My article ‘The Importance of Travel’ was first published in Travel & Aviation magazine in May, 2015.
You will only live once. And a majority of that life would be spent in the traditional phases for most of us. School – College – University – First Job – Second Job – Job – Fall in love – Get married – have kids – raise them – retire and enjoy old age. I think that would pretty much cover about 60-65 odd years (based on the average expected life Pakistanis). That’s schooling, working, family life split up in those 65 years, 365 days a year. Now trust me the people or person or story which gave life to the phrase You Only Live Once were definitely talking about the above. They were talking about life in spite of the above. All those things will happen. But it is important to live during all this. To make experiences which perhaps would only add or make you appreciate your everyday life more.
Travelling is that one major important element which will give you the experience and perspective and personal insight to all of the above. Whether for adventure, to relax, to explore, to learn or simply to get away from everything and take whatever it offers you – travel is something that should not be ignored. It should be undertaken with open arms and open mind. Travel and you truly will understand the fact that you will live only once.
We have compiled a list of reasons for you to travel. My best bet is that you will be able to relate to at least half of them.
- Travelling has never been easier
First of all let’s clear the air about the difficulties of planning a travel. Travel isn’t a gigantic task or a mount everest that needs to be climbed over. It is not something unreachable or undoable and certainly not because it is difficult to do, plan, manage or execute. More now than ever before travel is actually easier to plan and manage. Yes there might be the challenge of getting the VISA for the destination of choice but beyond that it is certainly no herculean task. The easiest route of course is a travel agent. Just tell them where you want to go and they will plan everything and get it done. Even airlines offer you the option of making arrangements for accomodation along with booking a flight and even transport.
If you are more into doing things and managing yourself than there are many online websites now which help you make your travel plans, book online, provide reviews etc. tripadvisor.com , lonelyplanet.com and booking.com are three such websites which will help you plan you trip from a to z. With reviews provided for hotels along with information on the top attractions of a particular city, these websites also come with ongoing deals on accomodation, tours and air travel. They will help you compare each element, guide you on the dos and do nots and give the perspective of other fellow travellers. Make a detailed itinerary or a light one all can be managed by booking through the websites.
- Opens your eyes and changes the way you relate to the world
It is great reading about all the customers, cultures and things that happen around the world in newspaper articles and online blogs and magazines. They are fantastic to look at in documentaries and other shows on the television. But nothing quite compares to experiencing all of this first hand and then opening your eyes with that added experience to the world that awaits you. The Donor Kebab that you saw on tv or had at the local franchise was great. But the one you can have standing in the streets of Istanbul amidst all the hustle and bustle of Turkey’s most beautiful (in fact one of the world’s most beautiful) cities was an experience on a whole other level. Seeing the locals interacting with each other, going about their daily business, having their lunch in a quick street meal and the way it all comes together was something on its own. Add to that the authentic Donor kebab from the very heart of Istanbul itself – priceless.
The way we look at everyday things that we do when at home changes when we have an added perspective of another part of the world in a meaningful way. Whether it is food or business or a local merchant or a local small business man or any other xyz thing – the perspective you gain, the way you can relate to your everyday life back home will have gained from the travel experience.
- Self Insight
Backpacking through Europe, not knowing exactly where your next stop and meal is going to be at and just living life 1 day at a time during that 10 day vacation. Doesn’t quite sound like the everyday hustle and bustle of driving from your home in DHA or P.E.C.H.S and driving through the clutter of cars on Shahr-e-Faisal and I.I. Chundrigar back in Karachi. Neither is it anything like well cooked Biryani waiting for you at the comfort of your home. You see when you step out of your everyday routine or your comfort zone you will most definitely get an insight about yourself. Maybe you will learn that you enjoy walking. That you actually enjoy roaming the market streets and interacting with people more than you thought. Perhaps you are someone who likes to get your hands on fresh produce and whip up something of a quick meal and experiment and make all that Masterchef viewing come in handy. You will learn that you can be quick on your feet in decision making and that there are certain areas of life that you never knew could be explored. Most of all you might learn that you have a thing for taking breaks, going to new countries and getting new experiences of people, cultures and food.
- Meaningful and memorable encounters with people
When on travel you are bound to meet new people, have new encounters with them. For most parts these might just be your average typical conversation. But everyone once in a while you have a special encounter with someone who might through their shared life experience leave you wiser and enlightened. Or someone with whom you might by chance share a mutual travel experience with which lends foundation to perhaps a story that you tell over and over in your life. They might even be someone that you become good friends with. And maybe, just maybe if you are experiencing a rare hollywood / bollywood moment than you might even meet your soulmate. You learn to embrace being outside of your own social circle of family and friends back home in Karachi or Lahore or Islamabad or wherever in Pakistan you hail from and learn to make new connections and the different perspectives it can bring. It will help you develop the skill of striking up conversations with people you have never met before, of breaking the ice, of making small talk and interesting ones. You will be a more confident and well rounded person at the end of it.
- Learn new languages
It has, it is and always will be cool to know how to speak a different langauge. Other than our mother toungue of urdu, the globally official language of english and our regional ancestral language of sindhi, balochi, pashtu etc. You may not be extremely fluent in it but to be able to utter out a few sentences that you learned while away in Italian or Spanish or French is something that will add that ‘coolness’ factor to you. And its always better when that learning has that travel story attached to it rather than language classes at for example Berlitz in Karachi. Added to all of that there is something deeply satisfying about having been able to do it with the locals on your travel.
- As a transition
It is always good to get away from your world from time to time. It leaves you refreshed and recuperated. Re-energized and raring to have a go at everyday life once more. This is truer for people who are going through different transitions in life. These transitions might be good or bad. It might be in between jobs, in between schools and moving, kids or relationships but just stepping away from all of that for a few days of escape will benefit the end goal of that transition. Sometimes more than the end goal the escape is necessary simply for you to move on with your transition. It can maybe help you deal with a major life event. I have had the personal experience of travelling twice when things got a little too overwhelming for me in my personal life. Both times I came back feeling renewed just that little bit extra. It helped me shut off my mind from everyday stuff or ongoing stuff for those few days and be back with a different energy to move on. This was especially the case when I went to Sri Lanka last year to help myself get over the loss of my mother. Whats more is that at times it needs to be solo to be able to achieve the required goal. So from experience I can say in my opinion that travel is perhaps the best drug, in a completely legitimate and good sense, during any sort of transition period.
- For all the food in the world
Travel is especially essential for a foodie. And we are not talking about the people who are foodies because of their unbelievable capacities to down gastronomic monstrosities. No we are talking about people who love food, for the art of food, for the divine experience of food. For people who know and understand and want more out of their food life than your local spicy biryanis and parhata rolls and niharis. While our pakistani cuisine is rich collection of culinary delights and heritage and history – it is certainly not the end of the world. The world has so much more to offer in taste. So many different ways to cook the fine produce from mother earth each with its own sense
- For the adventure, the experience
Riding the elephants in the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage in Sri Lanka or having the parakeets standing on almost every part of my arms and head while feeding them at the Jurong Bird Park in Singapore or walking through the streets in Trafalgar Square or visiting the historical grounds of my love i.e. Arsenal (football club) in London UK are not experiences that I would trade for anything ever in life. In fact all the traveling I have done – domestic or international – has only left me with the desire of doing it even more. To wanting to see more and more different places and being able to experience the different foods and cultures and people those places have to offer. The night safaris, interacting up close with wild animals, trekking through the mountain ranges, visiting different historical landmarks, the mueseums, the art, the culture, the sacred places, pushing my physical limits and pushing my cautionary flags are experiences and adventures that have left me wanting more. There are many beautiful places and cultures in this world that are waiting to be explored and taken in. The need for adventure and new experiences is hardwired into us. Travel helps you awaken this need and tap into it.
There can be a million more reasons added to this or just one taken from the list above but as soon as you understand yourself and look into yourself you will know that you want to travel. So grab your backpack, book your tickets and get going. The world is a wonderfully diverse place waiting to enrich you with all it has to offer in every corner of it.