Recent afternoons have been spent sipping juice in my hammock and reading books. For once, I feel content and on holiday at home. I suppose where I live does not make it too hard – cobalt blue skies, glassy clear ocean at the beaches and an abundance of swimming pools and fresh mangos. The summer months in Australia are almost a constant holiday, and we really are the lucky country in that regard.
One book I have been reading in my hammock is ‘Best of lonely planet travel writing‘. Travel writing is often confined to non-fiction quick guides, about where to stay and what to do in certain destinations.
Although guide books have legitimately saved my life on several occasions, and made me curious to visit different places after perusing them, it really is the personal experiences I have collected from my own travels, and the stories of my friends or other travels that inspire my pressing desire to see as much of this crazy world of ours as possible before my expiration date.
So if you are lucky enough to travel, I urge you to, for the good of everyone around you to think about your experiences and craft them into a narrative, so when you are sitting around the campfire, you have a worthwhile story to tell.
The introduction of the book, written by Tony Wheeler could not illustrate this message in better terms.
Your own experience and someone else’s – travel needs both. We want to go there ourselves, taste the food, ride the buses, crash in the hotel rooms, meet the people. We shove our guidebooks into our daypacks and head off to collide with those events. Then we want the other perspective – how some other traveller reacted to that appalling meal, that nightmare bus ride, that horror-story of a hotel. And did they also have that fleeting midnight encounter? Why didn’t she turn up at the bar the next evening? Will she be there at the next town down the line?
I think we often romanticise travel, we spend hours researching places that we want to go, and getting caught up in the idea that the love of our life may not be close to home, but may be in a foreign country somewhere waiting for us to stumble across them at midnight by complete chance in a city where no-body knows our name. This is not always the case, travel should not be over-romanticised because although it is no doubt an incredibly rewarding experience, it always comes with the less glamorous aspects – missed planes, long exhausting stop-overs, food poisoning, getting hopelessly lost, airlines losing baggage, queues, tourist traps.
Then again, the best conversation starter is without a doubt ‘where have to you travelled to?’ and i have found that as soon as I have a place in common with someone, we are able to compare experiences and I find myself drawn in to the conversation and become fully engaged. Hearing other people’s travel experiences also helps us to more deeply reflect and draw on ours, we collate experiences in our heads to get a sense of place, a sense of collective conscious of experience which unifies us with other travellers.
It is human nature to share our stories, and by travelling and stepping outside of our comfort zones and venturing away from home into the unknown we are able to collect stories which are truly valuable – these stories are priceless in value, free to share around have the capacity to help us form deeper connections with those around us, whether they be old friends, or new ones we found somewhere along the road.