It’s a strange bit this traveling, just to travel, thing.
There’s a moment in The Motorcycle Diaries in which the Bolivian couple, struggling to find work and driven from their homes because of their political beliefs, ask Ernesto why [they] are traveling. The response, “We travel just to travel.” To which the reaction was a bit of shock, a bit of reflection and mostly an inability to understand this desire, craving and frankly, the luxury of being able to travel for no other purpose than to travel.
In many regards I encounter this reaction often. In others, it is a bit of longing to do the same. And to those, whom share this condition, it is a deep connection where words are not needed, it is inherently understood.
I was posed with a question two evenings ago, in a discussion with my Couchsurfing host who recently had to leave a trip of a lifetime to come home early, much before anticipated. The question was derived from a commonality she witnessed among many travelers like myself, like herself, and she wondered what I thought about it.
Paraphrased, “Are all travelers running from their own hardships, not wanting to address ‘demons within’ or not wanting to make important decisions of life?“
It’s a valid question. It is something I know I have experienced in my past, not only of myself, but also of many travelers I have encountered. Travel seems to be the easy answer, time and responsibility almost disappear while the need to fill basic requirements of food, shelter and connection to the place or its people occupy every moment of one’s daily activity.
The quantity of energy necessary to meet life’s necessities consumes any extra that would be available for asking the tough questions of yourself; to having to reconsider past decisions, failures experienced, life’s pitfalls or events one may not have had control over, but that did not come out as was desired.
I know I have experienced long periods of time where all my energy went towards thinking of these exact things or I expended enormous energies engaging in interactions where I was unable to change the outcome for the better. I knew at the heart I wanted to travel to escape this destructive behavior and eventually I did exactly that to find solace within myself and within the world that I knew. And once I finally did make the decision to travel, it was to run away, running was easy. But in running few if any answers were discovered, and in hindsight I did not learn anything new about myself.
It was only upon locking myself down, by choice or as it was, through options that were denied to me, where I was able to consciously arrive at a decision that required me to ask those hard questions and to look deeply within myself. This was not easy, and very likely, a lifetime of experience and the wisdom that arose from it, allowed for this undertaking to occur and the resulting benefits that resulted from it, to happen.
So are travelers running from themselves? Maybe not all of them, but I think it is safe to say, many are doing exactly that. Is this a bad thing? Probably not, as there are things us as travelers would never learn about ourselves or the world around us without this extensive travel. Is it a good thing? Likewise, it must be this as well, given without it, we might be doomed to a life which does not make us happy. Do we have a choice? I’m not sure that we do, with travel comes comfort and peace that we cannot find in one place, and without either, it is extremely difficult to alter that which ails us inside.
As Che [Guevara] concluded in his journey across a the South American continent, “I am [no longer] me; at least I am not the same inside…“
And in many regards, that is the real truth that arises from any travel of duration. We are no longer able to see the outside world the same as we did prior to starting, just as we are unable to see the same person we were back then. Maybe that is the connection us travelers share; an ongoing evolution of self others, whom do not travel, may not recognize consciously. Or maybe I’m just making this all up to justify why I travel. Ultimately, we may never know these answers with any certainty.
And such is the traveler’s life, a journey into the unknown, where minor discoveries become a part of what we are… at that moment anyways. 🙂