I started writing this post with the title "why we travel" though I don't think I have the right to say "we" as every one of us travel for different reasons, and each individual reason is no better than the other.
I put travelling in the same category as reading. As an individual, one is conditioned by the environment you grow up in, by the people you make daily interactions with, and by the experience one is living. Reading and travelling are two activities that help us jump out of the environment we are used to in order to experience a different type of life.
My journey while growing up was smooth. My parents are doctors, so I always went to the best schools and always stayed on top of my classes. I used to think there was no other world beyond this little circle of mine - or I simply didn't pay any interest as it felt far away and irrelevant. When I was a teenager, my dream then was to live in a house with my best friends in no other place than my home town. Back then I hated travelling. This is because I saw going somewhere else as being away from my friends.
My first year in the UK brought me a lot of changes. It was the first time I made friends with people from different parts of the world. It was during my discussion with them that I realised how limited my view of the world was, and how different life can really be. I was amazed with the open mindedness shown by some of them; they simply do not judge other people's views, but instead, try to understand them -when all I did was try to stubbornly prove myself right. I grew more fascinated with the different perspectives life had to offer and I wanted to see them with my own eyes. That was when I fell in love with travelling.
But when I started travelling, it was done in "Chinese style". It was like a competition of how many places you could squeeze into a day. The urge to see the world and experience more within a limited time drove it (in China, there's only 10-day annual leave). The privilege a lot of people enjoy here (holidays, transport, visa-free, etc.) are simply not enjoyed in China. So please, when next you see a group of Chinese tourists, do not judge them.
I have friends who are always proud to announce the number of countries they've been to. While I'm proud of them, what makes me proud of myself is not the number of places I've been to, it's the number of friends I've made and the number of people I've met along the way. Now when I travel, I would happily spend a few days with a new local friend I have made rather than rushing off to see more sights. I learnt how to trust the people I meet on the road and how to accept their warm hearts. Some of my most treasured memories would not have happened without them; like staying in a temple at Old Bagan and meditating with the monks and people, or being taken on a scooter to see the most thrilling and amazing sunrise with no other soul in sight.
The world is without limits. The more I travel, the more I know that there are so many things I do not know yet. The more people I meet, the more I learn about human kindness and the deep connection we all share. The more places I go to, the more I understand that freedom is not about physically being on the road, but about mentally being on the road.
That is why for me, travelling is about finding my true self. Through the people I’ve met, I’ve had the opportunity to temporarily enter into someone else's life and experience it so I can learn to see the world from a different perspective; to feel from where my heart really lays rather than what my mind has been conditioned to believe.
This is what I call true freedom, and this is why I travel and why I love solo travel. Someday my body may not allow me to be on the road but my heart and mind will never stop.
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