Friday, April 19Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

The Joy of Travelling

Over the past years there has been a large increase in people travelling to far-away places for work, holidays and to discover themselves. Travelling to both hot and cold climates or to the northern and southern hemispheres can be eye opening. You can learn more about yourself as well as how other people live and experience different opportunities.

Travelling is not a new thing. The Greeks would travel extensively to parts of Africa and Asia, partly for trade but also to develop and learn new things that they could take back with them. For example, they would learn about the diverse native herbs and vegetation and the different animals that lived there; understand how different medicine and new science can affect life, and they would bring these new ideas back home with them. The Empires of the past understood the importance of travelling and getting the breadth and perspective of different ideas and learning and getting inspiration from others who gave a different perspective on theories.

Life varies extensively from country-to-country, continent-to-continent, not just from town to cities. The Seychelles and Somalia are approximately 1,500 kilometres apart but have an amazing breadth of culture that if you visited you would not think you were on the same planet, let alone same region. In India you have a lot of black Africans who live in the south and are decedents of black Africans who came over centuries ago as salves and warriors. This legacy is still seen today and they consider themselves Indian. These are the subtle but also striking observations that you learn from travelling.

Another reason for the joy of travelling is to witness stuff that is on the decline. There are vast amounts of forests in Madagascar and South America that is being deforested as humans have expanded their manmade boundaries. This has resulted in more and more people wanting to travel to these parts of the world, not only to see rare and unique creatures and wildlife but to assist in countering the destruction we are doing to Mother Nature.

We are not just destroying forests and natural wildlife because of globalisation but also because of growing vaccinations and the exploding population. Forests and land are not just being taken over by large corporations wanting to buy it for investment but also by local people clearing the land for agriculture and their family to live on. We are also desperate to take advantage of resources at our local disposable. This is why pirates off the Somali coast, in the Indian Ocean, want to protect their fish for themselves rather than see large Chinese and American merchants fish for them who, in their eyes, are effectively stealing what they believe belongs to them.

Twenty to thirty years ago people wanted a nice holiday in Spain and sit on a beach. Now scores of people are travelling to more exotic faraway places, not just to relax and visit museums but to meet people. And it is the people that make the place what it is. One of the joys about travelling is meeting people. The mundane detail of everyday life is very poetic. When I have been to India, seeing the people in the market decide which fabric to buy for the sari, discussing religion over chã on the side of the road or bartering over the price of vegetables were often the most revealing.

The ability to understand another person’s language and there life makes it far more interesting and enjoyable and brings the experience more to life. That feeling of connection makes it more interesting and easier to convey to others. Speaking the language also gives you far more opportunities to connect and learn more about the people, the sites and the history.

I know if I had not been to Russia, Brasil, Israel, and other places, writing and talking about those places would not be as easy if I had just seen it on television or read it in a book. I have friends who have worked to South East Asia, travelled to Africa and lived in South America, and when sharing stories about their experiences it is not just a 2-dimentional narrative of what they did. What I have loved and become overwhelmed by is there descriptive narrative of what they smelt and how it made them feel which makes it more enjoyable. This is not just for me to hear but also for themselves in reminiscing their experience.

It is difficult to write and share with others about a place if you have not experienced it. If you have not experienced living in a make-shift tent in the middle of the desert in Africa or on a beach hut in Thailand it is difficult for you to really understand what it is like for the people who have to live in those conditions all the time to feel. It increases the admiration for the people.

It is one thing looking at friend’s holiday snaps but it is completely different going and experiencing this for ourselves. The intensity of having been there makes people want to go back and experience more. Cutting out other people’s perceptions of places is good; and building your own views and perception of it and exposing yourself to these environments and react like a human being make people stronger and wiser.

Travelling is the fastest way of developing and acquiring yourself. By learning and making your own experience will stick with you for the rest of your life and you can share this with your family and friends. You are not going to get the same level of intense experience from television or from a book, no matter how good the programme is but at least it will spur you on. When you are on holiday you are relying on your animal senses (smell, sight, instinct) as this alien environment is testing you.

Travelling is exciting.