States. When I got back to London, I felt greater clarity, direction and drive to fulfill my creative ambitions. My time in the States helped me to reconnect with my urges on that side. 

European cities can help to fuel creative inspiration. For me anyway: because I find them beautiful.

We should aim for locations that’ll push us to where we need to go mentally. 

For travel to spur changes, we need to be clearer in our minds both about what we’re searching for inside, and what the outer world could deliver for us. Looked at this way, every destination contains within it qualities that could conceivably support a desired inner shift. 

it’s not all about the places 

The other way of looking at it is: the place doesn’t matter so much. Often, it’s the people that we share our journeys with that make the experience meaningful. And not necessarily our travel companions. 

I think that for the encounters to be the most meaningful, you really need to learn to talk from your heart and listen from there, too. Otherwise it’s just a lot of superficial conversations. And you can do that from home. 

For me, people define the moments you remember. When I think of the countries I visited, it is their faces that come to mind. Rebecca (Mexico). Steph (Thailand). Brendan (Thailand). Sometimes they are just people you shared a boat trip with, or that you met at a party, or in a yoga class. They are all a part of the tapestry. 

the last journey I took

France (Sandy)

As I write this, I am sat at a Coffee Republic at Barcelona airport, at the end of my latest trip. I’ve been in Spain for a week. Prior to that, I was in the South of France, where I had flown for some quiet time to write. 

My days writing in France were long and rejuvenating. I was able to get stuck in. But right now, I can’t recall a lot of detail of those hours writing on my laptop. The nuance of how I was thinking and feeling. What I can remember the most clearly is dinner with Sandy.

I met Sandy in 2015 in Thailand. We were both there doing ‘the laptop lifestyle thing’. We reunited again in Mexico in 2016. And now we have the South of France to add to our growing list.

Sandy had already been there two months. My first night coincided with her last. I remember the two hours it took us to make our way through our buckets of mussels. The carafe of rose we drank. I remember her huge brown eyes looking at me in exasperation as we went over a recent experience.

I can tell you more about the details of that evening three weeks ago than I can tell you about the other evenings I spent in France, doing my own thing.

Spain (Luna)

So Sandy was a highlight of my France.  And Barcelona was made by Luna. 

I hadn’t met Luna before. Our mutual friend, Nate (Bali), introduced us. We had a lot to say to eachother; a New York and London native would, I guess. But there was more. We could relate our similar experiences of being women, and single, and freelance, and travelling around.

So we hung out, Luna and I. Rooftop bars with her girlfriends also living in Barcelona. Tales of entrepreneurialism, dating catastrophes. Books, visions, dreams. A day at the beach, rambling walks around Gothic quarter, one pretentious lunch. Greek food in Barcelona’s red light district, with prime view of the transactions, discussing how much we’d charge him – and what about him?

We plan to reconvene in Athens. 

meaning of travel 

Travel can be hugely meaningful, when that’s our intention. We do well to remember that as we are plan our next trips. 

If you are like me, it is the people you will remember. Not the sights, or the tastes, or the smells, or the sounds. The expressions; the laughter; the sadness; and the hopes and fears.

This might be the meaning of travel.