”The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” – Saint Augustine
Don’t you just love the word ‘travel’? Apart from rolling off the tongue with ease, travel has that nomadic, free-spirited ring to it. The problem that I have with the word ‘travel’ however, is that it is immediately associated with booking expensive long-haul flights and ending up halfway across the world in a land so distant and foreign, that even Donald Trump seems more relatable than the place that you’ve just stepped into.
I cannot express enough how important it is that ‘to travel’ simply means moving from one place to another, whether it be 15 minutes away, half an hour away, or 12 hours away. It is when we experience things familiar or unfamiliar to us through new eyes, it is exploring that one beach up the road that you’ve been meaning to explore for the past year, it’s packing up the car with your friends for the day & heading for a hike. For myself, traveling is associated with exploration, adventure & new experiences and where the distance doesn’t matter.
As many of you know, my family have always been that local holiday family, pack the car the night before, get on the road at 5am while my brother & I slept in the back until the sun rose & we would prioritise exploring our own beautiful backyard. We were lucky enough to go on a few overseas trips which included Mauritius, Thailand, the UK & parts of Europe & since then I have been lucky enough to travel independently to Los Angeles, Banff in Canada, more of the UK, Austria & a large part of Europe, and still compared to my fellow travel companions, I am by no means a seasoned traveller. I have a lot more passport stamps to collect & stories to harvest before I get the badge of ‘traveler’ stuck on my forehead.
From my previous travel experiences, I can confidently say that nothing prepares you better for life than traveling. It teaches you things that the education system fails to teach you & instead of trying to balance equations, something that I will probably never again use in my life, traveling teaches us how to handle our money effectively (or we learn the hard way as I did), it teaches us to appreciate the small stuff instead of the materialistic value-less items as nice as they might be, it teaches us to be independent, to develop our social & communication skills, it gets us out of our comfort zones, makes us scared, makes us feel alive & makes us appreciate home a whole lot more.
In January 2011, I landed in London, Heathrow, fresh out of high school where I had a large support circle of friends & family, I lived in a place where I knew the streets backwards, I felt as though I dominated the world & my comfort zone, well, I was always in my comfort zone. When I landed in Heathrow, my ego shrank, I became nervous, apprehensive & it all sunk in that everything that I was familiar with for 18 years of my life had just vanished. I made my way to King’s Cross Station completely unaware what the exchange rate was & how much money I actually had in pounds, and handed in my travel wallet card upon asking for the train to Peterborough, which was one stop before my final destination, Stamford. Unfortunately the guy behind the desk thought that I had said Edinburgh & it was only on the train that I realised my ticket had cost a deathly amount in pounds. Within the first hour, all of my start-up money for the year was gone.
It’s amazing how we adapt. I started working in a junior boarding school and the thought of being a teacher was the last thing that I could have imagined myself doing. I shared a flat with this dodgy New Zealander called Henry (just kidding, he was great), and the only thing that separated us was a cardboard thin wall which we used to have conversations through at night. Eventually I was teaching art classes, refereeing netball & hockey matches, putting children to bed, having adult conversations about politics & the economy, organising and booking group holidays, setting up & managing my own banking, my own medical papers, dealing with multiple traveling crisis where my visas got declined & I had to stay behind while all of my friends went away. The dodgy New-Zealander who I lived with became my best friend within the first two weeks & we would sit for hours exchanging stories of how different & similar our lives were. I made friends from all across the world & as a result have connections in numerous places. 2011 was the year that the travel bug hit, the year that I started to question my initial decision to go into a mainstream job studying business & the likes, and most importantly 2011 was the year that I grew up.
Despite my story, it is important to remember that we don’t need to go overseas to experience these things. We just need to get out, get away. We need to get even slightly out of our comfort zones, whether that’s camping for some, or a road trip for others & be able to cope with new situations in unfamiliar places. My point is that while routine is great, it is important to travel in between, to explore and to adventure in order to grow, whether it is somewhere close or far from home. Coming from Cape Town, which is a relatively small city where everyone knows everyone, it is very easy to quickly fall back into my comfort zone, and I too need the reminder of how important it is to change up the scenery, to say yes to more things that might make me feel uncomfortable & grab every opportunity to travel as much as I can.
Have any of you had a life-changing experiences as a result of traveling? A change of perspective? A crisis? Let me know below 🙂