There’s an old cliché that travel opens your mind, that it is somehow a magical elixir which once drunk changes your world forever. Spending a semester aboard in Madrid with friends and hitting every club in the city isn’t going to provide any earth shattering revelations above and beyond how much alcohol it takes to blackout. Likewise, group tours, while providing some historical and cultural context, don’t bring much more to the table than can be delivered with a good book or a web browser. In both cases, the “traveler” is isolated, content to stew in the juices of familiarity, never to peek over his proverbial pot to see the world around him.
The truth is travel is what you make of it, and today it is more important than ever. We in the “developed world” have become compliance as a society, no longer seeking to challenge ourselves both mentally and physically, intolerant of anything that does not conform to a world view or mores.
Where does this intolerance stem from? Our increasing reliance on society to guide us through life has stripped us of our individuality. As we become more subservient to humanity, we become increasingly frustrated with it when it does not conform to our personal beliefs. For despite our growing malaise, inwardly still burns the fire of self-consciousness.
It is a fact that in today’s world most things are done for us. Food is prepared, packaged, and very often cooked without any input from the consumer. We go to school to learn from a standardized curriculum and follow the well-worn path that demands first a bachelor’s, now a master’s, and soon a Ph.D. Afterwards, the majority of us will languish at work, nothing more than automatons dutifully following orders from the person above our station, who is only carrying out the wishes of someone further up the chain. The individuals who are making the decisions are few and far between.
Considering the situation, it would seem that we as individuals have no control over our lives. However, this is an illusion. We are, in fact, completely in control of our lives but have become so desensitized to have lost the ability to feel it.
This is why travel is important and not just any kind of travel but independent travel. Here we can leave our comfort zones, throw off the shackles of familiarity, and take the first steps to reclaiming our individuality. Independent travel forces us to be personally responsible for our actions. This does not mean, though, that we don’t rely on others. On the contrary, a truly independent traveler is constantly seeking advice, but the decisions made are the traveler’s own. Independent travel is about self-reliance, and the lessons learned on the road can be transcendental.
Each week The Travelingi will post a new piece. There is no set topic; articles can vary from philosophy and religion to practical advice and travel guides. It is a reflective library on travel that will hopefully provoke serious discussion and thought among the open minded. I hope you will join me on this journey.