I’m at an altitude of 35,000 feet somewhere over the Indian Ocean and yet somehow this still doesn’t seem real. That dreaded moment that always lurked on the horizon for the last six months is finally here but I can’t really believe it. After the extraordinary whirlwind that has been my life over the past semester, heading home seems the most surreal experience of them all. The truth is it feels like my sense of reality has been so obscured over the last six months that I’m not entirely sure what reality feels like anymore. When you live out of a single backpack for six weeks and find yourself in new cities and new countries every day it becomes increasingly difficult to imagine the simple routines of walking up Adam’s Terrace to class or football practice every Wednesday evening. The unknown has become familiar, sleeping on bus-station benches in Eastern European cities has become unremarkable and I’ve learnt to navigate any city’s metro system like the back of my hand.
Travelling is the quintessential case of Murphy’s law, and the only certainty is holds is that something will go wrong. The world seems resolute on destroying any travel itinerary, savings fund or remaining vestiges of sanity by inventing a multitude of disastrous scenarios that sometimes seem almost impossibly bizarre. Being stranded in Italy due to a certain Icelandic volcano or having my passport board a flight to Africa without me are certainly not incidents accounted for in your standard insurance policy. You can never even begin to imagine, let alone prepare for, the carnage that comes along with any proverbial Euro-trip.
But that’s so often the beauty of it. The cliché rings resoundingly true in that there is always a silver lining and, even better, a fantastic story to tell at the end of it. Being “forced” to spend an extra week in a rural Italian village with only airline pilots for company spoilt us with more scenery than just the Tuscan countryside. Sometimes you just need to sit back, relax, and ‘enjoy the view’ so to speak. Travelling opens your eyes, and teaches you, more than anything, what really matters and allows us to differentiate between what’s trivial and what’s worth the tears and the panic. Flexibility is the most important thing you can pack in your suitcase and optimism is more important than any forward planning in a tight squeeze. Miriam Beard once said “...travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living,” and in my opinion, she couldn’t be more right.
Travelling, for me, will always be a priority. Wellington is a wonderful place, but what is life if you can’t see the world? What is a history degree if you can’t see where the Berlin wall divided the world, what is money if we never the extraordinary city that was once lavish and wealthy Constantinople? Travel can bring meaning to the words we read in the pages of the great novels and the history textbooks but, most of all, it teaches us about ourselves. In the words of the great Mark Twain “travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” The travel bug is a wonderful affliction. Ironically, it is through travelling that I have realised how little I know, and so far I have made just a measly mark on my list of places to see.
So chase down the Greek sunset at Oia,
See neon light up the canals of Amsterdam,
and always live with an insatiable desire to see the world. Because...
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
- Mark Twain
“The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.” –Samuel Johnson
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine
“No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.” – Lin Yutang
“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.” – Cesare Pavese
“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” –Jawaharial Nehru
“Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.” – Mark Jenkins